Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Review
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Just when you thought that Michael Bay’s Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen would be the biggest, baddest blockbuster of the year…well, then along comes Harry.

Call me a skeptic, but after the Harry Potter film franchise’s two-year break (following director David Yates’s disappointing Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in 2007), I wondered whether Potter Mania would fade a bit before this sixth installment hit theaters. But if the hordes of fans lined up around the theater for the early screening are any indication, it’s going to be a big summer for the boy wizard—and, this time, deservedly so.

As the Harry Potter series races toward its final magical battle, it gets darker and more ominous by the minute. Though Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione (Emma Watson) do enjoy some Quidditch matches during their sixth year at Hogwarts—and they definitely experience their share of awkward teen romance—most of the story focuses on the ever-growing threat of Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) and his Death Eaters.

  
 
In an attempt to dig up some important memories of the young Tom Riddle (played by Hero Fiennes-Tiffin and, later, by Frank Dillane), Professor Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) convinces Professor Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent) to return to Hogwarts to teach Potions. But as Harry tries to get close to Professor Slughorn (and his memories), he also keeps a close eye on Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton). It’s clear that Malfoy’s up to something—and it can’t be good.

From the first thrilling moments of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, it’s clear that sophomore director Yates has stepped up his game. He wastes no time in getting to the action—and unless you’ve done a pre-movie Harry Potter refresher course, it might just make your head spin. Yates also spares no expense—but the effects budget was millions well-spent. From start to finish—from the breathtaking sets to the heart-stopping fight scenes—it’s a stunning visual delight.

As for the story…well, it’s nice to have regular Harry Potter screenwriter Steve Kloves back. Once again, Kloves does an impressive job with the massive amount of material he was given. Of course, in trimming 19 hours of audiobook down to two and a half hours of movie, you’ll lose a few things along the way—and even the Half-Blood Prince and his potions book take a backseat. But, overall, Kloves leaves very little to complain about. There’s rarely a dull moment—and as long as you don’t guzzle a jumbo soda while you’re waiting for the movie to begin, you’ll have no problem sitting through the entire thing. It’s thrilling, and it’s scary (beware of nightmares!), yet it’s surprisingly whimsical, too—thanks, especially, to the lovably wacky characters.

This time around, even the supporting characters get a chance to shine. Sure, Harry and Hermione and Ron get their moments of brilliance, but so does batty Luna Lovegood (Evanna Lynch), who was shamefully underused in the last installment. Tom Felton finally gets his chance to shine as he anxiously prepares for his all-important mission for the Dark One. Alan Rickman is as dark and sneering as ever as Professor Snape. And Jim Broadbent steals the show as the eccentric star-collecting Professor Slughorn. Together with the main cast, the supporting players make Half-Blood Prince a film that Harry Potter fans (and even the skeptics) will love.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is the bright spot in an otherwise mediocre summer. It’s also one of the best (perhaps even the best) movies in the Harry Potter franchise. Of course, for Potter fans, the quality of the movie doesn’t matter all that much; you’ll see it anyway. But this magically entertaining adventure is one that you’ll want to see again and again.

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