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Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (film)

David Yates returns to direct his second film in the Potter Franchise, the second director to do so. This is the final film where Harry, Ron, and Hermione are students at Hogwarts, and they spend a lot of time doing school activities. A much slower film than the other ones, this is setting the foundation for the Deathly Hallows adaptation.

Warner Bros. really dropped the ball with this installment. They pushed back its release date from November 2008 to July 2009, because the Dark Knight made a billion dollars and they didn’t need any more revenue in 2008. Not only did Potter fans have to wait an extra 8 months, but the studio heavily promoted Half-Blood Prince as being in IMAX 3D. The first twenty minutes were in 3D. The first twenty minutes only. You don’t even see Hogwarts in 3D. Lame, lame, lame…. Especially since Order of the Phoenix had such an amazing 3D climax. How can you do 3D so perfectly and than butcher it so drastically in the very next film?

There is a lot of emphasis of student life in this movie. There are the usual bits with Harry riding the Hogwarts Express with Ron and Hermione and stuff, but they also show the students lounging around in the dorm. They do more homework and classwork than in the last few films. Quidditch makes a glorious return. Hogwarts itself feels like another character.

This movie is more character driven than Potter 4 and 5. It feels more like Azkaban, but with less action. It is a dark story, but is lighter than the book. There are a few nitpicky criticisms that I have. Like why do they cut so much out but add totally made up events that have no impact on the story? There was no reason to have the Burrow attacked and burned down by the Death Eaters. There was no mention of it later on in the Deathly Hallows; it was just completely unnecessary. Even worse than adding unimportant events is adding unimportant characters. Sorry cute black Muggle coffee shop chick, but you suck and we could have used some Dobby time instead of you. How come Harry and Ginny barely kissed but Harry and Cho made out for about 35 minutes in Order of the Phoenix?

The whole movie is kind of a step in the wrong direction. It is really slow and some parts are down right boring. The book was kind of like that too, but they could have found some momentum in the story. Michael Gambon’s final few scenes as Dumbledore were performed well. Dumbledore looks so tired and weakened after the cave and inferi sequence, it is almost a relief to see him pass on. One of the weakest films in the franchise, but you are still going to watch it multiple times. A bad Harry Potter film is like a bad beer… it’s not really bad, its just there are way better ones out there.

Critically Rated at 13/17

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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (film)

Alfonso Cuarón directs the third movie in the franchise, taking over for Chris Columbus. The movie is much darker from the get-go, the Warner Bros. logo and opening titles are dark and gray, and we know that the Potter films are only going to get better.

Harry, Ron and Hermione are no longer kids, now they are teenagers. Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson are much more natural on screen in this one. The first two movies they were performing, now they are acting. Believe me, there is a difference. They know their characters now, and this screenplay gives them more material to work with. This movie is more character driven than the first two.

The adult cast continued to improve as well. Gary Oldman joined the cast as Sirius Black, Emma Thompson plays Trelawney, Michael Gambon takes over as Dumbledore, Timothy Spall is great as Peter Pettigrew, and David Thewlis plays Lupin. Not enough can be said about Alan Rickman as Snape, he can always be relied on to kick ass with just a few lines. Snape has a great moment where he instinctively protects Harry, Ron and Hermione from werewolf Lupin, it is insight to his true self.

The first two movies were great for laying out the foundation, but now a more accomplished director is able to build up the franchise.  Cuarón makes the word feel more natural and lived in. The students are still in robes, but they are disheveled and more casually strewn together. The wands are now much more unique and individualized, and they remain so for the rest of the films.  Hogwarts seems explorable and livable. The camera is much more dynamic. It sweeps around, it follows characters, and it gets hit with snow and rain. It feels like another character. This movie was a make or break point for the franchise; a bad director could have ruined everything. Cuarón improved upon everything Columbus did. I don’t have the facts to back this up, but I feel this movie got more people to read the books than any of the other films.

I wasn’t a fan of the time traveling aspect in the book. I feel it is a cheap to have time travel in a saga about magic, and I think J.K. Rowling realized the same and so time travel was never a plot device after Prisoner of Azkaban. That being said, I really enjoyed the time traveling aspect in the movie. They did it right.  Throughout the movie Hermione pops up suddenly, and later Harry gets hit by a rock, Hermione sees something strange, they are saved by mysterious howling, and Harry sees what looks like his father casting a patronus charm. Then later, they go back in time and you find out how Hermione was popping up suddenly, they find out that they threw the rock, that Hermione almost saw herself, that they were the ones howling and that Harry saw himself cast the patronus. And he even goes so far as to explain that he knew he could cast it this time, because he had already done it before.

A great movie, easily one of the best in the series. It is no longer a kid’s movie. Alfonso Cuarón is a great director and this film is proof. It is a part of a greater whole, but he made it very personal and very unique without ruining anything previously established. It sets up some story arcs for future installments, but it also stands out as its own film.

Critically Rated at 15/17

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