Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is the precursor to the finale, and brilliantly sets up the continuing plot for the dangers that Harry and his friends will soon be facing.
Entering into his 6th year at Hogwarts, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) is reeling over the loss of his godfather and trying to ignore the constant remarks in the Daily Prophet calling him "the Chosen One". He is convinced that his longtime nemesis, Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton), is up to something far more sinister than pranking first years, but no one seems to believe him. To add to the strangeness of his second to last year at the school, Professor Snape (Alan Rickman) is no longer the potions master, and has been appointed the position of Defense Against the Dark Arts instructor, leaving his old position to a former teacher named Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent).
In addition to having to deal with the unexpected staff changes, Harry has been asked by Professor Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) to have private lessons with him, but the reasoning behind them is, at first, a mystery. Soon Harry discovers he is to learn more about the life of Tom Riddle, the boy who would become Lord Voldemort, leading Harry to believe he will, in time, be sent on a mission to find the dark wizard who has terrorized the world, both magic and muggle, and destroy him for good.
The sixth Harry Potter film is widely considered one of the weaker installments into the franchise, but I'd have to say, for the most part, I would disagree. I do feel my opinion is very likely biased, considering my love for Harry Potter, but also because the sixth book just so happens to be my favorite. It is in this story that we learn an immense amount of history about Lord Voldemort, and if I am talking strictly about the book, this part is truly fascinating. The amount of detail J.K. Rowling was able to include about Tom Riddle's past is staggering, but sadly it was not added into the film in its entirety. It is definitely there, because it is utterly crucial to the plot that it be included, but there were many details that were unfortunately omitted. Whether I am correct in my thinking or not, it is my opinion that the filmmakers feared the heavy amount of information this book entailed and the lack of action that it contained, would bore the audience. So they chose to take certain aspects away in lieu of adding in more intense scenes and battles not included in the novel, to appease the non-book focused viewers. Though this definitely does bother me, it still isn't enough for me to say this film was the weakest link of the series.
What never ceases to amaze me is how spectacular the casting is for the Harry Potter films, especially when it comes to the adults who play the professors. I distinctly remember reading this book when I was younger, and having an incredibly strong visual as to what Professor Slughorn was supposed to look like. Though Jim Broadbent may not be as rotund as I had envisioned, the way he embodies the character's personality is spot on. Slughorn is supposed to exude confidence, but behind his jovial facade is insecurity covered up only by the legendary students he considers to be his trophies. A complicated character for sure, but Broadbent effortlessly turns into Slughorn with every line of dialogue he delivers.
The end of the Harry Potter franchise is bleak, intense, and full of unexpected twists and turns, so in order for that type of epic ending to pan out, it's penultimate story must set the tone and get the audience ready for what will follow. The Half-Blood Prince does this really well in this respect for both its book and film. In the movie, the coloring of the scenes is much darker and more sepia toned than the rest, giving the viewer the instant sensation that Harry's year at Hogwarts will not be without danger and dark magic. As previously mentioned, the book does a have a significantly larger amount of information and peril for the characters, and it's unfortunate that the film didn't choose to show it, but what it did show, it did quite well.
Where the Half-Blood Prince is my favorite book in the series, I was practically guaranteed to love this movie, as long as it stayed true to the novel in which it was based. Though the film at times strays too far from the page in my opinion, I still love it. I just can't help but be entranced by the world of Harry Potter and all its wonders.