Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)

Rated: PG for scary images, some violence, language and mild sensuality.
Length: 153 minutes!
Grade: BC+CC=C+
Budget: $250 million
Box Office: $1.035 Billion (301 U.S., 632 Intl., 102 DVD)

Written by: Steve Kloves (All the Harry Potter screenplays, plus Wonder Boys, and The Fabulous Baker Boys), based on the novel by JK Rowling.
Directed by: David Yates (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and the fascinating The Girl in the Cafe)
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson
With: Helena Bonham Carter, Jim Broadbent, Robbie Coltrane, Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, Timothy Spall, and Tom Felton.

Voldemort has recruited young Malfoy and perhaps even a teacher from Hogwarts to kill Dumbledore. Harry and Dumbledore work to stop this plot by recovering the “Horcruxes” in which Voldemort has hidden slices of his soul.

Entertainment Value: B
As with the previous movies, the creation of an alternate world here is fascinating and visually intriguing. The plot, as usual, is a blend of interpersonal struggle, witchcraft, secret plots, and kids growing up.

Superficial Content:
C+Drugs/Alcohol C, Sex/Nudity B, Violence C, Language B+
As usual, there are several scary scenes where people’s lives are in jeopardy and some deaths. The strongly supernatural character of these movies will bother some. There are romantic relationships among teens with kissing and a love potion makes one character feel very lustful. Alcohol is consumed in a bar, and potions are used to give people special abilities.

Significant Content: C
Putting yourself at risk to fight evil is noble. Using special powers to accomplish what you want is good, even if it creates an unfair advantage like in a sport. People are either good or evil, and the generally grow more and more in the direction they are headed toward. Sometimes you can just know the truth even if you can’t explain how you know it.

Artistic/Thought Value: C
Once again, we have an interesting set of characters in an interesting world dealing with very complicated problems. The most interesting idea here is the ease of deceiving ourselves about the evil of other people, which is clearly on display with Slughorn and Tom Riddle.

Discussion Questions:
~Ron benefits from magic in his great performance as a Quiddich goal-keeper. Is this fair? Is this like steroids in sports? Why is he terrified to simply perform as himself the next time? Have you ever received favorable adoration which you felt inadequate to live up to?
~Why does Slughorn have trouble believing Tom Riddle really intends to use his secret knowledge for evil? Is he na├»ve, or does he want to be liked? Do you think he’s responsible for the way Riddle uses this information? Are teachers responsible for what they teach, especially if they know it’s dangerous information? If you say not, do you think teachers get credit for teaching students things that make them better or improve society?
~Why does Slughorn try to cover up his involvement with Tom Riddle? Does he really at heart want to keep his involvement a secret or to be found out so he can come clean about it? Have you ever kept a painful secret, but really wanted to be exposed?
~What motivates Draco to do what he does? Do you think he feels like an outsider at Hogwarts who needs to prove himself out of pride? Do you think he was raised badly, including to think that he’s supposed to be a great man? What might happen if Harry actively tried to befriend him?
~What do you think of Harry using the potions journal to excel in class? Is he cheating? Why doesn’t he want to openly admit that’s where he was getting his help? Why doesn’t he want to share?
~Harry at one point says that he “just knows” Draco is guilty, but can’t prove it. How important is intuition in knowledge? Have you ever just known something like this and been right? Been wrong? How can you tell the difference?

Poignant or memorable scenes:
~The memory scenes with Slughorn and Tom Riddle.
~The climactic scene with Snape and Dumbledore.

Overall Grade: C+
Entertaining, dark, and long. If you liked the others, you’ll like this. But don’t start with this one, go back to the beginning and start there.

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