A half-blooded fan­tasy

Harry Pot­ter VI: Great spe­cial ef­fects, shame about the non-story, writes HARRY POT­TER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE Di­rected by David Yates. Star­ring Daniel Rad­cliffe, Ru­pert Grint, Emma Wat­son, He­lena Bon­ham Carter, Jim Broad­bent, Rob­bie Coltrane, War­wick D

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Reviews - Don­ald Clarke

THE HARRY Pot­ter films re­sem­ble creaky old bib­li­cal epics in more ways than one. Like The Ten Com­mand­ments and The Great­est Story Ev­ery Told, the JK Rowl­ing adap­ta­tions are stu­pe­fy­ingly long and bum-numb­ingly bor­ing. They also have a lot to do with mir­a­cles and fea­ture more than a few el­derly men in long beards. More in­ter­est­ingly, both gen­res are aimed al­most ex­clu­sively at pun­ters who have read (in­deed, of­ten mem­o­rised) the source ma­te­rial.

When the lat­est film was screened for a se­lect au­di­ence ear­lier this year, the main com­plaints on in­ter­net boards were not to do with the nar­ra­tive struc­ture (barely present), the lead per­for­mances (con­sis­tently or­di­nary) or the spe­cial ef­fects (rather lovely, to be fair). No. Ev­ery sec­ond post whinged that it wasn’t ex­actly the same as the book. Imag­ine the re­sponse of the faith­ful if, when mak­ing King of Kings, Ni­cholas Ray had left out the Ser­mon on the Mount and you may grasp the tenor of the acolytes’ fury.

So, we can’t re­ally judge a Harry Pot­ter film the way we judge a Lars von Trier folly or a Quentin Tarantino en­ter­tain­ment. Harry Pot­ter and What­ever It’s Called This Year is more of a hugely ex­pen­sive Pas­sion Play than a con­ven­tional fam­ily en­ter­tain­ment. As such, it must grudg­ingly be con­sid­ered a kind of suc­cess.

Since the first pic­ture emerged eight years ago, Warner Broth­ers has made a point of hir­ing only the finest char­ac­ter ac­tors and the best post-pro­duc­tion staff. Okay, two of the three lead ac­tors are some­what un­der­whelm­ing (Ru­pert Grint is the only one who re­ally shines) and the choice of direc­tors has been er­ratic, but the pro­duc­ers have given Rowl­ing’s in­creas­ingly un­fo­cused nov­els the most thor­ough of mum­mi­fi­ca­tions.

All of which is a way of de­lay­ing the in­evitable busi­ness of find­ing some­thing spe­cific to say about (re­viewer hastily checks notes) Harry Pot­ter and the Half-Blood Prince. Well, it starts with one of the best spe­cial ef­fects se­quences yet seen in the se­ries. Be­fore you have had time to open your pop­corn, a se­ries of scurrying Death Eaters have de­scended upon Lon­don, sped along Shaftes­bury Av­enue, reached the river and chewed the Mil­len­nium Bridge into scrap iron.

When all that chaos has died down, we join Harry, now prac­ti­cally mid­dle-aged, as he flirts with a pretty girl at a train sta­tion. Later, Michael Gam­bon’s fruity Dum­ble­dore seeks out an old col­league played by – can he re­ally not have ap­peared be­fore? – a re­li­ably ec­cen­tric Jim Broad­bent.

Th­ese open­ing par­ries of­fer Pot­ter ag­nos­tics the prospect of some­thing a lit­tle less creaky than the ear­lier episodes. But, when the kids even­tu­ally ar­rive at Hog­warts, the film set­tles down into the usual morass of whacky po­tions in twisty bot­tles, teach­ers with names such as Whack­ford Ob­long­bot­tom, and furtive snogs be­neath the Quid­ditch bleach­ers.

The three main ac­tors (the owlish Daniel Rad­cliffe and the light­weight Emma Wat­son join Mr Grint yet again) work hard at dis­tract­ing at­ten­tion from their con­spic­u­ous su­per­an­nu­a­tion, and the teach­ers con­tinue to rel­ish their well-paid va­ca­tions from the Royal Shake­speare Com­pany.

The film will, in short, sat­isfy most folk who en­joyed the ear­lier episodes. The un­con­vinced may, how­ever, find one ques­tion echo­ing in their minds through­out: where’s the bleed­ing story? Quite a lot hap­pens in the lat­est episode, but, if asked what the film is about, you would have some trou­ble of­fer­ing any kind of con­cise an­swer.

Well, it’s about an at­tempt to dis­cover facts con­cern­ing Lord Volde­mort’s child­hood. It’s about Harry’s af­fec­tion for Ron’s sis­ter. It’s about two-and-a-half hours long. (Thanks to Bob Dy­lan for that joke.)

Still, you would have sim­i­lar dif­fi­culty sum­maris­ing the plot of the source ma­te­rial for The Ten Com­mand­ments and The Great­est Story Ever Told. At least the Almighty’s ghost­writ­ers man­aged to limit their epic to just two vol­umes, whereas the sev­enth and eighth Harry Pot­ter films are still to come.


Jim Broad­bent and Daniel Rad­cliffe swap elixirs

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