Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – Review and costume ideas

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince worked their magic on the box office this past weekend, pulling in $77.8 million in just weekend numbers — surpassing even this summer’s big bucks opening weekend winner, Star Trek. Even more impressive, Half-Blood Prince has earned a grand total of $158 million to date thanks to a splashy mid-week opening on July 15th, 2009.

So, is the film worth all of the galleons surely to be stowed in a Gringott’s vault? You bet your ash wood wand it is! Half-Blood Prince is two and a half hours’ worth of wizardry of both the storytelling and special-effects variety. Midnight showings were sold out, even with the film being screened on no less than eight separate screens. Many of the patrons came dressed in accurate — and not so accurate costumes, however, it was all in good fun.

The film itself wasn’t completely faithful to the book. Key plot elements were present and accounted for, however, not neccessarily as fleshed out as some fans (myself included) would have liked. Still, director David Yates did a solid job interpreting the film. While some scenes were omitted or weren’t as detailed as they appeared in J.K. Rowling’s novel, the emotional content of the book was well-represented on screen.

A good portion of the film revolved around awkward teenage romance, with a jealous Hermione Granger

watching as Ron Weasely paired off with the obsessive Lavender Brown. (Young actress Jessie Cave played Lavender to the hilt, often owning the screen with her syrupy fawning over Rupert Grint’s Ron.) Not to be outdone herself, Emma Watson perfectly conveyed teenage heartbreak in a scene in which she looked to Harry for support, overwhelmed by the feelings brought forth at seeing Ron with someone else.

Continuing his evolution towards becoming a fine, adult actor, Daniel Radcliffe rose to the challenge of playing Harry Potter at this increasingly dark turn in the life of “The Boy Who Lived,” having to handle the burden of avenging the parents he never knew, the usual business of attempting to defeat the Dark Lord, Voldemort, and figuring out how to broach his growing, romantic feelings to Ginny Weasely.

Radcliffe certainly held his own in scenes with veteran actors Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman, and newcomer to the Harry Potter franchise, Jim Broadbent as the school’s new/returning Potions Master, Prof. Horrace Slughorn. Slughorn, the rare, likeable Slytherin, held an important key to Dumbledore discovering the source of Voldemort’s power, attempting to defeat him.

Tom Felton as Draco Malfoy gave a surprisingly solid performance. Something of a one-dimensional bully in the past films, it was easy to feel (slightly) sorry for him.

Although many fans have criticized Gambon’s Dumbledore in the past (and sometimes, rightfully so — lacking the whimsical ethereal qualities that his predecessor, the late Richard Harris plucked right from the book), his somewhat understated Headmaster worked well in the film, particularly since Dumbledore had suffered a grave injury in an attempt to destroy a Horcrux artifact which kept a piece of Voldemort’s soul alive. Obviously, Dumbledore wouldn’t have much pep in his step, feeling the effects of a cursed object (Hellooooo, withered black hand!). Damn you, Gambon! You actually made me almost cry by the time the climactic scene of the film went down. That’s as good as it gets when playing the likeable headmaster!

Perhaps the biggest scene-stealer, however, was Alan Rickman as Prof. Severus Snape, the former Potions Master and newest instructor in the Defense Against the Dark Arts position. While his role was much bigger than prior Potter flicks, there were no scenes of Snape in action at the helm of the Dark Arts classroom, which was something of a let-down. Rickman perfectly portrayed Snape’s status as a double-agent, registering perhaps the exact sort of emotion that Rowling readers (who know the ending of the saga) would expect from the ambiguously dark wizard.

Not all doom, gloom, and teen angst, there were plenty of light-hearted moment in Half-Blood Prince. The Quidditch scenes were entertaining, even though they sucked up a lot of time that might have been better devoted to flashbacks of young Voldie or Dumbledore’s quest for horcruxes. Nevertheless, they served their purpose in breaking up some of the heavy drama of the film. Additionally, the Quidditch scenes and a few other moments threw in some rather funny sexual innuendo that was subtle enough that the kids watching wouldn’t pick up on it, and still obvious enough for adult Potter fans to realize what was going on. Chief of these was Harry imbibing a “liquid luck” potion and Ron accidentally gobbling love potion-dosed chocolates meant for Harry. If you’ve ever wondered what Hogwarts students would be like if they dropped the wizarding world equivalent of Ecstacy, you get your wish in Half-Blood Prince!

A few scenes were definitely eerie enough, but not enough weight was given to them (i.e. Katie Bell’s possession and poisoning due to a cursed necklace, and Dumbledore and Harry’s search for a horcrux and the ensuing horror within the cave), with more time having been devoted to Quidditch hijinx, et. al.

The only other gripe with the film is that if you hadn’t read any of the Harry Potter books, or even if you hadn’t seen any of the films… This is not the point to jump into the storyline. A word of warning: If you’re bringing along someone who’s never seen or read a Harry Potter book…. you’ll have a lot of ‘splainin’ to do. For the uninitiated, it’s a hard film to follow as a stand-alone.

Fans who may have been disappointed with Half Blood Prince’s glossing over a few elements due to editing and time constraints will be VERY pleased to know that the final book will be split into not one, but TWO feature films for Deathly Hallows. Director David Yates and the entire cast are returning for those two films, already in production now. There’s a lot of ground to cover in that last novel and it seems that Warner Brothers wants to do it right.

That said, you’ve got two more chances to head to a midnight showing in costume. Check out some of our DIY tutorials on how to make costumes based on two minor, yet beloved characters from the Potterverse: the airy Luna Lovegood and the punky female auror, Tonks.

And if you still haven’t gotten your fill of Harry Potter or want to check out another opinion on the film, check out