Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (PG)
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It begins, very briefly, with Harry standing in front of a crowd of photographers. He looks like he's been beat up. Dumbledore is standing beside him, and begins to lead him away. I had no idea what was going on; was this something I had forgotten from the previous film? Was it something that would be explained later in this film? I don't know. But we soon move to the muggle world, where Death Eaters are zipping around in streams of smoke, that head to Diagon Alley to cause trouble, before causing greater trouble with a bridge full of unsuspecting muggles. All very confusing. Then we see Harry, sitting in a diner or whatever, reading a wizard newspaper that mentions him, as well as Lucius Malfoy's disgrace. And a cute muggle waitress talks to him, and they seem to make a date for when she gets off work. (I thought she looked slightly too old for him, but I suppose six films into the series, it's time for me to stop thinking of him as a kid.) Unfortunately, Dumbledore soon shows up and whisks him away. He then introduces Harry to a former professor named Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent), whom Dumbledore convinces to return to Hogwarts as Potions Master. (He'll replace Snape in that position, and Snape finally becomes the teacher of Defense Against the Dark Arts, after being passed over for that position in all the previous films.) Meanwhile, Lucius's wife, Narcissa, and Bellatrix Lestrange pay a visit to Snape... and it seems he's been pretending to be on the side of the good guys all this time. Or, actually, it's unclear, I think. He's obviously lying to either Dumbledore or the Death Eaters, or possibly just hedging his bets, to side with whichever side wins in the end. I don't know. But anyway, Bellatrix forces him to make an unbreakable vow to protect Draco, and if necessary... to do some deed that is left unspecified, but he clearly knows what it is. (This particular spell seemed to me like something I'd seen before in something completely unrelated to this franchise. My best guess is that I was thinking of the Trust Me Knot from an episode of Grimm.)
Dumbledore sends Harry to the Weasley house, where he meets up with Ron and Hermione. In Diagon Alley, a lot of shops are closed, presumably for fear of what the Death Eaters had recently done there. But Fred and George Weasley now have a shop of their own, there, which is doing brisk business. (They kind of reminded me of Flim and Flam from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.) Ron, Harry, and Hermione follow Draco and his mother to a shop where they spy on them, when they check out a Vanishing Cabinet. Then they all take the train to Hogwarts. Harry believes Draco has become a Death Eater. So he spies on Draco, using his invisibility cloak, though that doesn't work out so well, because Draco's not stupid. But... Harry ends up being saved by Luna. Once they arrive at school, Dumbledore asks Harry to ingratiate himself with Slughorn, who was once close to a student named Tom Riddle (who would later be known as Voldemort). Meanwhile, Ron becomes quite popular as a Quidditch player, and starts dating a girl named Lavender Brown. And Harry gets a textbook that once belonged to a student called "the Half-Blood Prince," who wrote lots of notes in it that help Harry in his Potions class.
Um... well, lots of things happen. At one point Death Eaters burn down the Weasleys' house. And... I dunno, there's just all sorts of things that seem to advance the plot of the series, but somehow I was left with the impression, for most of the movie, that this installment was largely filler, just for fun. Like... mostly romantic concerns, with Harry having feelings for Ginny, who was dating some other guy, even though she also has feelings for Harry. And Hermione being jealous of Lavender, because she has feelings for Ron. (I knew this was coming, but I must say I don't really understand it. I have to assume it makes more sense in the books, because based on what I've seen in the movies, Hermione is way too good for Ron, and he hasn't really done much of anything to inspire a romantic interest from her.) But like I said, there's a lot going on. And some very serious stuff happens, some of which I won't spoil in this review. (But I must say, the way the movie seemed like filler, but turned out to be more serious, kind of put me in mind of the "Beach" episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender. But I'm sure that's just me.) One important thing we learn about is horcruxes (a term I had heard before, but didn't really know what it meant; but I do want to take this moment to mention the short film I Ship It). Anyway, horcruxes are objects in which one stores part of their soul, and Voldemort has several of these, which Dumbledore has been trying to track down. Because as long as any of them exist, Voldemort can't really be killed, I guess. And finding the remaining horcruxes is a task Harry himself will have to take on...
So anyway, I feel like I have said way too much. And really, there's only one major plot development that I have left unspoiled. But I will say it's a pretty good movie, and a very important one, even if it's not one of my favorites. And I'm certainly looking forward to the final two movies....