Saturday, July 18, 2009

HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE (David Yates, 2009, UK) Harry must face the dark ascent into adolescence, consumed by hatred for his nemesis: and Phoenix tears cannot heal the heartbreak as Fawkes glides away forever into the grey sky. An innocent flirtation remains unrequited, as Harry must sacrifice everything to seek the destruction of Voldemort by trusting his mentor. But Dumbledore’s scarred hand reveals the harsh reality that the Voldemort’s followers are feasting upon the death of innocent wizards and muggles alike: and he must follow his guide blindly into that dark night. Director Peter Yates drains all primary colors from the film, and creates a Hogwarts whose halls echo with savage whispers and windswept debris: an ominous charnel house. The narrative steams along like the Hogwart’s Express with a few detours into Quidditch and adolescent snogging and jealousy: a healthy reprieve from the darkness that entwines the story, giving dimension to the characters, adding life before taking it away. No good tale can be told without spilling blood, and Harry’s obsession with Draco and his mysterious potions book leads to unthinkable murder…but also life. The cinematography captures the beautiful set designs and emotionally haunted corridors, allowing subtle mise-en-scene without need for verbose explanations. Obviously more is understood if the books have been voraciously devoured, but screenwriter Steve Kloves once again deftly tills Rowling’s dense prose, which grows into an unwonted harvest. Daniel Radcliffe’s underscored performance perfectly captures the ordinary boy as he grows into manhood; if he were too extroverted and self-absorbed the story would collapse into egocentrism. Though many characters are introduced or make appearances that are unnecessary: Fenrir Greyback, Hagrid, Fred & George Weasley, and Lupin & Tonks, these are possibly setups for the last two films (and to appease fans). The final scene as Dumbledore pleads to his assassin is electrifying, and the unbreakable vow must be kept. Now the battle is lost…but the war is only beginning. (B)