By Chris Campo
I have finally arrived at Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the sixth movie in the Harry Potter franchise. This means I only have two more films left until I have officially lost my Harry Potter virginity, until Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them of course, which is due out later this very month. It's no secret that I have enjoyed myself watching Harry and co. grow up and go to school, and to be quite honest, I'm sad that I'm almost done. I even took a few weeks in between this movie and the last, just because I genuinely didn't want to have no more Harry Potter to watch. But like Harry (and because Fantastic Beasts is SO close), I faced my problems head on and watched the penultimate Harry Potter film. Penultimate, if you count the last two films as one, of course, but without further to do, on with the review.
In this film, a far more adult and mature Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) is brought upon my Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) to recruit Professor Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent) to teach at Hogwarts. It just so happens that Professor Horace has key information on Voldemort's past, and Dumbledore uses Harry to get this information, as he believes the secrets Horace is hiding can be the key to defeating Voldemort. Additionally, Harry, Ron & Hermione (Rupert Grint & Emma Watson) face they're own troubles at Hogwarts, such as love triangles, school dances, jealousy and a mysterious book with the words "Property of the Half-Blood Prince" written in it.
The best way I can describe this movie may come off as painfully obvious, but let me say it anyways: This is another Harry Potter film. I say that because, for a long stretch of this film, it does little to differentiate itself from the other five films that came before it. I don't mean this in an overly negative way, though. This film is like a pizza. Sure, it's good, but you've had pizza before. Nothing is all that new, but nothing is really bad either. This doesn't prove to be true for the entirety of the film, especially the wonderful third act, but after watching six films without much time between them, you start to notice the film going through the motions.
I have praised this series for it's dynamic and well realized characters, and that praise is once again applicable here. What we have come to know and love about these characters is still very present, but the film dives deeper into the motivations of characters and the relationships that have been forming this whole time. When you're six films into a series and are still seeing characters grow, you've done your job. I like that this film puts action and big set pieces in the passenger seat and let this film's narrative unfold with the characters at the wheel. The film really constructs a rather sweet dynamic between Harry and Dumbledore, causing for emotional moments towards the third act, moments that left my heart properly broken. Another relationship we see grow is the quirky one of Ron and Hermione. We've been left a bread trail of clues that they have a thing for one another and here it's no secret. It's a cute secondary plot that delighted me with how surprisingly relatable and real it was.
Even though this film is one of the more mature stories being told in this saga, the film knocks it out of the park with comedy. This, by far, has some of the most laugh out loud moments in it. I had to pause the film because I was laughing when Harry gave his best spider impersonation. As per usual, Ron is on the receiving end of some of the funniest gags as well, like an extended sequence where he has unknowingly ingested a strong love potion. The writing in general is just so damn witty. and if this film were nothing but characters sitting in a room talking, I'm sure I would be just as engaged due to the humor and charm injected into the dialogue.
Like I've mentioned, the third act of this film is great. There's no other way of putting it. A pattern I have caught onto is that the finale of these films are, for the most part, my favorite parts of them. Here, we get an ending that's emotional (to say the least), revealing, intense as all hell, acted to perfection and oddly warm, particularly in the film's closing minutes. Unfortunately, I have had some big moments spoiled for me, but with internet culture these days, it's my fault for not watching these films when they came out. Even with having the knowledge of certain events that were to come, I was still on the edge of my seat and my heart was still racing. Hats off to the director, David Yates, for creating such an intense and harrowing scene.
Overall, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince is another Harry Potter film. As the other films are a joy to watch, more of the same may not come off as a bad thing, but it's hard not to notice. After getting passed that, this is still a fun, emotional, and, for lack of a better word, magical film. Words cant describe how exited and at the same time reluctant I am to wrap this film series up and cross it off my film bucket list. Please, stay tuned for my review of the Deathly Hallow films, because they will, obviously, be my last reviews in the Wizarding World.
