The Harry Potter series is not merely an expertly marketed piece of entertainment that is minting money off people's fantasies, but an intense emotional experience that has brought a generation and a half to its knees. Realism and common sense be thrown to the winds - many have harboured dreams of studying at Hogwarts, many want to know what flying on a broomstick above limitless moors feels like, and some want to meet the real Harry Potter, but above all, a lot are growing up feeling
like Harry Potter, the boy who is different, brilliant, sensitive, famous, cared for - yet alone.
Which, incidentally, is why Potter-afficionados have reason to bear a grudge against Rowling (who was responsible for crafting this alternate universe in the first place) - keeping him perpetually alone. Harry Potter And The Half Blood Prince has to be the most heart-breaking book of the series, continuing the systematic abandonment of Harry Potter by family, or at least, those he considers so. And like anyone who's clued in to the books will tell you, it doesn't end here.
So the freckles have disappeared for good and the teens are much more in control of their emotions than before (though their hormones are now raging), but the world is becoming more and more irreversibly sinister. The Dark Lord's Death Eaters are wreaking havoc everywhere, not leaving the Muggles out of it, and there can be no worse sign of the times than the fact that Hogwarts now has security checks in place.
To top it all, Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) has seemed to have been upto something between this and the previous installment - one of his hands is burnt. He takes Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) to persuade an old professor, Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent), to come back to Hogwarts.
In Horace's Potions class, Harry comes into possession of an old Potions textbook that apparently belonged to someone who called himself the Half Blood Prince. Harry is obsessed with the book, which, with its exhaustive notes and scribblings, comes alive to him every time he refers to it.
Meanwhile, under Dumbledore's auspices that include some Pensieve visits, Harry learns why Horace is so crucial to the story - Horace has inside of him a concealed memory concerning the genesis of Tom Riddle's transformation into the darkest force in the world, and is living in denial of it.
Then, the love stories - Ron (Rupert Grint) is busy snogging Lavender Brown (Jessie Cave), while Hermoine (Emma Watson) breaks out into hisses louder than a Basilisk when she sees him with her. Harry has now taken a serious liking to Ginny Weasley (Bonny Wright), who, as the story progresses, reciprocates.
A movie based on a written narrative is only as good as the makers' choice of ten best scenes from the book - and it will still end up looking like a trailer to it. This one, the 6th on-screen installment of an iconic piece of fiction rich in rhetoric and characterization - is no exception, even though the scenes remain conscientiously faithful to the book.
A lot of it won't make sense if you haven't been following the novel, or at least the previous films. Ironically, if you have
been submerging yourself in the novel, the film is a disappointing medley of sequences, and you have to keep recalling the book to piece the intricacies of the past and the present. There's less for kids to watch and enjoy, and more for a teeny-bopper ready to think his way through the movie.
Despite the occasional cute moments like the Weasley brothers' joke shop, the death of Hagrid's spider Aragog, and the bit with Ronny's win in the Quidditch match, the movie is deep and carries a sense of foreboding all through.
The performances are good only by the senior cast. Daniel Radcliffe wins purely because he's the crown prince of the entire feature, Rupert Grint is comfortable with his adulthood but the clueless look still looks contrived, and Emma Watson is the best of the trio.
The most disappointing is Bonny Wright, who turns Ginny into the most uncharismatic crush any guy can have, least of all one who is the pivotal character of an entire fantasy series - Radcliffe, for all the lack of passion in his acting, looks
as charming as a legendary boy-wizard-cum-teen-sensation should.
The film is dark by nature, and visually, too, out go the attention-seeking stunts and aerial tricks. There are the regular enchantments that go on in the background at Hogwarts, but otherwise, some serious magic is in store. On the whole, the visuals and the music are undoubtedly high-impact.
The wisest thing to do now is not to judge how good the film is, but to be a part of the sensation that is Harry Potter. And do read the book before you go.