Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is an intoxicating potion of teenage hormones and evil spirits. Both are raging.
In the sixth movie in the Potter series -- one of the best -- about Harry's exploits at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, evil is increasing its deadly invasion.
Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambron) enlists Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) to try to get former professor Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent) out of retirement and back to Hogwarts.
Dumbledore asks Harry to get close to the befuddled professor of potions Slughorn, because the professor once taught Tom Riddle (played as 11-year-old by Hero Fiennes-Tiffin and as a 16-year-old by Frank Dillane.)
Tom Marvolo Riddle (an anagram for Lord Voldemore) became the sinister epitome of evil who is committed to destroying Harry and the school. The frightened Professor Slughorn has information about his former student that could help defend the school and Harry against overwhelming evil. But he is too terrified to tell anyone.
The die is cast.
In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, a powerful potion is adolescence. Because Harry, Hermione (Emma Watson), Ron (Rupert Grint), et al. are now adolescents, pheromones are as powerful as magic. "Wands out" has more than one meaning.
When keeper Ron stands proudly astride a broomstick after winning a Quidditch match, the symbolism is apt.
Hogwarts is a hotbed of adolescent angst. Much of the movie's amusement comes from young wizards talking about love and attraction. A conversation in their room between Harry and Ron sharing bewilderment is funny.
Relationships are secretive and devious. Harry is attracted to Ron's sister Ginnie (Bonnie Wright), but he can't let Ron know. Hermione likes Ron, but she can't tell him. She can only stand by as Ron is blatantly pursued by the infatuated Lavender Brown (Jessie Cove). When Harry is sent a box of bewitched candy, Ron unknowingly intercepts it, eats the contents, and is smitten by a romantic spell of giddiness.
According to the movie, Ron is a catch. I still can't fathom that Hermione is attracted to the clunky Ron. And the lovely Lavender runs after him. That takes an overdose of magic potions to believe.
I guess I don't understand teen love. But who does?
As with Star Trek, one doesn't have to be a fan of the series to enjoy Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. It's spectacular entertainment.
Much of this is due to the director David Yates, cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel, production designer Stuart Craig, and editor Mark Day. It's a movie of technical wizardry.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince has a terrific look -- it's glowing with burnished imagery. It has visual pyrotechnics; it's macabre, haunting, and tantalizing.
Director Yates -- who directed the brilliant BBC series State of Play (2003) -- did the fifth in the series, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007). He is presently helming the final two Potter movies, due in 2010 and 2011.
Writer Steve Kloves has done all the Potter screenplays from J. K. Rowling's novels except the one for the fifth movie. His script for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is artful.
The acting in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, as always, is a Who's Who of British dramatic talent.
One shouldn't underestimate the value and ability of Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter. Radcliffe is the solid foundation of the series of films.
Harry is maturing -- Dumbledore tells him, "You need a shave." Radcliffe is more than equal to the maturing of his signature character. Harry is in the throes of adolescent vulnerability, but he is still cool and alert as "the Chosen One." Radcliffe gives him an appealing humanity.
Gambron is memorable as the aging Dumbledore under siege.
Emma Watson and Rupert Grint are likeable as Harry's best friends, undergoing stress.
Helena Bonham Carter is fierce, dark passion as Death Eater Bellatrix Lestrange. Robbie Coltrane is given a humorous scene paying respects to a deceased arachnid. It's good to have Hagrid still around and kicking.
Tom Felton is a mix of scowling neurosis and simmering anger as Draco, Harry's enemy.
But my favorite is Alan Rickman as Professor Snape. Rickman slowly rolls his words in bile before, after pregnant pauses, he speaks in sonorous chilliness. He is an evil hoot.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince has remarkable energy for the sixth episode in the series. The franchise keeps invigorating itself with new actors (Broadbent) and fresh images.
Harry Potter is still going strong in magical fashion.