The release of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince was an eagerly awaited event among the members of my family. Yesterday was the day, so we trotted down to Vue Cinema in Braunstone, Leicester and enjoyed a couple of hours of easy escapism in the company of wizards and witches conjured from J.K.Rowling's immense imagination.
The Half Blood Prince was the book that got me reading the series. Until then, I'd been alone in the family in resisting Potter mania. But bored one day, and with that book the only reading matter available, I caved in. And yes, the story was good. From there I read the final episode - the Deathly Hallows, then worked my way backwards through the series to the beginning. (In a kind of Harry Potter meets Memento style reading experience.)
I don't wade through that many words easily. Dyslexia keeps me back from many of the longer classics. So I have to say that, however ropey the prose may be in parts, the Harry Potter series is a triumph of sustained story telling.
What about this film? As with the others in the series, it contained some very fine acting performances. Alan Rickman is never less than scintillating. Jim Broadbent's quality shines through. And the once child actors have grown into their roles beautifully. The visual effects were fine. The production values everything one would expect. It was, in short, a very successful depiction of an episode in this long saga.
But that is also it's limitation. It felt like an episode rather than having the shape of a feature film. I enjoyed it all the way through, but ultimately didn't feel as if I had been taken on a journey. Perhaps that was just the nature of the book - which leaves readers waiting for the final instalment. Or perhaps opportunities were missed in the way the the book was interpreted for the screen.
Once the final films have been made, I will doubtless go back to this one and watch it as a prelude to those. In that, I suspect it will have reached its highest point. But as a stand-alone it will always be limited. The only film in the series that stands alone as a great movie in its own right is the Prisoner of Azkaban. But that won't stop me and vast hoards of Harry Potter fans enjoying the Half Blood Prince and looking forward to the next one.
Now, how long do we have to wait?