Although I don’t remember much of the book that become the base of this film (it is said that some of the key elements in book are omitted, which make adapting the seventh book, even if it is going to be split in two, rather difficult), I know enough about the overall plot, and within that respect, I found that this film is an enjoyable experience. Sure, not enough action scenes to made you, summer movie-goers squirming with ecstasy and later condemned the film for being “not-enough-action-scenes.” You had my sympathy should you scorned the film in such fashion. For me, the film is as close as you’d get to “character study” among the series thus far. Therefore, with confidence I say that this is a slightly better film than my favorite, “Prisoner of Azkaban” and subsequently made it the best Harry Potter film yet.
Picking up the story, the film probably assumes that you had a familiarity with the series either from books or films. I’m not at a liberty to assume that this film worked as a stand-alone film because I cannot pretend to see this film with fresh eyes. The film begins in what I assumed the ordinary (non-magical) world where people stared up the sky, and black smokes drifting down the earth and snapped a bridge suspension in its wake. These black smokes are Death Eaters, more powerful, and more open than before. Everyone in the magic world felt this ominous presence of the Dark Lord, Hogwarts is surrounded with invisible barrier not even a fly could pass, Dumbledore looks anxious, Severus Snape’s allegiance is finally revealed, and Harry Potter find a great help from an old Potion textbook with helpful (and clever) hand notes from someone self-styled as “Half-Blood Prince.” Meanwhile, Draco Malfoy lurks around, shouldered a daunting task from the Dark Lord himself, and on the other side of the mirror, Harry Potter also shouldered an increasingly important tasks from Dumbledore. All in setting up for a fight between Good and Evil that is about to happen in the next installments of the series. Oh, and let’s not forget about the love birds, I was grateful we don’t have much of them in this film. Just enough without being too cliche.
To say the very least, the film is wonderful. I particularly loved the way Mr.Yates draws the scenes, juxtaposed it with little details, and bringing the magic back in small yet beautiful details such as the liquid-thingy Dumbledore used to bring back and visualize one’s memory. However, like I’ve said earlier, this film is as close as you’d get to “character study.” The most obvious thing was of course, the teen romance that puts characters into various mood-changes. I’m grateful that the film downplayed most of it even if I could live better without the overly comical Lavender. Her scenes are the only ones that made me cringes and uneasy compared to many more of such occasions when I read the book. On the other hand, my favorite part of the film is related to Dumbledore and Mr.Gambon’s performance as the most prominent wizard in the magic world. I believe that this was his best performance as Dumbledore thus far. He looks more fragile, more exhausted, more human and his relationship with Harry Potter is subtle yet emanates such power that I was almost swept into an emotion avalanche during the climax of the film. Alan Rickman is still the best choice for Severus Snape, even with his tendency to ominously pauses mid-sentence (sometimes it’s more of a comedy than an ominous one) and Helena Bonham-Carter is criminally underused and effective as a lunatic over-the-top Death Eater. Loved her. Her final fate should be treated with care in the next films and finally, the veteran British actor, Jim Broadbent as Professor Slughorn is an interesting addition to the cast. Interesting in a good way, for I have no complaint on his presence and I don’t remember how Slughorn fares in the book to make comparison between the two. As for the three main actors, well, they’re there because they’re there and I still think that Emma Watson is way way too beautiful to be Hermoine Granger.
My rating: *** / **** Again, it is as close as “character study” film as you could get. A more faithful fan to the film may be furious for the exclusion of many plots and points from the book but having virtually no memory on book 5 to book 7, I had no complaint and please, if you’re expect this film to be lavishly action-packed, virtually stunning special effect, and disappointed because it didn’t have one, please keep those disappointment to yourself. Negative attitude is contagious.