Harry Potter is a name that has become synonymous with magic, spells, and even evil. Written from the hand of author J.K. Rowling, Potter went from being a young boy in a horrible family to the “chosen one” of the wizardry world that could save them all from the Dark Lord. Sounds an awful lot like child’s play to anyone that doesn’t really know much about the series, and as a matter of fact it begun that way. The Sorcerer’s Stone started out with these young children going to a school for wizards called Hogwart’s and one of them realized he was destined to help fight the truest forces of evil. Blah blah blah, that’s kid’s stuff. So it may have seemed, but Harry Potter and the rest of those affiliated with the wizardry have come a long way. As time has passed, everyone has grown up and the danger has become real. It will make you cringe. It will make you get nervous. It will honestly make you afraid to say the actual name of He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named.
Harry is now in the sixth year of his schooling at Hogwarts even though he essentially should be out on his own. Harry is beyond so many of those still in school with him as he seeks out to continue the fight against the Dark Lord, Voldemort. Things have gotten even more serious as Harry is dealing with the recent loss of his uncle, Sirius Black and it has not sat well with him. Sirius was the only true family that the young wizard had left since he is already out to avenge the deaths of his parents. Professor Dumbledore has enlisted the help of Harry in the fight against Voldemort, but also now to try and bring back Horace Slughorn as the potions’ master. It is believed that Slughorn holds many secrets which could be vital in their battle against the Dark Lord and the information (memories) must be retrieved.
After much (but nor really) convincing, Slughorn has returned to Hogwarts as the potions master and Professor Severus Snape has taken over as the teacher for the Defense Against the Dark Arts classes. Things are getting increasingly dangerous as Dumbledore now knows he must locate the seven horcruxes hidden around the world which contain parts of Voldemort’s spirit. It is the only way that the good fight can even begun to be fought against the Dark Lord and the deatheaters. Harry is helping Dumbledore in his quest, but it is getting ever so difficult as the power of the deatheaters continues to grow. This especially holds true back at Hogwart’s where Draco Malfoy has a task to fulfill and it is believed that his actions could bring about great consequences if he isn’t stopped. Harry must be in numerous places at once while all the time trying to keep everyone he loves safe, but the latter is becoming ever increasingly difficult to achieve.
Half-Blood Prince is an excellent film from start to finish and I could not have been happier with how it turned out. Most of the time I find myself complaining as to “how much was left out from the book,” or “why did they change that?” Sure there was plenty left out here even though it has a running time of two and a half hours, but never once did the differences or omissions jump right up and hit me in the head. The film has taken the dark turn that’s been hinted at in the past couple films in the franchise and it is blatantly obvious. Things are much more serious here and it’s nice to see that all of the actors, including Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint, have come about from the youngsters they once were and have now become fantastic talents. All of the emotion and anger and sadness and love is shown forth with truth and feeling so real that you would think everyone is actually going through what’s happening on screen. Excellent jobs by all of those cast here.
One of the really good topics that is touched on a lot in this film, along with making it much darker and more serious, is that of the romantic relationships which are really starting to flourish. The long lasting tension that has been building for Hermione and Ron now is coming into full swing as her jealousy begins to grow immensely while Ron’s ignorance keeps on getting thicker and thicker. It’s obvious though that the feeling of love is in the air between them. Another relationship that kind of sees the two involved just sort of fall into it is that of Harry and young Ginny Weasley. Who cares that she is much younger? Ginny is obviously very much mature for her age and it shows, not only her blooming relationship with Harry but how she handles herself in dangerous moments. All of these kids have grown up right before our very eyes in terms of actors and the real people they are, and I couldn’t and wouldn’t have chosen anyone different.
All of the magic is shown in 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen format and it looks rather good, but there are a few issues in some of the darker scenes with not always being able to see everything going on. Sadly, for this case at least, most of the film is in shadows or with a lot of darker colors on the screen making this a bit of an issue at times. Hope the Blu-ray release does not have this issue.
The film is heard in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound is really good so it more then makes up for the lackluster video quality. Now you will have to turn the volume up a good bit from the get-go, but it balances out soon enough; that way you’re not constantly adjusting it.
Footage from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – This is simply a combination of some trailers along with a little extra footage to get fans worked up for the final two films (one story). (1:50)
J.K. Rowling: A Year In The Life – Check out what it was like in the life of the author and creator of the boy wizard as she wrote the final book in the series. This is an excellent featurette that doesn’t even seem like it is close to an hour in length. Be forewarned for those that have not yet read “Deathly Hollows”; there are spoilers to be found in this feature. (49:43)
Close Up With The Cast Of Harry Potter – The cast of the film is shown in a bit more of a candid sense here as behind the scenes footage is shown and it is a lot of fun. I always enjoy watching how the actors interact with each other and the crew when the camera isn’t rolling, or at least they don’t know one is. (28:33)
Sneak Peek at the Wizarding World Of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort – A rather extended promotional piece on the new land that will be coming to Universal Studios in Orlando and my God, it looks like it is going to be so awesome. (11:40)
What’s On Your Mind – Fun for the whole family as the cast gets interviewed and asked questions on some rather run topics. (6:43)
One Minute Drills – The cast gets asked questions about each other’s past. Fun little segment. (6:44)
Trailers – Harry Potter Ultimate Editions on DVD and Blu-ray and Free Willy: Escape From Pirate’s Cove
Half-Blood Prince really impressed me. I had gotten a tad disappointed because this was the first Harry Potter film that I didn’t get to see in theatres so it was a big hope of mine that the DVD would come into my possession for review. Luckily it did and it has now taken its place as my second favorite HP film and only narrowly behind Prisoner of Azkaban. When reading the novel, it was evident that the story was getting much more adult and a lot darker in content so things were really starting to take a turn. That type of feeling and mood was carried over beautifully to the film adaptation as it is much more serious with a lot less humor as it has gotten considerably darker. Hell, this seemed like one of the most evil and eerie feeling in the franchise so far and Voldemort didn’t even actually make an appearance. Excellently done.
The special features are better then expected but a lack of an audio commentary still bothers me, although those may be coming on the new “Ultimate Editions” on the way. Half-Blood Prince continues the trend of good to great films in a franchise that has told one phenomenal story from beginning and now almost to the end. Pick it up whether you’re a fan or not, but if you’re not…make sure you get caught up first. If not then you’ll be as bad off as if someone had pointed a wand at you and shouted “STUPIFY!”
Warner Home Video presents Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: 2-Disc Special Edition. Directed by: David Yates. Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Jim Broadbent, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Robbie Coltrane, and many more. Written by: J.K. Rowling & Steve Kloves. Running time: 153 minutes. Rating: PG. Released on DVD: December 8, 2009. Available at Amazon.com