The new Harry Potter film succeeds in refreshing the familiar formula with a frisson of teenage romance which will keep fans firmly under its spell, reviewers in Britain said on Wednesday.
"Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince", the sixth episode in the adventures of the now-teenaged wizard, will not disappoint even though it departs markedly from the book, The Times newspaper said.
"The latest instalment is more of the same tried and tested formula to be sure, but it's a formula that produces pure gold as far as the fans are concerned," its reviewer wrote, awarding it three stars out of five.
"David Yates, the director, orchestrates the picture with dizzying energy and confidence, but the might of the Potter phenomenon dwarfs his individual artistic contribution."
The characters' romantic awakening helps to "flesh out" the characters for an adult audience, the Times' reviewer added, although she wondered if younger fans might cringe at the occasional kissing scenes.
The Daily Telegraph compared the Potter films to re-discovering a much-loved but well-worn coat but said it was to the "enormous credit" of the film that "it doesn't rest too comfortably in this familiarity".
"The Half-Blood Prince", which opens with a stunning special effects sequence showing the destruction of a London landmark, takes the saga "in a dark direction" with "monochrome intensity", its review said.
At the same time, Daniel Radcliffe as Potter and Rupert Grint, who plays Ron Weasley, brought humour to the mix as girls get in the way of their spells, and Emma Watson as Hermione finds her attentions unnoticed.
Radcliffe, now 19, came in for high praise from the Telegraph, which said he "has never been better than here, displaying new maturity and subtlety."
Filming is already in full swing for the two-part adaptation of the conclusion to the Potter saga.
The Telegraph concluded that "The Half-Blood Prince" is "an elegant addition to the canon -- even if it is only there to set the scene for the final conflict in the next two movies."
All reviewers praised the acting talent surrounding the central trio, ranging from Oscar winner Jim Broadbent as the vain Professor Slughorn to Helena Bonham Carter, playing the vengeful Bellatrix Lestrange.
The Daily Mail said the decision to use French cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel was "a masterstroke".
"The film looks great and Delbonnel gives the picture a modern real-world sensibility in a fantasy setting," its reviewer said.
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