As I've admitted in past Harry Potter movie reviews, I still have (at this point) not read the books. It still holds true that I've only finished the first novel, and that was years and years ago. The way I see it, now that the book series is done, and there are only a couple movies left (I've heard Half-Blood Prince labeled the first part of the final trilogy), I figure I may as well sit back and enjoy the movies as stand-alone entertainment.
But not having read the books often puts me at a great disadvantage. For instance, when it is finally revealed who the half-blood prince is at the end of this film, I was confused. What does "half-blood prince" even mean? Is he Voldemort's illegitimate son? I'm not a total idiot, but it seemed that such an obvious thing would be explained... the mystery person is split between being a such and such and so and so, and I'm sure this means something really important. I guess I was supposed to know this, but it wouldn't have hurt if the filmmakers bothered, I don't know, explaining some major fact points.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Out of all the films thus far, I still stand by Prisoner of Azkaban as being hands down the best movie of the series. It was not just a fine adaptation (or so I've heard), it was (more importantly) a really good movie. But Half-Blood Prince is by no means stinky. In fact, the biggest surprise was that this film is easily the funniest of the series thus far.
So it is now year six for our best pals Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermoine (Emma Watson), and Ron (Rupert Grint)... they've got one more year to go at Hogwarts school of magic, but more importantly, their hormones are a-ragin'. Half-Blood works best when it concentrates on all of the teen romantic drama (aka hilarity) that ensues as characters crush on each other, snog a lot, and lick their fingers suggestively in another's general direction (really!). There are longing glances, missed signals, confessions, and weeping (mixed with occasional jarring encounters with Death Eaters, and what have you). All of this was to the great joy of the audience who twittered, giggled and squealed in all the right places. During these parts, Half-Blood is a surprisingly delightful teen comedy.
But, oh, there's the magic and wizardry and evil that must be dealt with, otherwise this wouldn't be a Harry Potter movie. Professor Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) hires back an old befuddled schoolteacher named Professor Horace Slughorn (the always fabulous Jim Broadbent). Dumbledore thinks that Slughorn is hiding some crucial information about Voldemort, aka their former troubled student Tom Riddle from back in the day. By encouraging Harry to get close to Slughorn, our hero might be able to get information out of him... information that may be the key to fighting the seemingly indestructible evil that is Voldemort. In the meantime, though, the Dark Lord has instructed Harry's schoolmate, snappily dressed Draco Malfoy (sneering Tom Felton), to complete a terrible terrible assignment of his own—an assignment of, well, pure evil.
For the most part, Half-Blood Prince moves along briskly in its (once-again) bloated 2-1/2 hour length. But unfortunately... WAY unfortunately for this adaptation, its climax is anything but. Considering that our trio suffers a major, huge, stupendous loss in the final scenes (which seems how all the stories end), I felt barely any emotion. Wait, is that it?
I've heard of fans of the book sobbing at the end of Half-Blood Prince, but in the film, that effect simply isn't there. It seemed almost after the fact, wrapping up an already shaky climax with a dull thud. I gave it a non-committal "hm" and started gathering post-credit questions for my HP friends. As Half-Blood Prince ended with its Empire Strikes Back closing shot of our trio looking thoughtfully out a window at the dark days ahead, I decided to assume (and hope) that the next installment will fill-in the emotional depth of what this movie missed.