It’s Harry Potter part 6 time! Here’s the one I actually knew stuff about before hand because I was fortunate enough to work on the game that was based on this film. The game was dull, uninspired and prone to a hell of a lot of fetch quests. Is the film at all like that? Nearly, but not quite. It certainly has a lot less fetch quests in it. On with the review.
So where are we? Voldemort is now confirmed as being back to the whole wizardly world. Harry has been cleared of accusations of being a liar. The Dark Lord is recruiting and a storm is brewing because of that. As the film opens Harry, for once, isn’t at home with the Dursley’s. Instead he’s hanging about Surbiton train station chatting up waitresses. Sort of. He meets up with Dumbledore and they head off to recruit an old potions teacher called Slughorn (Jim Broadbent) in the hopes that Harry can get him to pony up a memory about Tom Riddle that might help them in their quest. Meanwhile Snape has been revealed as a servant of Voldemort (Not a spoiler, happens like 5 minutes in) and has made an unbreakable vow to protect Draco Malfroy and ensure he carries out some dark task he has been given.
That’s pretty much the gist of the main plot. It’s pretty straight forward this year. It’s padded out with a hell of a lot of filler though. The majority of the film is about the relationships building between Ron, Hermione, Harry and Ginny. It’s actually the most like a high school film any of the Harry Potter series has been. A Fast Times At Hogwarts High if you will. Basically the purpose of all this romance and character stuff is so the characters can get to the point where they are ready for the final chapter on an emotional level. As a side effect the main plot line comes across as a little thin, almost to the point of stalling. Luckily the goings on with the kids is entertaining enough and there’s plenty of fun along the way. The first 90 minutes of this 2 and a half hour film is actually fairly light hearted and quite a change from the dread of the last two films.
The final third of the film is where all the real plot progression takes place and it’s this uneven pacing that hurts the film most. While I have no quibbles with how the last 45 minutes play out it is in a stark contrast with the rather slow pacing of the first 90. Harry’s aim is to be “collected” by SLugho0rn which sounds as disturbing as it nearly is. Slughorn is a little obsessed with having strong and powerful friends and as such, over his years as, a teacher at Hogwarts in the past, he had collected the friendships of many future great wizards. He invites them to dinner parties and suppers and even has a near shine to them all in the form of photos on his wall. It’s a little too close to a pedophile grooming a child for my liking but it’s played out in an innocent enough manner. Harry is asked by Dumbledore to gain his trust and this is a slow, long winded process.
Early on in the film Harry finds a potions book with a lot of interesting notes inside of it. The book has a note in it claiming to be the property of the Half-Blood Prince. Harry near the beginning of the film appears to have plans to find out who it belongs to but that seems to get brushed under the carpet. I can’t help but feel that it could have been a plot thread worth having some form of genuine mystery investigation tied to it. If it had the first half of the film maybe wouldn’t have felt so slow. There is one moment where for once Harry gets to listen in on a plot revealing conversation without the need of his Cloak of Invisibility. Kinda glad for that because there’s only so many time he can sneak into a room, listen in on plot details and have one of the wizards look right at him as though they’ve sensed him but then just shrug it off. That said he listens in on Draco with the cloak about 15 minutes in and it all goes wrong. Kinda funny that Draco is the one to finally spot him. Still it’s a relief that that tired literary device has been put to an end, hopefully.
But as I said earlier the film isn’t actually dull because of this slower than normal pacing. It just feels like filler. Oddly we get less time with the other wizards recruited by Harry in the previous films. Luna gets a little screen time and helps Harry out early on but largely her and Neville are just background characters. I would have expected them to have been brought up to the front a little more considering their role in Order Of The Phoenix.
Special Effect are better handled throughout but there is generally less showy sequences than in any of the previous films. There’s really only a few scenes of action and as usual it’s the Quidditch scene that is the most well played out. I do wonder where the $250 million budget went on this though. I would hazard a guess that it involves some creative financing in order to put money in the pot for the following 2 installments which apparently cost $250 million as a pair.
Performances are decent with only a few of the ancillary characters being wooden this time around. There’s a lot more for the main three kids to work with as far as their characters performance here so it’s a good job that they maintain the quality they’ve grown into. There’s not much else to really be said by this point as there’s such a routine going on now that performance quality isn’t gonna change from one film to the next.
Overall the film is decent enough but lacks energy and mystery until the final third. There’s very little action and as a kids film it’s actually not very good. For the kids that have grown up with Potter from installment one though this is probably less of an issue. This is effectively the cam before the storm that will be the final Battle of Hogwarts to take place in Deathly Hallows Part 2. Which means we still have Part 1 to get through. Hopefully the plot moves along with a little more urgency and purpose in that film. I guess I’ll find out tomorrow.