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Published: 16 July 2009

Emma Watson as Hermione Granger, Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter and Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley in The Half Blood Prince
Pottering around for new plot, saved by magical images


Directed by David Yates
Certificate 12a

WE have watched Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson grow up on screen. The leading trio of the Harry Potter franchise have gone from playing geeky 11-year-olds into even more geeky teenagers.

We have seen them develop from child stars into adult actors, and watched them solve the riddles of each book to scupper an evil plot – only to discover JK Rowling’s baddie Voldemort will come back stronger in time for the next instalment.
And, as with all previous Potter flicks, this is the general gist of how things pan out.
We learn from the start that Voldemort is up to his usual deathly mischief: his horrible flying black clouds of vapour (called the Death Eaters) are zooming about causing chaos, including an amazing opening scene when the Millennium footbridge over the Thames collapses under the pressure of loop the loops by these thunderous swirling clouds.
Meanwhile, Professor Dumbledore has used Harry to entice back to Hogwarts the retired Professor Slughorn (Jim Broadbent). Dumbledore knows that his former colleague holds a terrible secret which will be crucial to stopping Voldemort – and his in-school sidekick Draco Malfoy. But can Harry winkle it out of the ageing and pig-headed potions teacher before disaster strikes?
There are some flabby, teenage angst scenes, as if Rowling has sensed her readership has grown up and wants to keep them on board. Emma Watson, who plays Hermione Granger, said she felt this was more of a romantic comedy than anything else, but Potter fans shouldn’t worry that the frequent slushy moments, done in a horribly innocent way, are in place of grandstand magic tricks and the hocus-pocus that the books specialise in.
While the plot meanders and the film is a good half-hour too long, each scene is gorgeous to look at. Rowling’s world could not have been more faithfully recreated, and the secret behind this can be found in the credits. The director of photography is Bruno Delbonnel, who made the utterly superb Audrey Tatou vehicle A Very Long Engagement. His stamp of originality, quality and sheer visual exuberance makes this a cut above other Potter offerings. Hogwarts School is a triumph of set, location and computer trickery, and these impeccable design features are a hallmark of the style of this film.
From the opening scene, which takes us whizzing through the streets of London, the special effects totally consume the slow-moving plot, which suffers from frequent interruptions by the hormones of the teenage characters, who are more intent on snogging each other than fighting off the evil Lord Voldemort.
And the other sticky moment of this, the sixth instalment of the Potter films, is the lack of originality in the storyline. While JK Rowling may be one of the most successful children’s authors of all time, she borrows heavily from tried and tested favourites: her books have always been a mish-mash of tales that you can find elsewhere.
But the other reason this film is still a winner is the rosta of great British actors who crop up. While it has the detrimental effect of making those moments with the younger cast members not very enticing – some of the Hogwarts alumni feel very much like drama school canteen show-offs – who can argue with a film that brings together Jim Broadbent, Alan Rickman, Michael Gambon, Robbie Coltrane, Timothy Spall and Helena Bonham Carter?

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