Our children have all grown up now and in the world of adolescence, the world of magic is no longer innocent. At least, the viewer is made to think so in “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the sixth installment of J.K. Rowling s phenomenally successful franchise.
Harry and his entourage are immersed in the dark, the macabre, the hidden, and the mysterious as Hogwarts itself becomes a fortress – perhaps an expression of the terrorism that we, Muggles, have to endure in the real world.
Security is tightened around the magic castle and the initiates are thoroughly searched. As one professor exclaims at the beginning of the film, These are mad times.
Hogwarts is effectively under siege and lockdown as the Dark Lord, Voldemort, (formerly known as Tom Riddle), and his minions appear to be winning the wizardry war. The film picks up where Harry Potter and “The Order of the Phoenix left us.
Harry and Professor Dumbledore have formed a bond that goes beyond mentor and apprentice; particularly so, following the calamitous battle at the Ministry of Magic in which Sirius Black, the unsung hero, is killed.
I have seen all Harry Potter films a few times over, and though I have not read the books, have enjoyed the fact that they were getting progressively darker.
However, in “Half-Blood, we are teased by the promise that this film will be akin to “The Empire Strikes Back, except Voldemort is no Darth Vader (or Palpatine for that matter), and the calamitous battle we have been hoping for never materializes.
As fast as Dumbledore can vanish, the hints of impending doom and growing diabolical evil never manifest themselves. Early on, we see the world of Muggles attacked and it seems to indicate that the dark forces will unleash a wave of terror on the real world. But this never happens and the viewer is left wondering why the Muggles were attacked in the first place.
While the film is bathed in dark tones, giving one the impression that we are on the verge of watching a psycho-thriller like “Vacancy, for example, it is the color red – or more appropriately, pink – that defines where this film is going.
Sex. Or the promise of sex.
“Phoenix director David Yates has taken a breather in this film. Gone are the exciting duels in magic “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (my favorite). In fact, we don t even see Ralph Fiennes in this one acting out the brilliant evil he portrays in the faceless Voldemort.
And whatever happened to the “Order of the Phoneix ? It looked for a while that our heroes were about to form one hell of a gang of magic-wielding rebels.
Instead, Rowling here chose to weave in the social ties that bind and break hearts. The film is knee-deep in romance, flirtation, infatuation, love potions, touching, kissing (snogging) and more kissing.
Hey, hang on a minute … uhm … you re all supposed to be fighting off evil forces, remember? But who could possibly wage war – and win – against raging hormones? Perhaps, because her children had come of age when she penned book six, Rowling dabbled with those prickling feelings of first love, that crush you had on someone in ninth grade, or the nerd who always fell down but managed to charm his way into the girl’s heart.
Yes, this is a film for how nerds fall in love. And boy, is it irksome. I wanted to leave the theater many times – but decided to stick it out because I know this film will set the stage for the final battle to come.
Yates fails to keep us on the edge of our seats or keep the adrenaline pumping, unless of course you were the love-blinded Hermione who has tossed out all her ambitions and her keen competitive streak simply to win the favor of Ron Weasley.
Not once does she throw a spell or show off.
Ron, meanwhile, is snogging (there they go again!) someone else and Harry, while not fighting evil undead in a dark cesspool, is trying to get it on with Ron s sister, Ginny.
Even the fiendishly gifted actor in Alan Rickman’s Severus Snape cannot save this film, which leaves me wondering what Warner Brothers will have in store for us in the next two films, due in 2010 and 2011.
They better inject some magic into the cinematic franchise and stir up a potion to keep the audience interested.