Another great movie, filled with action and suspense and secrets galore. But also another great movie which begged to be split into two. We are witnessing a shadow war, filled with smaller skirmishes, all occurring while Harry gets his important lesson yet: Know Thy Enemy. Which is what Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is all about.
What J.K. alluded to in Prince is shown in terrifying detail here in the opening sections. Death Eaters on rampages, unchecked by the Ministry of Magic, and always seemingly two steps ahead of the Order. Amidst this chaos, Harry is quietly staying away from the Durleys, when Dumbledore plucks him up for a mission. This mirrors a marked change the book originated, with the mentor Dumbledore not just appearing mostly in one of the final chapters to gently explain or not explain things to Harry, but to redraw the relationship as more of a partnership. Much like a buddy cop movie armed with wands, this unlikely duo uses quips and junior psychology to achieve their necessary goals.
The throughline feeding the adventure for this dynamic duo is the compressed history of Tom Riddle, all told in intervals via the Pensieve. Unfortunately I think the story of the Gaunts might have been a bit too scary for this essentially PG rated film series. But even the truncated orphanage scenes convey the damage Tom already had endured to his young mind. So much of what J.K. implied and inserted into here reveals the heart and desires of the villain, all in her attempt to humanize him. But as we see further and further into the memories, any sympathies we harbour vanish as his calculating cruelty increases. Tom may have endured a bad childhood, but by the time of his Horcrux inquiries, he knows the difference between right and wrong.
When not observing the past, Harry is following Draco, convinced this henchman of Voldemort is up to something. A small point about these sections, is that Draco looks so much older in this film, much beyond the age of a typical Hogwarts student. It somewhat took me out of the movie, but I would not have recast at all. Tom Felton had grown on me since Chamber, and his conflicted outlook is exactly what J.K. portrayed.
Another of the characters who captured my attention in the books, but took awhile in the movies, is Ginny Weasley. Bonnie Wright came across very one note with her infatuation filled looks at Harry, but we can see in these later movies how truly commending she is. Even the scenes with Daniel Radcliffe she excels in, getting her to outshine the star of the series.
Which brings up my one fine point of contention. Ginny helped lead the DA in the battle to defend Hogwarts, a battle completely mixing from the movie. My disappointment was only outmatched by my disappointment. Was the studios trying to save money for the very last part? I really wished they hadn’t exorcised this fight. It highlights how the war has finally arrived at Hogwarts, and the DA’s reactions.
With this ending, Harry is about to enter adulthood. The quest to destroy Voldemort begins now.
P.S. Harry Potter is copyright 2012 to J.K. Rowling.