Reviewed by: Robbye Fielden
|Adventure, Fantasy, Mystery, Romance, Adaptation, Drama, Sequel
|2 hr. 33 min.
|Year of Release:
July 15, 2009
DVD: December 8, 2009
|Daniel Radcliffe (as Harry Potter), Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Helena Bonham Carter, Jim Broadbent, Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman, Ralph Fiennes, Ralph Ineson, See all »
|Warner Bros. Pictures, Heyday Films, David Barron, David Heyman, Tim Lewis, Lionel Wigram
|Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company
“Once again I must ask too much of you, Harry.”
As the summer holidays drew to a close, Harry Potter might have expected the stop at The Burrow, the home of the Weasley family, before his return to Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry. However, as “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” picks up the story of “The Boy who Lived,” we find Harry on an unexpected detour with Professor Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) along the journey to The Burrow. Unbeknownst to Harry, Dumbledore has a plan to recruit a former Hogwarts’ teacher to return to the school to fill an empty teaching post. The excursion is the first of several private interactions the two will have throughout the school year as the Professor begins taking a more active role in Harry’s education. The private lessons serve as additional preparation for the impending and unavoidable culmination of the battle of good and evil portrayed in this series. Though Harry is not yet aware of it, recruiting Professor Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent) is a key maneuver in Dumbledore’s plan to equip Harry with a complete picture of the enemy he opposes, Lord Voldemort.
As the wizarding community continues to endure ongoing attacks and disappearances at the hands of the Death Eaters—followers of The Dark Lord—even Hogwarts does not experience the immunity formerly known to the students and staff. With deadly items finding their way into the school, no one is safe. In spite of the tense climate, new infatuations and romances bloom in abundance. Few of the main characters steer clear of the relationship dance. In her first Harry Potter film, Jessie Cave creates some tension as Lavender Brown while she hotly pursues Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint). Even the studious Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) entertains a crush of her own when she’s not busy criticizing Harry’s copy of Advanced Potion-Making, which contains the mysterious inscription reading, “This book is property of the Half-Blood Prince.”
Harry discovered in the previous movie of the series, “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” that he is destined to face The Dark Lord in a duel to the death according to a prophecy made about he and Voldemort many years before: “…one cannot live while the other survives.” In this film Harry and Dumbledore together strive to solve a bit of a mystery that could prove key to Harry’s attempt to defeat Lord Voldemort. Simultaneously, Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) is an uncharacteristically solitary figure in his sixth year who grows more despondent and sallow as he struggles with a mysterious task assigned by Lord Voldemort. Professor Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) finds himself bound by an unbreakable vow to support Draco in his efforts while his true allegiances remain a mystery to both the audience and people around him. Sides are clearly chosen and good and evil defined as the movie progresses to a poignant climax.
It stands to reason that readers of this review have likely been exposed to the Harry Potter series either via the books or the 5 previous movies. Those unfamiliar with the overall storyline will likely be lost, as this movie hardly stands alone in the grand scheme of the tale. Based on this presupposition that this audience is indeed already familiar with the content of Harry Potter, this reviewer will not present a detailed evaluation of the witchcraft and wizardry theme. Though a controversial topic within the Christian community, reviews on this site of the earliest Harry Potter movies provide ample arguments against the series. Additionally, this reviewer is of the opinion that presentation of the topics in question is done in a way that portrays a fantastical version of witchcraft and little more. Thus, the review below will only attempt to offer some insight into the accuracy of the movie as it pertains to the book, a summary of material other than the witchcraft theme that may be a moral consideration for some, and some general opinions about the movie quality and entertainment value.
The scenes found in previews of “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince” had this fan of the books in high hopes that the movie would follow quite closely with the storyline. Surprisingly, this latest installment contained more deviation than any of the previous five flicks. Certain characters, such as Cornelius Fudge and Rufus Scrimgeour, are entirely excluded. As usual, it’s an impossible to task to capture J.K. Rowling’s details in a film of reasonable length, so primarily only the key points are present and accounted for. The journey to get to each important moment is not always along the original path that readers know, so prepare yourself to enjoy the movie as it was scripted and directed instead of holding rigidly to Rowling’s telling. The director was time conscious and included some scenes that were intended to summarize a great number of the book’s details for the viewing audience.
[***SPOILER WARNING for this paragraph***] For instance, director David Yates included a scene in which Death Eaters, led by Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter) and Fenrir Greyback (Dave Legeno), attack The Burrow. While this was not in Rowling’s rendition, the scene was created to convey the severity and proximity of the ongoing attacks in lieu of Hermione’s routine reading of The Daily Prophet and subsequent reports on the arrests, disappearances, and injuries sustained within the community. Additionally, the mention of a Muggle bridge collapse in the earliest chapter of the book comes to life in the movie in an effort to express the darkness that has overtaken the community, Muggle and wizard alike.
