When adapting a novel to the screen, a director may choose one of two routes: stick to the facts, especially the plot points, of the original work, or follow the same emotional arc as the literary forbear, perhaps treading over a few accuracies along the way. David Yates has opted for the former in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, but only just so. While the digital wizards were busy making sure audiences leave the theater thoroughly wowed, the overall story of this sixth installment seems to have been left by the wayside.
Half-Blood Prince spends most of its time in the troubled world of adolescent love instead of, you know, that whole end-of-days wizarding war that’s been going on. Sure there are death eaters and imminent danger and wands-out moments of intensity, but this film seems to be all about the snogging gossip around the halls of Hogwarts. It’s not that I don’t care for these bits of the plot, it’s that these amorous sidelines were always supplemental to the magic, not fore-fronted.
Our three young stars, Daniel Radcliffe as Harry, Rupert Grint as Ron, and Emma Watson as Hermione, try their darndest to keep the story moving. They don’t seem to have been given enough direction to spin memorable performances out of the choppy screenplay. In six films, the dust on their roles is beginning to show. The film plays as if they showed up to work each day and went through the motions. In fairness, these are the roles they’ve been playing their entire careers; boredom has to set in eventually. Hopefully, as the cycle draws to a close in the coming years, each will find a way to reinvent, reinvigorate his or her role.
Just as he did on the previous film, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Mr. Yates delves deeper into the dark side of celluloid. Using a palette that is mostly black, green and blue (‘cause those colors are scary, boogey boogey boogey), the point is driven home that the fun and games are over for our young heroes. The thing is, we knew that already. We got that from the last one, and it’s been building for years, right?
The Harry Potter franchise of films has become almost like a television series, not only in terms of its frequency of production but in the tired feel that permeates the lengthy runtimes. People from all departments appear to be phoning it in. The special effects are unoriginal and the directing is all over the place. It is an unfortunate fact that box office success determines a director’s staying power in any big screen franchise. Given the financial windfall that has welcomed both films directed by Mr. Yates, we will be forced to endure at least one more installment as bombastically misguided as Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Another franchise, down the tubes.