Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince ****

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“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” is perhaps the best of the “Potter” series so far.  This is a triumph in the fantasy genre.  This is the entry in the series that really explores the dark side of this magical world.  The enemies this time seem capable of even more nasty deeds then ever before.  Even Hogwarts Castle has gone from fun and exciting to a dark and ominous presence, in light of Voldomort’s return to power. 

As the film opens, Professor Dumbledore, played again by Michael Gambon, recruits Harry to help him in persuading a former teacher to come back to Hogwarts.  This is Professor Horace Slughorn, played by Jim Broadbent, as a seemingly jolly wizard, who enjoys entertaining celebrity students, and may be have a secret in his past that could help in defeating the dark lord.  This sets up one of the films two main story lines.  The first involving Harry and Dumbledore as they try to uncover the secrets to Voldomort’s powers.  The second is basically all the seemingly endless teen drama that takes place during the school year.

Poor Ron Weasley finds himself in a love triangle involving a girl who has an unhealthy obsession with him and Hermione, who has hinted over the years at a hidden love for him.  Harry also finds himself in the mix, as he develops feelings for Ron’s sister Ginny, who has grown over the years in to a beautiful and confident young woman.  These infatuations even spill over on to the quittich pitch, which makes its return to the franchise for the first time since “Prisoner Of Azkaban”. 

Outside of Hogwarts, the world seems to be at war with Voldomort’s Death Eaters.  First they destroy Diagon Alley, next they burn the Weasley house to the ground, all before invading Hogwart’s castle for a little murder and mayhem. 

In further proof that even darker times lay ahead, Dumbledore and Harry find themselves in a cavern, deep underground, surrounded by the living dead, as they try to destroy a piece of Voldomort’s soul. This scene is perhaps the single most frightening scene this series has produced so far.  For once I actually feared the darker forces at work.  The effects in this scene are stunning without being intrusive.  

Director David Yates, returning after directing “Order of the Phoenix”, has really honed his craft with this entry.  If I had any complaints about “Phoenix”, it was that it felt a tad rushed.  This time Yates takes his time to develop all the characters, and tell the story with the attention to detail that it truly deserves.  I was happy to see the roles of Dumbledore, Snape, and Malfoy, all expanded to make the story more satisfying.  But what I liked the most about Yates direction, was his restraint from over doing everything.  There is just the right amount of drama and action.  Every story element is given weight. Yates has also achieved a visual look for this series that truly implies the true danger of the situation. 

The wait is now on for the final two films.  Technically there is only one book left to be adapted, but there was so much necessary to the story that they could not cut it down to a single film.  So far this series has not stepped wrong, and the fact that they want to finish it this way leaves nothing to chance. 

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