There are only a few holdouts in author J.K. Rowling’s quest to bring everyone into her magical world of witchcraft and wizardry. So there’s doubtless only few who haven’t seen the movies either—or aren’t eagerly anticipating the next moment they can sit in a theater seat and watch the wands wave, the brooms fly and sexual tensions mount as the once baby-faced actors enter their next to final year at Hogwarts.
The sixth film in the franchise, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, doesn’t hit theaters until November. But with newly released photos from the film, the recently-announced plans for a Universal Studios theme park dedicated to the franchise and the latest Rowling book, The Tales of Beedle the Bard, ready for order nationwide, MM thought it would be a good exercise to recap the past while we preview what’s to come.
Harry, Ron and Hermione return to Hogwarts after the battle with Voldemort (a barely recognizable Ralph Fiennes) that killed Harry’s godfather Sirius Black (played in the three previous films by Gary Oldman). A dark shadow is cast over their sixth year at Hogwarts as attacks on students increase and the trio must balance their studies and career preparations with the escalating violence in both the Magical and Muggle worlds.
As has become tradition at Hogwarts each year, a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher must be appointed after Imelda Staunton’s Dolores Umbridge was unceremoniously removed from her post in the series’ previous installment. This year it’s finally Professor Snape’s turn, leaving room for Jim Broadbent to move in as the new Potions teacher, Horace Slughorn. When Harry is loaned a used potions textbook belonging to the Half-Blood Prince, he mysteriously masters each lesson—and impresses his classmates with some potions of “his own” recipe.
Harry has become infatuated with the Half-Blood Prince and using the mysterious royal’s potions to his advantage. Among other things, the famous boy wizard discovers the Sectumsempra curse, which, when used to brutally scar Draco Malfoy, leads to his probation from the Quidditch team. In the meantime, Ron Weasley (played by Rupert Grint) has joined up as the new Keeper for Gryffindor. With his performance not quite up to par the first few rounds, Harry allows Ron to believe he drank a lucky potion, eventually giving him the confidence needed to win a match… and hopefully the girl of his infatuations, Hermione Granger.
Tom Felton has been a picture adolescent villain since his debut as Draco Malfoy in 2001’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. But while Harry and his band of Gryffindor comrades have so far thwarted Malfoy’s meddling ways, it is with this film that the devilish Slytherin finally has his way. With the return of the Dark Lord and his first assignment as a Death Eater, it’s Malfoy’s day to shine.
This being the penultimate story in the series, everyone knows the result of Snape’s Unbreakable Vow with Narcissa Malfoy and what it means for Hogwarts’ beloved headmaster Albus Dumbledore (played by Michael Gambon after the untimely passing of Oscar-nominated actor Richard Harris). Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince sees Dumbledore taking Harry further into his confidence than ever before by allowing the young wizard to accompany him on a dangerous journey to recover one of Voldemort’s six soul fragments, dubbed Horcruxes.
Only just beginning to understand his role in Voldemort’s return and original disappearance, Harry is left at the end of this film without direction from the wisest and most powerful wizard he knew. The film will be a dark one to be sure—leaving audiences with more uncertainty than hope—but with the finish line just around the corner (the first of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows’ two rumored installments is tentatively scheduled for a 2010 release), it won’t be long until even those who haven’t yet read Rowling’s words, will see her entire saga brought to life on screen.