Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Once again, Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) is about to ask too much of Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliff). With the prophetic revelation of the young wizard’s connection to the Dark Lord (uncovered in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix), the aging professor knows he needs to include the boy in his dangerous efforts to thwart the villainous Voldemort, while at the same time attempting to safeguard his life.
As part one of his plan, Dumbledore invites former instructor Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent) to return to Hogwarts to lead the potions class. Any reservations the self-important educator expresses over the risks of the job are quickly shaken off at the prospect of mentoring someone as famous as “Young Potter.” And for part two, Dumbledore asks Harry to befriend the vain teacher who knows a secret or two about the enemy they hope to destroy.
Harry’s enthusiasm for the task increases when he opens a well-worn copy of the Potions textbook and discovers its pages are full of helpful notes and insightful commentary. The only clue to the identity of the scribbler is an inscription reading, “Property of the Half-Blood Prince.” Despite doubts about the previous owner’s intentions, the wicked cheats place Harry at the top of the class and in Slughorn’s trusted inner circle.
But Harry is not the only one on a covert mission. Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) has been approached by some of Voldemort’s faithful followers and promised protection by Professor Severus Snape (Alan Rickman). Sneaking about the castle, the angst-filled adolescent spends his extracurricular time in a hidden room where he tampers with a mysterious cupboard.
As the powers of evil grow stronger, both the Muggle and Wizard worlds are threatened. The blight of this black magic causes a suspension bridge to snap (death and harm to pedestrians implied), explosions and arson to claim homes and businesses, individuals to be hexed, cursed and battered, and wands to be weapons capable of wounding and killing (blood is depicted with some of these injuries). Along with constant peril to many characters, there are demonic creatures that attack and try to burn or drown their foes. Potions and poison play a large part in the plot too. These brews result in everything from lustful obsession and reckless behavior to vomiting and near asphyxiation. Still, the story has time to explore budding romances and hormonal attraction between the genders, and plenty of teenaged “snogging” (hand-holding, kissing and embracing) is portrayed.
For fans of the Harry Potter franchise, none of these issues will come as a surprise. J.K. Rowling’s books have delved into darker and darker themes with each successive edition to the series. Although she is classified as a writer of juvenile fiction, Rowling has never been afraid of exploring mature topics, such as the loss of loved ones, the desire for power, the call of revenge, the fascination of murder, the dream of immortality, the binding force of vows, and the enduring strength of friendship. And throughout her novels, the author has always taken some time to play with the fancies and foibles of youth (including the magic that turns girls and boys from “yucky” into “interesting”).
Ardent admirers will also be the best equipped to fill in any blanks found in the moviemaker’s adaptation and to remember details from past installments. However, those just casually curious about the exploits of Harry, Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint), will find themselves at a serious disadvantage. If you hope to glean any satisfaction from viewing this sixth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, you’d be well advised to do some homework first.