"Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," the sixth installment in the ongoing series, hit theaters on Wednesday (July 15), breaking a midnight-screening record by taking in an astounding $20 million. It's no surprise that "Half-Blood Prince" will turn out to be a box-office smash, but how does it stack up with the critics? Check out our breakdown below (as well as Kurt Loder's review of the film, and for everything you need to know about "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," check out our cheat sheet).
Of all the movies, "Half-Blood Prince" focuses more on the developing romantic relationships between the characters, and less so on the action and adventure. The Philadelphia Inquirer calls it "a bubbling cauldron of hormonal angst, rife with romance and heartbreak, jealousy and longing."
For the most part, reviewers don't find any fault with this, as the developing romances provide comic relief and an accurate portrayal of adolescence. According to ReelTalk, "It's an involving portrait of an awkward stage of growing up, where teenagers are preoccupied with their emotions while the outside world and greater responsibility continually knock on the door."
But the Washington Post points out a few flaws, writing that the movie, "though not without its excellent moments, doesn't tell the two stories that, at heart, the book tells. It doesn't present a compelling portrait of the birth, life and descent into inhumanity of the villain who has haunted this series from its opening scenes: Voldemort. And it doesn't make the budding romance between Harry and Ginny feel inevitable and true."
Most critics seem to agree that the best acting is done by the supporting cast, which includes veterans like Michael Gambon, Helena Bonham Carter and Maggie Smith. In particular, the addition of Jim Broadbent as Horace Slughorn is welcomed. The Los Angeles Times said that Broadbent, along with the rest of the supporting cast, "underlines the Potter films' ongoing status as a comprehensive guide to contemporary U.K. acting."
Returning to the series as Professor Snape, Alan Rickman is at his scene-stealing best. Rolling Stone said, "Rickman is a dynamo, lacing the Severus sneer with glimmers of conscience and moral doubt."
What about the lead actors? Cinema Blend wrote, "I'm still not convinced Daniel Radcliffe can act and I'm still absolutely convinced that his backup wizards Emma Watson and Rupert Grint definitely can."
But other reviewers are inclined to defend Radcliffe. In the Chicago Sun Times, Roger Ebert wrote, "It's not easy being the hero with a supporting cast like this." Rolling Stone added that his "growing maturity as Harry gives the role a touching gravity. His scenes with Gambon, super as Dumbledore, exude ferocity and feeling."
While the "Harry Potter" series has always been known for its top-tier, eye-catching production values, this installment has a darker, more ominous feel, thanks to new cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel's work. Entertainment Weekly writes, "With a big assist from cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel ... the filmmakers have found a way to refresh our eyes and enhance our appreciation for this rich, amazing creation."
Empire opined, "The standout achievement in the film is the knockout spectacle, courtesy of cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel and production designer Stuart Craig, with one climactic sequence amid flames giving Dumbledore his Moses parting the Red Sea moment. That's the image we'll remember best until HP7 Part One arrives."
'Half-Blood Prince' Vs. The Other Movies
USA Today said, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is spellbinding, even though it is more grounded in reality and less fanciful than previous installments."
Cinema Blend echoes this statement, saying it "may be the least action-heavy of all the Potter pictures," but adds that "It's taken them six movies to find it, but at last here is Harry Potter's 'Empire Strikes Back.' "
The Associated Press wrote, "'Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince' is the franchise's best so far, blending rich drama and easy camaraderie among the actors with the visual spectacle that until now has been the real star of the series."
Check out everything we've got on "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince."
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