Despite the continued dark times depicted, this movie earned a PG rating. There is surprisingly little intense fighting and only one instance where significant blood is drawn in a battle. Another less bloody, but still violent scene involves one student stomping on the face of another who is unable to defend himself at the time. Outside of these scenes, and the occasional spell-throwing wizard clashes, the course language is minimal. There are several questionable moments involving teenage kissing and kissing in secluded/unsupervised areas. Also, many of the young ladies of the film are portrayed as pursuers and some even use magical love potions to attempt to reel in a crush. Depending on an audience member’s personal convictions on these issues, caution may need to be exercised.
[***SPOILER WARNING for this paragraph***] A topic that may prove troubling for sensitive viewers is that of the death of Professor Albus Dumbledore. To add additional strife to an already emotional event, the murder is committed by his colleague, Severus Snape, after Draco Malfoy is unable to complete this task which was assigned to him by The Dark Lord. While the scene is handled with dignity, the death of such a beloved main character may come as an extreme shock to some, perhaps especially to young viewers.
One of the fantastic advantages of the mounting battle of good and evil in this series is that the sides are more delineated as time progresses. There is a clear line drawn between those who side with Lord Voldemort and his evil deeds and those who are standing together for that which is good. It is clear in the movie that those who rule in an evil manor do so by fear while a sense of peace and love is consistently portrayed in opposition to that evil. A key scene in the movie depicts many on Harry’s side casting light from their wands to dispel The Dark Mark cast by a Death Eater. This scene alone allows for many conversation starters about good versus evil and light versus dark. It brought to mind the verse in Psalm 139:12 that says “…even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.”
The topic of death contained in the movie also provides a way to discuss with others the assurance of a life after death. While the movie does not address the afterlife, the death of an important individual is significant enough to lend itself to a discussion. The audience is not told what happens to a person after death in the wizarding world, but what happens at death is a concern for every human in our world today. Christians believe that we will spend eternity in Heaven because we have experienced the forgiveness of sins by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, His death on the cross, and His resurrection from the dead.
Overall, this movie is extremely well made. Viewers will be impressed with the quality of the film and not a single actor leaves much room for improvement. In many ways this installment merely moves the story along and acts as a bridge to the last book (which will appear as two flicks), so some may find the lack of action frustrating. Yet the story contained in “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince” is priceless in terms of the big picture.
Violence: Mild / Profanity: Mild / Sex/Nudity: None
This film is not recommended by Christian Spotlight due to its themes of witchcraft, sorcery and occult magic which are rooted in rebellion against God.
Is Harry Potter Harmless?
Ever since the popularity of JK Rowling’s first book took hold, the debate rages. What is a Christian to think of the Harry Potter worldview and philosophies? What’s wrong?
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.
Positive—In response to a previous comment about the film being full of “moral and ethical questions,” it seems the viewer has missed the entire point, that Draco was acting under threat of death by Lord Voldemort. None of his actions that might be considered “evil” are in any way glorified, but instead are condemned and depicted as morally sickening (Draco’s increasing guilt and horror contrasted heavily with Tom Riddle’s careless discussion of murder).
For my part, as a fan of the franchise, I have mixed feelings. On one hand, I believe it is cinematically the strongest of the movies and certainly one of the most enjoyable, because it allows the audience to depart from Harry’s perspective and encounter more of other characters. For the first time, Snape is more than a one-dimensional figure, and we also experience rising empathy for Draco. But some changes were made that diminish the impact of the book’s conclusion. Namely, there is no “epic battle” over Hogwarts. The Death Eaters enter for seemingly no purpose whatsoever and then leave without resistance. Rowling’s version of events is much superior and makes more sense. (Equally pointless, the assault on the Burrow—although entertaining visually, it is unimportant to the plot.) Yes, this is much darker than previous installments although it does have wonderful scenes of humor and sweetness to combat the sinister aspects. Parents of very young children who have not read the books might want to consider how the death of a main character, as well as frightening scenes of peril, brutal wizard duels, and zombies, might influence them.
I have never been intimidated by the films or the books, and believe their messages revolve around important things: courage, redemption, obedience, friendship, and a willingness to sacrifice your life for others. If you are a Potter fan, you will either love this adaptation or be irritated by the changes, but your opportunity to see more of the “real” Severus Snape should not be missed.
Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
Positive—This is a response to Ellen, 20, who took offense to the films depiction of “underage drinking.” I would like to point out that the legal drinking ages in the UK (where the film likely takes place) are: …16 years old in a pub or bar, and 18 years old to purchase alcoholic beverages in a store. As Harry and his friends are supposed to be around 16 in the film, they are aren’t drinking underage.
Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 5