3 1/2 Stars
By Chris Campo
Just like that, in the blink of an eye, I am now officially over half-way through my first viewing of the Harry Potter saga. I love this series already. They're the type of films that, if I saw them at a younger age, I feel as though they would've stuck with me, and meant a lot, however I am still sad that I only have three more films to watch. I mean, I'm happy that there's still nearly six hours left in the Wizarding World, but hopefully you get my point. It's because of these films that Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, due out this November, is now one of my most anticipated films for the rest of the year. I hope you have been following along as I review these films after watching them for the very first time, because here are my thoughts on the fifth installment in the series, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
Upon returning to Hogwarts for his fifth year, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) is met with backlash from friends, faculty and other members of the Wizarding World, who don't believe him when he says The Dark Lord, Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) has returned. The Order of the Phoenix appoints professor Umbridge (Imelda Staunton) as new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, to keep the kids of Hogwarts, especially Harry, in check and to keep him from spreading the rumor of Voldemort. Eager to stand up and let the truth be known, Harry forms a rebellion alongside Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint), not only to stand against the new school rules put in place by Umbridge, but to fight off Voldemort's army, who Harry believes is coming.
I may have not liked this film as much as the previous two, but there's nothing noticeably flawed with it. It's a good film that had the daunting task of following two amazing films, although it is better than Chamber of Secrets, my least favorite Potter film so far, and I didn't even really dislike that one. I enjoyed my time with this film, but it's not the best of the series. This is also the first Harry Potter film directed by David Yates, who is the final director to join the series, directing the next three films and the upcoming prequel. Yates has a fitting visual style here that feels like an updated approach to Chris Columbus' style with the first two films. It's very distinctive, trying to do a lot of new things for the franchise, and I'm excited to see Yates perfect his craft over the next three films.
The film faults the most for me in two aspects, pacing and length. Now, this is the second shortest Harry Potter film, so I'm not here to complain that it's too long. Surprisingly enough, I wish this film had an extra fifteen minutes or so. A lot of plot points are either brushed over in a montage or come to what feels like a full stop, only to be picked back up later. The film's plot doesn't come together as seamlessly as it did in previous films, which is funny, because so far, this is probably the most straight forward of the Harry Potter films. This also leads to pacing issues, the first and second act being far too slow. The film opens with a short action set piece, and there's not a single action scene I remember until the finale. I'm not saying all movies need action in order for them to be enjoyable, I'm just saying the lack of excitement was more noticeable due to the pacing issues.
With that out of the way, I want to talk about my favorite aspect of the film - Voldemort. He's not a scene stealing antagonist here, he's actually barley in the film, but the film does a great job at making you stay aware of his presence throughout. Voldemort is so damn interesting, and we learn a lot about him here. There's also some pretty spooky imagery with him, especially when Harry has his nightmares about him. This film isn't the first time we meet Ralph Fiennes' Voldemort, but this is when I truly understood his motives and his relationship with Harry. I was right in my review for Goblet of Fire when I mentioned the ending was a turning point in the saga's overall story, and I am giddy to witness Voldemort in full effect in remaining films.
Unlike the other films, The Order of the Phoenix has a much more consistent tone. It's mostly a serious, dark film with little humour but it's a welcome change, allowing us to see these characters at their darkest moments. Dumbledore is a much more rounded and realised character here, and we get to see him be a badass for the first time, and it's very satisfying and definitely a highlight of the film. Harry is seen here like never before. He feels like he's grown up at a lightning fast rate, with students looking up to him as a teacher in his own rights. Harry discovers new secrets about himself in this film, some alarming and some genuinely heartwarming. I got emotional twice by short monologues Harry had, he is easily becoming one of my favorite movie heroes.
Overall, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is an ever so slight step down in quality from the previous films. Pacing issues aside, it's a fun, if not darker film that has a kick ass villain and a hero you see grow as a person before your very eyes. I continue to be charmed by this series. I hope you guys are enjoying these reviews as much as I am, and if you are, please join me soon for my review of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
3 1/2 Stars