Wands up, make evil go away.
Ushering us into the world of wizards, witches and magic, practicing professors from the git-go, the newest “Harry Potter” entry has enchanted hands overseeing every aspect of the boy wizard’s battle with the Half Blood Prince. Complimented by the misty noir-like cavernous ancient stone castle and exceptionally fluid camera movements, “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince,” has matured beyond adventures of magical schoolmates and their long grey-bearded teachers.
Instead of opening with Potter preparing to leave his parents home for the trip back to school, he’s alone reading a newspaper in a London subway cafe, where a young lady sets up a spontaneous, when do you get off from work rendezvous. Illustrating the constant conflict balancing between the enveloping good versus evil combat and the normal teen hormonal pressures vying for superiority, the production has shed all semblances of nearly exclusive youth appeal for a broader action/fantasy structure reminiscent of the “Star Wars” and/or Indiana Jones sagas.
No, Potter has not grown into a marauding “Dark Knight,” but the mood has decidedly shifted from classes, communal dining and dormitory conversations. Earning accolades from fans of the novels to those just taking in a movie, one six-time reader of “Half Blood Prince” accompanied me. She shed a few tears and awarded it second place among the Potter film adaptations. Dismissing inevitable literary to celluloid transformations to names, spells and have to look through the book ones, this film has captured and maintained the soul of novelist J.K. Rowlings.
Potions, spells and abracadabras quickly surpass the banal luck and love potion teaching exercises, as the evil aura of the approaching battle descends on Hogwarts. Much of the foreboding tale simmers in tension filled mystery, as the investigation into the immortality of Voldemort runs parallel to saving Professor Dumbledore from an impending assassination attempt.
Peter (“Order of the Phoenix”) Yates has returned to the director’s chair. He’s tacitly nimble in adding multiple layers of detail in the frames and he’s mastered a seamless blending of special effects so they advance the story, not relying on dazzling the eye. One transition that mystifies as it recalls past memories has the soft rippling effects of a watery fluidity with traces of color morphing in the manner of a lava light.
Probably the most artful use of effects depict a flying broomstick soccer game.
Nevertheless, effects take second place to Yates’ cinematography styles of having cameras moving within the scene(s) or squeezing meticulous details into already architecturally film friendly facades.
Daniel Radcliffe remains a young man appropriate for the now mid-teenaged Potter. He’s avoiding much teen awkwardness (except when it comes to girls and romance) and stepping into young Luke Skywalker leadership decisions.
I’m wanting more when the credits start rolling, not exactly a continuation but bulking the length of a few scenes and longer glimpses into the personality quirks of, say, Luna Lovegood (Evanna Lynch).
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