If you have not seen any of the Harry Potter movies, don’t try to jump in on this one. To understand what takes place in “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” too much of what happened in the past is needed to be known to get up to speed.
This movie begins at the end of the last movie. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) now is being proclaimed as the “chosen one.” He faced down Voldemort, but that does not stop the threat of the Dark Lord. Things in the world of wizards are now darkened by the full return of this dark wizard. In both the Muggle (non-magical) and wizard world, the shadow of Voldemort now falls.
Harry finds himself being full embraced and depended upon by Dumbledore (Michael Gambon), the headmaster of Harry’s school, Hogwarts. Before the beginning of the next term, Dumbledore takes Harry to find Professor Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent). Slughorn was once the professor who taught potions at Hogwarts. Dumbledore wants Slughorn not for his expertise, but because of the connection between Slughorn and Tom Riddle (Frank Dillane), the boy who will become Voldemort.
A large part of the story is Dumbledore taking Harry back into memories of the past. Harry sees when Dumbledore met Tom Riddle (Hero Fiennes-Tiffin) as a child in an orphanage. The memory makes it clear that this boy is evil. He speaks of powers that he’s already discovered, how he makes bad things happen to people who hurt him, and how he speaks to snakes and how snakes find him.
Back at Hogwarts we see these late teens, Harry, Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) begin to find love. Love potions are given and smitten teens fall in and out of love with each other. We begin to discover, as the characters do, who their life mates will be.
In the background is Voldemort. Never making an appearance, his presence is felt. His Death Eaters, the followers of the Dark Lord, attack those who stand in his way. The Weasleys are hit hard. Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) is enlisted and attempts to attack Dumbledore. And we discover how the Dark Lord was able to return, which sets up what takes place in the next two movies. The last novel is going to be split into two features to tell the ending to the story.
I have been fortunate to review all six of these movies. I have watched the three main actors grow from children into late teens. These three have grown well into their roles. They have become fine actors as they have aged. I think that Felton, who plays Malfoy, gives a strong performance here.
Sadly, the movies have become something other than feature films. Instead of being self-contained stories, they really are nothing more than just a serial. You go into the next one and find out how the heroes are doing; they end with no real resolution. You have to come back again to find out what happens next. This can make for an unsatisfying experience for those who do not follow every movement of previous movies.
Another note, for those who are completists, who read the books and want to find every detail in the movies, these movies can prove to be unsatisfying. What the movies do is act as ads for the books. If you go to a movie and want more, you go and pick up the books and read them. I admit I have done that. I have read the books because I have enjoyed the story in the movies.
And it has been a great story. From the first movie till now, it has been a great ride. There is a whole world that we have found where wizards deal with the same temptations we have. There is goodness offered to pursue and darkness that beckons, with offers of forbidden fruits that seem sweet, but do put teeth on edge.
Standing between that darkness in the light is a boy wizard, now becoming an adult, who will lead his people out of the bondage of fear. I wait for the last two movies, to see the toll taken for right to overcome wrong.
Mike Parnell is pastor of Beth Car Baptist Church in Halifax, Va.
MPAA Rating: PG for scary images, some violence, language and mild sensuality.
Director: David Yates
Writer: Steve Kloves, based on the J.K. Rowlings’ novel
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe: Harry Potter; Michael Gambon: Albus Dumbledore; Jim Broadbent: Professor Horace Slughorn; Emma Watson: Hermione Granger; Rupert Grint: Ron Weasley; Hero Fiennes-Tiffin: Tom Riddle (age 11); Frank Dillane: Tom Riddle (age 16); Tom Felton: Draco Malfoy.
The movie’s official web site is here.
Michael Parnell is pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. He is married and has two boys. His love is for movies, and he can be found in a theater most Fridays.