Time to be a film critic again, this time with one of my favourite subjects either in book form or on celluloid, Harry Potter that I saw today with my youngest son. Like my crossroads, this film reaches a crossroads in the story of the young magician haunted by his past. This film has fewer magic spells but greater special effects which frankly are stunning in their simplicity. They don't over-awe what is a very important transition between children under threat from the Dark Lord to where battle begins in earnest with the most serious of consequences and the movement between childhood and the complexity of adulthood. I'm not going to include any plot spoilers here and if you have read the book, you know what happens.
Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grinch as the three pupil friends at Hogwarts College of Witchcraft and Wizardry, (Harry Potter, Hermione Grainger and Ron Weasley respectively) are growing fast and learning that relationships are anything but straightforward, but the director attacks this with humour and affection without at any time being a cringe worthy experience.
What is a delight however is more screen time for some most interesting characters of the series, Severus Snape subtly underplayed by the brilliant Alan Rickman, Draco Malfoy, Harry's main school rival well played by Tom Felton and Bellatrix Lestrange played seductively and fatalistically by Helena Bonham Carter - the epitome of evil itself.
Rickman has the knack, indeed skill of playing everything through his face and voice (like Michael Caine). His ability to keep still, not ham it out with facial ticks, odd voices or eccentric behaviour makes him both fascinating and the most dangerous of all men; can he be trusted? Will Harry Potter rue the one time that he trusts the sly, secretive and perhaps double dealing Professor Severus Snape?
The introduction of a new character, Professor Slughorn played by Jim Broadbent is the undoubted jewel in the crown of this excellent production. Old favourites, Michael Gambon, Maggie Smith and Robbie Coltrane still lend their gravitas to the Potter franchise.
The film is still a gentle stroll with easy sets (at great locations), great atmospheric lighting, and swear free dialogue that is easy to follow. Emotion is abundant and pitched at the right level - never over exaggerated. But a word about the special effects. They've always been impressive and an improvement on early Potter films, this indeed is what makes the magic. Flames in abundance, rebuilding of a trashed room, appearances and disappearances, yet all within context and never, not once overdone or intrusive.
There is no doubt that the film is now reaching a darker stage and that's as much about the gathering storm that is around the corner, whispers of dark-doings ahead than it is about the this film setting of the scene. The 12A rating is entirely appropriate and this is not one for little kids any more. Indeed there is one part of the film that can make you jump if you are not concentrating, indeed the woman next to me nearly lost all sense of dignity when she got the shock.
Whilst it's no secret who the 'Chosen One' is, Potter himself, the identity of the Half Blood Prince may come as a big surprise. If you want to know who it is - go and see the film.
This is a longish film, it needed to be, I think I measured it at about two and a half hours, but it's British cinema at its spectacular best, made by talented people behind the camera as well as in front of it. This is a must-see film.
The weekend is upon us and it's list time. This time, like Harry Potter, let's ponder the mysteries of life and ask some interesting questions to which there are few answers.
- If you choke a Smurf, what colour does it turn?
- What happens if you get half scared to death twice?
- Why did Kamikaze pilots wear helmets?
- What's a free gift? Aren't all gifts free?
- What the hell do you do if you see an endangered animal eating an endangered plant?
- What do you plant to grow a seedless watermelon?
- If a tin whistle is made of tin, what's a foghorn made of? (thanks to Lonnie Donegan)
- Why is it so hard to remember how to spell 'Mnemonic?'
- Why is a Wise Man and a Wise Guy exactly the opposite?
- and finally... Why did God give men nipples?