The film adaptation of Harry Potter’s sixth year at Hogwarts arrived on cinema screens in 2009.
Things are changing at Hogwarts. Voldemort’s power is rising beyond the school walls, and nobody is truly safe. Draco Malfoy is harbouring a dark secret, Snape has claimed the much coveted position of Defence Against The Dark Arts professor, and Dumbledore is finally ready to share his knowledge of Tom Riddle, and the path that led him to become Lord Voldemort.
Given that Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix ended with the wizarding world realising that Harry was telling the truth about Voldemort’s return, it’s hardly surprising that the summer between Harry’s fifth and sixth years isn’t the cheeriest.
We are reunited with Harry when Dumbledore turns up to enlist his help in recruiting an old professor, Horace Slughorn, to teach at Hogwarts again now that the position of Potions master is once again free. Dumbledore’s reasoning becomes apparent when it transpires that Slughorn is a crucial piece of the puzzle in working out how Voldemort survived on the night his killing curse rebounded on him.
Harry’s year revolves around his meetings with Dumbledore, during which he learns about Voldemort’s past; his childhood as an orphan, uneducated but aware of his magic and using it for less-than-pleasant purposes; his schooling at Hogwarts, where he became interested in a particular type of dark magic and used Professor Slughorn to further his knowledge; and his mission as an adult to find a way to escape death, through the magic Slughorn told him about – Horcruxes, wherein a person splits their soul by murder, and stores the severed fractions in safe places.
Meanwhile Harry obsesses over Draco Malfoy’s obvious restlessness and secrecy as he becomes convinced that Malfoy is working for Voldemort. Elsewhere, Harry begins to flourish in Potions classes thanks to a little help from the second-hand book he finds at the back of the cupboard; a book inscribed with ‘property of the Half-Blood Prince’.
The visit to Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, Fred and George’s new joke shops, has to count as a best moment. Anything involving the Weasley twins is usually great, and this is no exception. It’s a comfort to everyone that in the encroaching darkness of Voldemort’s return to power, the Weasley twins remain unchanged – and great for prank supplies.
The scenes in which Harry gets a glimpse into Voldemort’s past are intriguing, and the memory he visits of a younger Dumbledore visiting 11 year old Tom Riddle in the orphanage is suitably sinister. Tom is, mostly, an innocent – he’s been using his magic to prey on the other children, but at this point, his soul is whole, at least. He’s a child who could technically have chosen to turn down a very different path. It’s fascinating and creepy to see the child who would become Lord Voldemort.
Harry and Snape’s fight, when Snape reveals himself to be the Half-Blood Prince, is a gloriously dramatic moment. Alan Rickman is on top form with a glitteringly formidable performance, and Daniel Radcliffe’s portrayal of Harry’s raging grief for Dumbledore is enough to give you a lump in your throat.
In terms of humour, the entire sequence wherein Harry takes the liquid luck and happily trots off to prise the memory from Slughorn is potentially one of the best moments in the entire franchise. Enough said.
The final scene, in which Ron and Hermione stand by Harry and look out across the lake at Hogwarts is beautifully poignant – even more so when considering that the trio do not return to school properly for their seventh year. This is one of their last moments at Hogwarts together as three students at the end of a school year.
‘Would you like me to fix it for you? Personally, I think you look a little more devil-may-care this way, but it’s up to you.’ Luna’s advice on whether or not Harry should keep the ‘broken nose’ look; always welcome.
‘Why is it, when something happens, it is always you three?’ Poor Professor McGonagall.
‘She’s only interested in you because she thinks you’re the Chosen One,’ Hermione tells Harry, sharply, when Romilda Vane gazes adoringly at Harry across the library. To which a pleased and proud Harry replies: ‘But I am the Chosen One.’
‘Not to mention the pincers.’ Harry provides some helpful miming to go along with this line when commenting on the ‘scare factor’ of Hagrid’s favourite giant spider.
‘I’ve always admired your courage Harry, but sometimes you can be really thick. You don’t really think you’re going to be able to find all those Horcruxes by yourself do you? You need us.’ Hermione says it as it is – but the bond between the trio is as strong as ever.
Did you know?
11-year-old Tom Riddle was played by Hero Fiennes-Tiffin; the nephew of Ralph Fiennes, who plays Voldemort.
Until this film, a full game of Quidditch had not been shown on screen since Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets back in 2002.
When reading through the script, Rowling came across a line in which Dumbledore mentioned a girl he used to have a crush on. She asked for its removal, revealing that Dumbledore was in fact gay.
The film was nominated for an Oscar for Best Cinematography.
At the beginning of the film, we see the Death Eaters destroying the Millennium Bridge in London. In the books, Harry’s sixth year takes place in 1996–1997; the Millennium Bridge was not actually built until 1998 and opened in 2000.
Emma Watson considered not returning to play Hermione, but eventually decided that she couldn’t bear to see anyone else take the role.
At the time of release, JK Rowling stated that this was her favourite of the film adaptations of her series.
The report: B+
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is great at showing how Harry and his friends have grown up, and there are strong performances throughout from central and supporting cast. Jim Broadbent is fantastic as Slughorn, and Michael Gambon puts in an excellent final turn as Dumbledore, too; the pseudo-fatherly relationship between him and Harry is sweet and sad. This film also gives Tom Felton’s Draco Malfoy more of a chance to shine.
That being said, I think that the film suffers slightly from the same issues as its predecessor, with the grim tone making it a little weighty at times. The liquid luck scene is great for lightening the tone without losing the overall drama; a little more of this would have been perfect.
Personally, one of my main issues with this film is Harry and Ginny’s romance. In the books, the characters fit together well. Onscreen they look more awkward than anything else, and the pairing seems forced. Radcliffe and Wright’s chemistry just isn’t there, to me.
Propped up with brilliant performances and heightening the tension excellently for the final double-bill instalment, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince gets a B+ overall.
What’s your favourite moment in the movie? Let us know below…