From guest-reviewer Lillian Parker.
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Being a huge fan of the books and, perhaps therefore overly forgiving of the films’ flaws, you really have no reason to trust my review of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. BUT – I loved it! So much, in fact, that it brought into relief the flaws of some of the earlier movies. I think I like it just barely less than the Prisoner of Azkaban film, although this may change upon a second viewing or over time. (Goblet of Fire was my favorite of the books and if you’re curious, so far for me, I think the movies go 3, 6, 4, 2, 1, 5.)
I got to see an early Digital IMAX 3D screening. (Thanks to an IMAX contract with Transformers, the version of Half-Blood Prince with the 3D scene doesn’t open nationwide for two weeks). Digital IMAX, and it wasn’t the same as genuine IMAX in an IMAX theater, sadly. The screen was very big, but it just wasn’t the same. The sound was great, though!
The opening sequence was the 3D one, and it was awesome. You’re flying through London and it’s like being on a rollercoaster! There are a couple of great action moments in the 3D portion – a bridge collapsing, bad guys flying into the camera and out of it – but also it takes advantage of the 3D even in a simple two shot by showing us amazing depth of field so you feel like you’re really in the room. The only critique I have of the use of 3D is that it was ONLY used in this opening sequence! How awesome would it have been to have the quidditch scene in 3D? Or another one of the set-pieces with a lot of action. Just a minor regret.
Spoilers ahead… Continue reading about Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince…
The thing that made this HP soar above the rest is that they actually seemed to be making a MOVIE instead of translating a book. They made the characters, the scenes and the sequences all more filmic. For example, the introduced the Weasely’s house in one fabulous short but quirky scene that gave the house enough soul that you could be emotionally invested in it, so when it gets burned down it hits you hard. Also, the quidditch tryouts and match (while they might have been amazing in 3D) were really well-crafted. They were short but full of just the right amount of action, tension, humor, and relief. There is a fancy dinner thrown by the new Potions professor, Horace Slughorn (played masterfully by Jim Broadbent), and it is full of charm and character and humor and sentiment.
The characters felt much more like people too. In their first potions class, Harry discovers notes in his old book (which he is forced to take much to his chagrin in another great moment: a toss-up fight scene between Harry and Ron over an old beat up book vs a shining new book – Harry gets the ancient one). He uses these notes to win a competition in their first class, even beating Hermione – the ever-reigning queen of all things academic. The cutaways to her in this scene are amazing – she is shocked, she is confused, she is flustered, she is worn down to the bone. The scene where Harry finally uses the good luck serum that he wins as a prize, may I think be Daniel Radcliffe’s finest performance to date. He is trying to convince Professor Slughorn to divulge a secret from his past. Slughorn has sworn he will never tell, and Harry out-wits him with incredible casual skill. Ron is frequently the comic relief, but in the scene where he is accidentally dosed with love potion, he is perfectly silly and adorable!
I liked a lot of characters in this one whom I DIDN’T like when they were introduced in previous ones. Luna Lovegood for example, Bellatrix LaStrange, and even Snape. They were given more depth, more quirk, and frankly just better performed in this film.
One last thing: that other scene that would have been great in 3D that I didn’t want to mention above the “spoiler alert” was the chase through the cornfields with Harry, Ginny, Lupin, Tonks and Arthur Weasely vs. Bellatrix and Fenrir Greyback. Shot really well, really intense, and an emotional ending.
Harry Potter fans should definitely rush out and see this right away. And later, when it comes to town, try to catch the 3D version.
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