Tonight I saw Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, starring Daniel Radcliffe and Michael Gambon.
I re-read the book this last week to refresh my memory and prepare for the film, but part of me wishes I hadn't, for the film leaves out so much of the text it's somewhat maddening. But it's still an incredibly enjoyable ride.
In this installment, Harry (Radcliffe) is taken under Professor Dumbledore's wing like never before to solve the mysteries behind the Dark Lord. The relationship between them is tender and convincing, but I can't help but miss the actor who originated the Professor's role, Richard Harris, who died a few years back. He was more like a Grandfather than a Merlin, which the current actor (Gambon) evokes.
Anyway, to dig deeper into Lord Voldemort's past, they must solicit the help of retired Professor Slughorn (played delightfully by Jim Broadbent) and coax some buried memories of Tom Riddle's time at Hogwarts out of him. For those playing catch up: Tom Riddle was Voldemort's childhood name. Riddle is coincidentally played by Hero Fiennes-Tiffin, who is the real-life nephew of Ralph Fiennes, who plays Lord Voldemort. The resemblance is both helpful and staggering (and hey, the kid can act too).
So, to get access to these memories, Harry has to manipulate Slughorn by becoming a star student in his Potions class, which he achieves by using the old textbook that once belonged to the Half-Blood Prince. Though no one knows the identity of the Half-Blood Prince, his potions seem to work wonderfully, which angers Harry's close friend Hermoine, because she sees using the book as cheating.
Aside from that, Hermoine's fallen in love with their mutual friend Ron, who has a new girlfriend he keeps snogging in front of her. And Harry's fallen for Ginny, Ron's sister, but doesn't know how to confront those feelings.
Combine this with some extremely scary Death Eaters (yes, it should be PG-13, but it's not) and you have a jam-packed film of teenage lust, good vs. evil, historical continuity and supernatural tricks.
Alan Rickman again stands out as Severus Snape, while all of the children have not only matured with their roles, but become better actors in the process. The final scenes are among the saddest and heaviest of the series.
When it's over, you'll be wishing it had a few more hours to go, even as you blink back tears.