Is the new Harry Potter the best one yet? It depends on whom you ask. Word on the street prior to the film’s release was that its quality rose sharply from the last Harry Potter movie and that, for the first time ever, one of the Harry Potter movies would be considered, or might be considered, Best Picture material.
It was great hype to open the season but it’s a long shot to call it one of the contenders, even though the Academy has decided now to include ten Best Picture nominees rather than five. Either way, there is no denying that Harry Potter is growing up, and his directors are growing with him.
David Yates is the helmer this time around and though this one is dark, it isn’t nearly as dark as the last Harry Potter, The Order of the Phoenix. This one is mucked up a bit with goofy romantic subplots, again to be expected; how weird would it be if these characters never formed attachments and fell in love? Since most interested people know who is going to end up with whom, the characters have to get busy.
The Half-Blood Prince features the death of a significant character, which definitely gives Potter fans something to “deal with.” But these deaths never feel all that real since they are in the realm of magic. Still, it’s something to be prepared for going in.
The plot revolved around Snape (the great Alan Rickman), and the potential evil fate that awaits Harry (as usual). Since there is a lot of romantic ground to cover the meaty bits of the story have been taken out. It’s the usual good versus evil stuff as Harry gets ready to face down his strongest enemy. One gets tired of hearing that he’s the “chosen one,” however, and at that point you might feel yourself longing for the end of the lumbering serial.
The tech elements are the best they’ve ever been, with gorgeous art direction and costume design. The world of Harry Potter really has been built more on these talents than any one director (still the best Potter film credit goes to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban). The Quidditch matches have never looked more seamless and perfectly done as they do here. In fact, would that there were more of them.
The only real problem with the Potter series on film has been the absence of any real growth for Hermione (Emma Watson), except in terms of her romantic relationship to Ron. Surely a girl like that would be able to multi-task – help save the world while winning over the boy of her dreams? Her character, like most female characters in these types of genre films, has been given the short shrift. Sure, it’s Harry’s show in many ways but Hermione is a big reason that the stories work at all. To reduce her to nothing more than a love interest is insulting to the author.
Hopefully the next two Harry Potter films (splitting the last book into two films) will bring Hermione back into the action a bit. Since Potter fans are all growing up along with the characters, one suspects that the last two movies will head into deeper parts of a story that, right now, doesn’t feel like it has much depth to it at all.