"Harry Potter and the Delay of the Inevitable"
"It Means It Was All a Waste. All of it!"
One must admit to getting weary of this series, now on its penultimate episode. At this point in the story, one should be quaking with anticipation for the concluding chapter (it'll be two, unfortunately), but instead one finds oneself, as previously, unmoved.
Whether this is a problem with being so faithful to the source material by J.K. Rowling (she does have to give her approval) for the author or the Faithful Readers, it's hard to say (although Alfonso Cuarón's "Prisoner of Azkaban," which magically took a meat-axe to that outing is still the best of the bunch). As in the last two "Potter's," a new character is introduced (Jim Broadbent as Professor Horace Slughorn...is this series going to end without Christopher Lee, Helen Mirren and Terence Stamp showing up?) and a few go missing (no Dobby, none of the past "guest-professors,") more of the love-life complications for the Big Three (Harry, Hermione and Ron—which one is beginning to realize Rowling set up from the first book), an incidental Quidditch match (which only served to show that the groundskeeping is starting to lack at Hogwarts), and the death of a Significant Character.*
The series' inability to make you care about the passing of characters, when it's becoming more than apparent that the learning of death's inevitability is the major life-lesson in orphan Harry Potter's life (and that appreciating the magic that is there in living is the other), is a major stumbling block in the film series. It should be the spine of the films, and not merely by repetition. Having long since lost interest in the magic arcana of the Potter series (they add a love potion, with the usual sit-com results, and a "luck" potion—which Potter star Daniel Radcliffe embodies with a hilarious "slacker" slouch, nice choice, that), this deadly undercurrent is given short-shrift, no matter how dark the films become in subject matter or art direction.** That this all started with the boy-mage's parents' death and will end, as the targets strike closer and closer, to a predictable climax and dénouement is a sure thing. It's readily apparent that a "fix" is in, and one hopes that by cleaving the final book into two movies that the Potter franchise can find a way to make it interesting, film-wise, rather than just doubling profits. One hopes, despite the evidence of the "Half-Blood Prince."
Still, there are a few things to acknowledge. By this time, the series is only too aware of its cliches (original scripter Steve Kloves is back) and pokes fun at them (Maggie Smith is given the best line: "Why is it when there's trouble, it's always you three?" and one of Radcliife's best lines is "Actually, sir, after all these years I kind of go with it" Indeed!), there are the usual neat little touches of legerdemain being ignored by the principals in the corners of frames, and say what you will about the series, look at the parade of actors who've traipsed through Hogwarts' revolving doors: Richard Harris and Michael Gambon, Dame Smith, Robbie Coltrane, David Thewlis, Timothy Spall, Julie Christie (!!), Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh, Brendan Gleeson, Gary Oldman, Miranda Richardson, Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter (she's terrific in this one, and given more screen-time than the previous film), Broadbent, Imelda Staunton, John Cleese, Richard Griffiths, Fiona Shaw, Julie Walters, Jason Isaacs, Robert Hardy, John Hurt, Zoë Wanamaker, Ian Hart, and, best of all, Alan Rickman, whose Professor Snape continues to imply more and more while emoting less and less. These pictures become a notch more interesting every time he's on-screen.
One hopes that he's on-screen...a lot...in the next two.
"Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" is a cable-watcher.
* At least this one is significant, the audience having spent more than fifteen minutes of screen-time with this one. The others—Cedric Diggory (pre-"Twilight" Robert Pattinson) and Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) barely registered as major tragedies, which they should be!
** There are seven special effects houses in the employ of "Half-Blood Prince"— not a lot for the current special effects extravaganzas—the most prominent of which is Industrial Light and Magic, which seems to be gearing its effects work more to the murky look of the WETA workshop, in the "Lord of the Rings" films.