HARRY POTTER, THE HALF BLOOD PRINCE, AND ITS ICONIC PARALLELS

After the opening of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, the movie adaptation of J.K. Rowling's penultimate novel about the young wizard and his magical universe, was changed from last November to this month, I've spent those eight months highly anticipating its release.

Having very much enjoyed the previous five films in the series, I was eager to see this latest installment.

After having done so, it's safe to say that Half Blood Prince, the sixth feature in this saga, did not disappoint.

The thing that I've always liked about the Potter movies - and books - is that they have gotten more sophisticated, complex, serious, and simply better as they have progressed and the characters, and the young actors portraying them, have grown and matured.

It has truly been a trip watching Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson, as Harry, Ron, and Hermione respectively, grow up on the big screen, much like a teacher who sees his students years after having them in his class.

In my view, they are the Beatles of the child star world; that should be considered the ultimate compliment for any entertainer.

Directed by David Yates and written by Steve Kloves, this latest Harry Potter film is the best among the six that has been released to date.

It was certainly the most dramatic and emotional, with Harry spending much of his sixth year at Hogwarts School with his mentor, headmaster Albus Dumbledore, played wonderfully by Sir Michael Gambon, searching for the essential key that will help defeat the evil Lord Voldemort.

All while having to deal with the pangs and urges of teenage romance and hormones, as Harry develops feelings for his best mate Ron's younger sister Ginny (played by Bonnie Wright), who's involved with someone else - and we all have experience in how that feels.

One of my favorite scenes was when Hermione was crying her eyes out outside the Gryffindor House common room after seeing Ron hooking up with Lavender Brown (portrayed convincingly by Jessie Cave), a fellow classmate, after a Quidditch match. As Harry is consoling Hermione, she tells him that she knows he fancies Ginny, and asks him how he feels about her having a boyfriend that's not him. Harry says, "It feels like (how you're feeling now)", as his heartbroken friend sheds tears on his shoulder.

If that scene doesn't bring back painful memories of unrequited teenage love, nothing will.

A significant factor in my attraction to the young man with the John Lennon-style granny glasses and the wizarding world he lives in is the fact that so much of the tale parallels another iconic movie franchise from my youth - Star Wars.

To put it another way, Harry Potter is the Star Wars of the new millennium.

When one gives some thought to it, it is clear that the main characters are so much like those people from a galaxy far, far away that it's scary.

For example, it's painfully obvious that Harry is what Luke Skywalker was in George Lucas' epic double trilogy; the chosen one whose mission - and destiny - is to save his world from the evil forces that are destroying it.

Dumbledore and Obi-Wan Kenobi are also virtually the same, both of them signifying the wise old sage that guides his young protege to what he is called to do, then tragically leaving him to put his strengths and what he learns to the ultimate test.

Lord Voldemort is Darth Vader all over again; those two head villians are so similar it is like they are twins. Both of them started as young prodigies before turning to the Dark Side and eventually ruling it with their iron fists. Even their nicknames are alike; Lord Voldemort is called "The Dark Lord" by his followers. Darth Vader was called the same.

And as another instance of these parallels, Hermione and Princess Leia are sister-like in their similarity, both portraying the noble female heroine that is an essential help to the protagonist's quest and cause.

But I'm digressing - Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince was well worth the two year wait after the fifth film in the Potter franchise, The Order of the Phoenix, was released in July 2007. The script was extremely well written, the cinematography and the actors' performances were excellent and moving, and it made for a great movie going experience all around.

Half Blood Prince also succeeded in something that was very important - setting things up for the adaptation of the final book in Rowling's epic saga, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which is currently filming right now. It will be released in two installments, the first in November 2010, and the second in July 2011.

At the end of this movie, one thing came to mind as I sat in my theater seat watching the closing credits roll by:

"I can't wait until the next one comes out."

I believe that sums it all up.

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