POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Blu-Ray/DVD Combo
Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman,
Tom Felton, Jim Broadbent and Maggie Smith
Number of discs: 3
Studio: Warner Home Video
DVD Release Date: December 8, 2009
Run Time: 135 minutes
hour grows short for Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and his friends. His
long-delayed confrontation with Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) can only be
postponed for so much longer, and while previous entries in the franchise
spun their wheels a bit,
The Half-Blood Prince has much clearer priorities. It needs to set up
the big finale crisply and cleanly, with a minimum of foolishness and an
eye on clearing the stage of any remaining subplots. With director David
Yates overseeing things (he handled both the previous
Order of the Phoenix and the upcoming
Hallows double bill), Half-Blood Prince can get down to
business with a firm eye on keeping us entertained in the process.
Voldemort himself plays almost no role here, reduced to
a few flashbacks courtesy of the wizard Dumbledore (Michael Gambon).
Instead, his remaining underlings take center stage, led by the pernicious
Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) who has waited patiently for his moment in the
sun. The franchise struggled at times to provide solid villains without
overshadowing the Big V, and until now Malfoy has suffered the bulk of it.
Schoolyard bullies really pale in the face of all-encompassing evil and
while Felton was always suitably sneering, you started to wonder why Harry
didn't just smack him with a rolled-up newspaper and send him on his way.
But he virtually dominates
The Half-Blood Prince,
a brooding doom-laden presence which adds volumes to the character without
saying a word. Malfoy has a job to do, and his efforts to summon the
requisite will hold as much power as Harry's own penultimate steps to
The other villain of note is Severus Snape (Alan Rickman), far more
complex from a moral standpoint and indeed perhaps ultimately on the side
of the angels. Rickman has only a few scenes himself here, but he takes
marvelous relish in delivering them: balancing Snape's eternal hatred for
Harry with a lingering enigma about his final loyalties. It allows for a
last bit of intrigue to color Deathly Hallows while granting The
Half-Blood Prince one of the best final acts of the entire series.
Together, the two antagonists provide a fitting frame
for Harry's journey, which enters its toughest and potentially darkest
stage. Several direct challenges await, such as discovering the identity
of the titular character and the need to worm a key secret out of
Hogwarts' newest professor (Jim Broadbent). But while Yates maintains
focus on those aspects, he also keeps the bigger picture in mind, allowing
The Half-Blood Prince to work on its own merits as well as serving
as a key part of the larger story.
In the end, of course, it stands or falls with its
fellows. It has a solid pedigree behind it, providing it with reliable
support and freeing it from the constraints of exposition which doom so
many other fantasy films. While it may not be the strongest entry in the
franchise, it doesn't need to be; it must only live up to the standards of
its forbearers and provide a reasonable lead-in to the climactic chapter.
If it's a bit predictable in its duties, that's only because we know what
to expect by now: the people involved have gotten too good at this to let
THE DISC: The Blu-Ray edition includes 3 discs -
with a regular DVD copy and digital copy to help ease the transition to
Blu-Ray for those so inclined--packed with the expected array of extras.
Most notable are the additional scenes, which address one of the big
complaints about these films: the inability to capture more of the books.
The cutting room floor holds at least one large subplot, revealing just
how hard the filmmakers work to cover as much of the source material as
possible, and how much we lose for the sake of a reasonable running time.
the remaining features are certainly entertaining, but
much less insightful: some behind-the-scenes features, a piece covering
the life of JK Rowling, and a look at early footage from The Deathly
Hallows. The Blu-Ray also includes scene comparisons and an ongoing
"Maximum Movie Mode" featuring Radcliffe.
WORTH IT? The Blu-Ray offers improved sound and
picture - always worthwhile for a blockbuster like this - but otherwise
the extra features are comparable to the DVD. (Warners was wise to package
them as one.) Regardless, both the Blu-Ray and DVD versions make for a
reliable purchase, with enough bells and whistles to keep fans of the
RECOMMENDATION: A fitting addition to the
Harry Potter franchise, though newcomers to the series should view the
first few movies before deciding whether this one is worth picking up.
- Rob Vaux