Entries Comments

The Harry Potter Series is Officially the Best Franchise Ever with Half-Blood Prince

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Directed by David Yates
Written by Steve Kloves from the novel by J.K. Rowling
Warner Bros., 2009

I don’t believe a franchise in the history of film has had a better run than Harry Potter.  Because the stories are based on the mostly stand-alone novels from J.K. Rowling, each with their own unique story up until the final bits of The Goblet of Fire, where the series begins to focus on Harry’s fated ultimate battle with Voldemort, the Harry Potter franchise has remained fresh.  You could argue that after four fine films, The Order of the Phoenix is this series’ original Star Wars, The Half-Blood Prince is its Empire Strikes Back, and the upcoming two-part finale, The Deathly Hallows, is what Revenge of the Jedi would have been like had George Lucas not wimped out.

How many movie franchises have been good from their third movie and later?  You can’t argue very many.  Even if Return of the Jedi is considered a great third movie, you’ll find few who will agree that the three prequels that followed were of the same quality.  Horror franchises actually found ways to get worse after their third movies.  The only set of movies that compares is Lord of the Rings, which we might be thankful was only three films considering the meandering ending of Return of the KingSpider-Man 3 clearly threw a monkey wrench into that franchise.  The Godfather III is one of the most awful Best Picture nominees ever.  Yet, Harry Potter continues to be good, even getting better.

Make no mistake, this is mostly due to Rowling’s source material.  But with relative unknown David Yates taking the helm with Order of the Phoenix, a classic storytelling style entered into the fray, taking the stories seriously.  These aren’t mere special effects extravaganzas, which I’m sure many of the film-going public would easily forgive, go ahead and make the movies tons of money, and easily be forgotten.  These movies are being made to stand the test of time.

In The Half-Blood Prince, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) has entered a new phase of school life, where school has become the absolute least of his worries.  He is met by Hogwarts headmaster Dumbledore (Michael Gambon, who has completely wiped our memories of the late, great Richard Harris since the third film)) early on; he needs Harry to somehow retrieve a memory from the new potions professor Horace Slughorn (the excellent Jim Broadbent) concerning the very young Tom Riddle (Hero Fiennes-Tiffin, nephew of Ralph Fiennes, who plays Voldemort), the boy who will become He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.  Dumbledore has a memory from Slughorn that Slughorn has altered out of shame.

Meanwhile, in school, Harry has found a book from someone calling himself “The Half-Blood Prince,” and uses it in his potions class to great effect, blowing away the rest of his classmates for the first time in his life.  Even Hermione (Emma Watson) can’t do what Harry does.  But these group of teenagers don’t have schoolin’ on their minds this year.  Harry’s best friend Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) is “snogging” (it always sounds dirty, even though it’s just necking) a girl named Lavender Brown (Jessie Cave), who is a little bit obsessive, much to the chagrin of Hermione.  Harry’s got female attention, too: the comely Romilda Vane (Anna Shaffer) looks to use love potions on Harry, but Ron’s sister Ginny (Bonny Wright) is the one who has a legitimate shot.

Harry’s chief rival throughout school, Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) has seemingly been hand-picked by Voldemort to carry out something big, even though no one can prove it.  And Harry’s worst fears all along seem to be coming true when it appears Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) is helping Draco in his quest.  Also, who is the Half-Blood Prince, and should Harry trust everything in the book he’s found?

Some negative out of the way first: I’m not a “that’s not in the book!” kind of guy, or a “they cut that out of the book!” type of dude.  In fact, I rarely remember every single detail of a book.  But I do feel some interesting aspects of the book were left out, and it seems a bit wrong to not include them when sections dedicated Quidditch again rears its ugly head in this chapter.  In The Half-Blood Prince, Harry learns that Snape once loved Harry’s mother, Lily, and the nerdy, awkward outcast had to watch Harry’s future father James sweep her off her feet.  James, it turns out, wasn’t so nice to outcasts, especially Snape.  Also, in the book’s climactic scene, Snape’s motives seem ambiguous, offering a guessing game that occurred from the point Half-Blood Prince was released until Deathly Hallows answered those questions.  While the movie still captures this to an extent, it seems like Yates wants to tip Snape’s hand a little too early on whether or not he’s good or evil.

That said, The Half-Blood Prince is another great chapter in the franchise, a movie that focuses on story first (with some hiccups) and spectacle a distant second.  When children’s fantasy is taken seriously, it’s amazing how many people of all ages can enjoy it.  I was reminded a little bit of Alfonso Cuaron’s A Little Princess, the movie that probably nabbed Cuaron the third film in the Potter series, The Prisoner of Azkaban.  There’s a certain mood and wonder the film creates, an environment, to the point it’s easy to miss some flaws or forget you’re watching a movie that clocks in around 2 1/2 hours.  Sure, this movie could have been better (not by much), and it would have been hard-pressed to match a book I feel is the best of the series, but it’s so good it’s hard to argue the little things.

Now that the books have finished the story, we’re about to see an amazing phenomenon with the movies as Potter fanatics crave more and more.  This movie and the two-part Deathly Hallows will likely see record business.  This J.K. Rowling person might not need to work again.

Follows: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Next: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1

Write a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.