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'Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince' is so far summer's Chosen One

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Well done, Mr. Kloves. “The Half-Blood Prince” borders on brilliant. It seems that his changes, omissions and additions were not only aggrandizing (as far as the screenplay is concerned) but actually ingeniously poignant.

It’s a ballsy move to alter the tone of an adaptation, particularly one concerning such visually fantastical elements. But director David Yates and writer Steve Kloves decided to skip the action and focus more on Harry and other characters’ personal demons instead.

The Harry Potter series has always been the archetypal, modern hero film, mirroring many characteristics of the post-classical period of sci-fi and fantasy.

Particularly in light of the vampire culture-craze (thanks to Twilight, True Blood, and nearly single-handedly Rob Pattison), the magical realms of storytelling seem to have made a monumental comeback amongst audiences.

The difference, however, from the traditionally historical fantasy film is the fluid combination “The Half-Blood Prince” manages to coalesce: it’s majestic without being entirely puerile nonsense, and funny without being benightedly cheesy.

Folklore and mythology don’t always have to be so elementary, and magic doesn’t always have to be so abracadabra. As proven in “The Half-Blood Prince,” it can be considerably very macabre and dismal.

Despite its PG rating, “The Half-Blood Prince” contains deep-rooted emotional struggles and a somewhat dark exploration of the human psyche. Even though the novel is full of action-packed scenes, director David Yates and writer Steve Kloves have decided to save the action for the next two installments and delve more into the characters’ progression into adulthood and more dire circumstances they are forced to face. Surprisingly, it was a well-played move on their part.

Although it’s not always easy to convince the nonbeliever, the Harry Potter movies, now more than ever, are not strictly reserved for a young audience, as many films of the genre traditionally are. Harry, Ron and Hermione are now not only facing exigent responsibilities, but also the traditional struggles many adults know all too well--adolescence.

As far as the writing is concerned, the dichotomy of constantly facing certain death while experiencing the common hormonal torments of teenage love affairs cannot be an easy balance to create. Kloves, however, includes a surprisingly entertaining amount of humor which keeps the audience from constantly holding their breath and fighting back the almost inevitable tears (which, for Potter fans, is nearly unavoidable in the end).

So although the action scenes, among others, are noticeably absent (which clearly contributes to the non PG-13 rating) the implied imminent danger is so dark at times that the violence is questionably more fierce and horrifying than actual visuals of battles and blood.

Voldemort is strictly present as the young Tom Riddle, but the character is so well developed, the creepy boy is actually more unnerving than the demonic, serpent-like adult (which is very effective in many horror films, i.e. “The Omen,” “The Shining” “The Exorcist” and nearly anything Stephen King).

As cautioned before, Potter fans must be fully aware of Kloves’s variations. A book is a book, and a film is a film. Mediums cannot fully translate, and even in the rare case they do, it often destroys a reader’s own preconceived images and characters created through their own imagination. A good screenwriter does not necessarily mean a great adaptation writer.

Just as Rowling requested, the characters remain true to themselves. The film even, in some ways, reveals a pivotal depth and personal turmoil present in some individuals, which many readers did not pick-up on after the climatic, much-anticipated final scene in the novel. Kloves’s small couple minute additional interaction between two particular characters, although risky, was powerfully somber rather than menacing.

Aside from it all, as crucial for any summer blockbuster, the production is exquisite, with cinematography only to be truly appreciated in IMAX 3D (also will be released in 35 mm), not just for the 2D to 3D conversion, but the IMAX DMR sound quality.

The special effects are captivating, the art design is even more magnificent than ever, and the swooping camera movements are thrilling, challenging how close film has come to outdoing one’s own imagination.

Photo: Daniel Radcliffeat the premiere of "Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince", in New York, on Thursday, July 9, 2009. (AP Photo/Peter Kramer)

 

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