Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince comes to us two years after the release the hugely successful Order of the Phoenix, the longest wait weâ€™ve had between Potter films. Originally the film was set for a November 2008 release date but Warner Brothers pushed it back to July â€˜09. The reason? Apparently the studio felt that the film would do better with a summer opening after the enormous success of The Dark Knight. This was frustrating news to Potter fans all over the world especially because the movie was completed and ready to go. In the end it was worth the wait and the film grossed one hundred million dollars in its first day alone.
The movie opens where Order of the Phoenix left off. An exhausted and disheveled Harry, who just witnessed the murder of his Godfather, Sirus Black (at the hands of Bellatrix Lestrange) and experienced a painful possession by Lord Voldemort, is escorted through the remains of the Ministry of Magic by Professor Albus Dumbledore. We witness a group of Death Eaters (Voldemortâ€™s followers) soar through London and destroy a bridge full of Muggles before blasting their way through Diagon Alley. Death Eater and WerewolfÂ Fenrir Greyback kidnaps wand maker Ollivander as the rest of the members proceed to cause chaos and mayhem.
We find Harry reading a copy of the Daily Prophet at a local cafÃ© which is not only reporting the latest Death Eater news but proclaiming that Harry is the â€˜Chosen Oneâ€™ who will defeat the Dark Lord and liberate them all. After making arrangements with a cute waitress, Harry is whisked away by Professor Dumbledore (thus missing his date) who is now sporting an injured hand.Â They arrive at a home with a broken door and upon entering find blood, shattered windows and broken furniture. Suspecting that all is not what it seems, Dumbledore takes a closer look at an arm chair that is fully intact. Turns out its Horace Slughorn in disguise, an old friend and former Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts. His reason for theatrics he reveals is that the Death Eaters have been looking to recruit him.
With a wave of his wand, Dumbledore repairs the home and asks that Slughorn reconsider his offer to return to Hogwarts as the new Potions Professor. Horace turns him down but after speaking with the famous Harry Potter, changes his mind and agrees to come back to the school.
In this film we are introduced to Narcissa Malfoy, wife to Death Eater Lucius Malfoy and mother to Draco. She and her sister Bellatrix Lestrange pay a visit to Severus Snape where Narcissa pleads with him to sway the mind of Lord Voldemort, who has given her son a very secretive and dangerous mission. Snape makes an unbreakable vow to protect Draco and if he should fail, Severus will fulfill his duty. What is the penalty for breaking an unbreakable vow? Death.
After following Draco and his mother and witnessing their suspicious behavior in Knockturn Alley, Harry Ron and Hermione board the Hogwarts Express and prepare for their sixth year of Wizard education. The schoolâ€™s atmosphere is very different and the castle is now armed with protective spells and on high alert. Harry and Ron re-enroll in Potions at the suggestion of Professor McGonagall and for the first time in his life, Harry finds himself excelling in this class thanks to notes written in his text book by someone calling themselves â€˜The Half-Blood Princeâ€™.
Hormones are raging as Ron and Hermioneâ€™s relationship turns flirtatious and Harry notices how much Ginny (Ronâ€™s younger sister) has grown. The film also marks the return of Quidditch, something that hasnâ€™t been seen since a brief scene in The Prisoner of Azkaban. Ron joins the team and after winning a game, finds himself in the arms of classmate Lavender Brown, thus breaking Hermioneâ€™s heart.
Harry begins having private sessions with Dumbledore who shares with him his memory (via Pensieve) of his first encounter with a young Tom Riddle aka Lord Voldemort. He is also in possession of a memory given to him by Slughorn of a teenage Tom asking him about forbidden magic. Unfortunately the memory is incomplete and inaccurate due to Slughornâ€™s shame of what actually occurred. Dumbledore asks Harry to retrieve the memory for him as it contains valuable information and feels that Harry could obtain it since Professor Slughorn was fond of Harry mother (his former student) and enjoys basking in Harry spotlight.
After several unsuccessful attempts and strange occurrences involving a cursed necklace that hexes classmate Katie Bell and poisoned wine that nearly kills Ron, Harry guzzles a bottle of Felix Felicis otherwise known as good luck potion. He finally gets Slughornâ€™s memory and Harry and Dumbledore discover that Tom Riddle questioned the Professor about a Horcrux which is the method of splitting your soul and placing it in an object for safety and immortality. The only way to split your soul is to commit murder and Tom inquires about making not one, not two but seven Horcruxes. Dumbledore informs Harry that he has all ready found and destroyed one Horcrux (a ring) and points out that Harry also destroyed one years ago in the Chamber of Secrets (Tom Riddleâ€™s diary). The Headmaster tells Harry he believes he has found the third one and needs his help retrieving it.
Dumbledore and Harry journey to a cave on a dangerous mission to retrieve the locket. Using his blood to enter the cave, Dumbledore must drink a potion before reaching the bottom of a basin where the locket is. Following the Professorâ€™s instructions, Harry forcefully makes him finish every last drop (although it is driving him insane) and after getting his hands on the necklace they are attacked by an undead army, otherwise known as Inferi. Although weakened, Dumbledore fights them off using a powerful spell and the pair returns to Hogwarts.
Dumbledore tells Harry to fetch Professor Snape and as Harry leaves, Draco appears and we learn that his mission is to kill Professor Dumbledore. Dumbledore offers him an alternative and just as Malfoy lowers his wand he is joined by the other Death Eaters. Snape also joins them and Albus begs him with a simple â€œPleaseâ€ before Snape executes him using the killing curse. We watch as Dumbledoreâ€™s body falls from the Astronomy Tower and the Death Eaters make a run for it. Harry follows after them and attacks Snaps with a spell he learned from his text book and Snape reveals that he is in fact, the Half-Blood Prince.
After they make their getaway, Harry forces his way through a stunned crowd that has gathered around the Headmasterâ€™s body. It is a heartbreaking moment as Harry sobs and is consoled by Ginny. Professor McGonagall raises her wand and ejects a blast of white light into the night sky (where the dark mark is hovering over the castle). The other students follow suit and send enough light into the air to extinguish the mark of death in a symbolic move stating that although they are surrounded by darkness, the light shall overcome.
The film closes with Harry, Ron and Hermione atop the Astronomy Tower where Harry informs them that he will not be attending Hogwarts next year but will instead go on the search for the remaining Horcruxes. They also learn that the locket from the cave was a fake and a note was left inside the necklace from someone with the initials R.A.B. who took the real locket and replaced it with a fake one to tick off the Dark Lord.
Wow, thatâ€™s a long summary! I canâ€™t gush enough how much I loved this film; as a huge Harry Potter fan (Iâ€™ve read each book twice) itâ€™s always nerve wrecking when a new film is made particularly because Warner Brothers has a track record of switching directors. However this time around my nerves were replaced with excitement and anticipation; I felt that David Yates did a superb job with Order of the Phoenix and I knew the sixth film would be in good hands. He did not disappoint. The cinematography and scenery were gorgeous and the portrayal of young love was beautifully done. There are so many emotional high and lows in the film ranging from humor, to love and sadness and each pulls at your heartstrings. The actors have appeared to step up their game and truly give their best performances. I was particularly impressed with actress Emma Watson who has improved light years from her performance in Order of the Phoenix where she appeared to be agitated and race through her lines.
Naturally there are rewrites with every Potter film and the only complaint I have is I would have liked to see the movie close with Professor Dumbledoreâ€™s funeral. Perhaps that will be how Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows will open, which is the last in the movie franchise and will be split into two films. As of press time, part one will be released November 19, 2010 with Part two following July 15, 2011.
I give Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince five stars.