Back On Form
The latest instalment of Harry Potter has well and truly taken the plunge into the sea of raging teenage hormones. Although a couple of the previous episodes had occasional hints, the romantic elements have always played second fiddle to the effects-laden portions of the story. In this case, it is no longer about how many swirling spells and flying broomsticks we can cram in during the running time (Though of course it has its fair share).
Harry returns to a Hogwarts under siege. It has been magically sealed off to protect the students within, from the threatening world beyond. Meanwhile, inside its walls, love triangles abound as characters veer between dating side-characters they are not intended for, while their intended go around mourning the fact that the others cannot see what is in front of their faces.
I personally found the previous instalment, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, one of the weaker films. The filming style was a little too contemporary, the colour tones a tad too drab in an effort to make it all darker and less child-like, and character moments often felt squeezed into a corner to make way for the set-pieces.
Half Blood Prince works, because Director David Yates has learnt from his prior effort, even stating so himself. The ongoing battle against the villain Voldemort is an ever-present threat, without always taking full control of the events on screen. Of all the Harry Potters so far, this is the character piece, and Yates keeps the camera locked down more frequently, allowing us to savour the framing of shots and bring us more intimately into the personal moments on screen. It's all laced with amusing snippets that keep the audience laughing, but not to the point of losing the film's bite.
This is 'The Empire Strikes Back' of the Potter Saga. The characters are the real core of events, the heroes do not inevitably win, and the conclusion is surprisingly sombre and downbeat. If the next two instalments (The final novel is being broken into two films) can keep up this balancing act and deliver the goods, we could be in for a very satisfying series of films.