harry_potter_and_the_half_blood_prince_potter-_poster2It’s all my mum’s fault. She’s the one that likes Harry Potter. She’s the one who dragged me along to see the movies with her when none of her friends expressed an interest. So, you see, it was her who made me read the first five books and then queue outside supermarkets at midnight to pick up the last two books on their release. I have no interest in it whatsoever.

That’s the official party line and that’s the one we’ll be sticking to. Okay? Okay.

Unofficially, I love the Harry Potter books and particularly Stephen Fry’s narration on the audiobooks so it’s perhaps unsurprising that I dragged me old mum along to see Half Blood Prince during its release weekend.

There are many things to admire about the latest movie. Emma Watson’s acting has come on leaps and bounds since the start and I think this was the first movie where her delivery of at least one line didn’t made me cringe and die inside a little bit. Rupert Grint has been excellent throughout anyway, but he was particularly amusing in HBP and pretty much single-handedly made quidditch interesting to watch. The pick of the bunch, though, as far as the youngsters is concerned was Tom Felton who plays Draco Malfoy. Part of the credit has to go to the director and cinematographer, but he gave a very eerie performance which reminded me in a lot of ways of the hi-jackers in United 93. He definitely has that sort of suicide bomber vibe happening. And Ginny Weasley even delivers a line with such detachment and ennui that it wouldn’t be out of place in a Bret Easton Ellis novel: “He’s covered in blood again. Why is it he’s always covered in blood?”

The Harry Potter films have always managed to attract top quality actors for supporting and cameo roles. From John Cleese in Philosopher’s Stone, through Gary Oldman, Brendan Gleeson and Imelda Staunton. But Jim Broadbent, who has been hugely watchable in most things I’ve seen him in, delivers a spellbinding performance as Slughorn.

It’s a long movie at two-and-a-half hours but there’s probably only a ten minute segment in the middle — a pointlessly contrived action setpiece which sees The Burrow blown to smithereens — that would be worthy of a cut. The story moves along with more purpose than Order of the Phoenix, it’s infinitely more entertaining than Goblet of Fire and, well, it’s got to be better than the first two Disneyesque efforts. Which just leaves Prisoner of Azkaban. Perhaps surprisingly, Azkaban remains the best Potter movie, although it was a close run thing and if it wasn’t for the last 15 minutes, I’d say Half Blood Prince was the better movie.

In the book, the identity of the Half Blood Prince is a big deal and a main subplot. You’d expect it to be; it’s in the title after all. For it not to be a big deal would be like Jaws to not really be that fussed about sharks. The movie, however, gives this mystery little more than a cursory glance so when there’s the big reveal in the denouement, there’s no tension and it’s, well, a bit rubbishy.

But the main problem with the end is, in a change from another vital plot point in the book, Harry doesn’t react to something HE REALLY WOULD REACT TO. In the book, there’s a very good reason for this and it’s a reason that adds to the emotion of the ending. He doesn’t react because he can’t. In the movie, he chooses not to react. The difference is all the difference and it’s a shame because there are some other aspects of the end that work very well and pull on the old heartstrings.

My only other criticism would be, if you hadn’t read the book beforehand, I suspect a lot of the movie wouldn’t make a lot of sense.

So. Lousy ending, superfluous 10 minutes in the middle and maybe a bit too fanboy. Other than that, top marks, and very much looking forward to seeing what the same director will do with the Deathly Hallows double-header.

We all promise to remember the ofiicial party line, though, don’t we? Good.