All My Movies: Harry Potter Edition

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I recently watched all of the Harry Potter movies because I, lucky girl, scored a pass to tonight's premiere...now to actually get SEATS at said premiere is going to be tricky because I'm sure it's dramatically overbooked and I'll just die if we don't get in when you consider that I didn't pre-buy my tickets for opening night, as it's been tradition for me to go every opening night, and seeing as how I JUST watched the seventh film last night, clearly I'm in the mood for some resolutions. So with that in mind...how cute is this picture?



Harry Potter Films 1-7

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint
Costarring: Alan Rickman, Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter
Times Watched: 1-4 I've probably watched about 4 or 5 times each. 5-7 I've only watched 2-3 times each.
Genre: Drama
Rotten Tomatoes / Metacritic:
The Philosopher's Stone - 80% / 64
The Chamber of Secrets - 83% / 63
The Prisoner of Azkaban - 91% / 82
The Goblet of Fire - 87% / 81
The Order of the Phoenix - 78% / 71
The Half-Blood Prince - 83% / 78
The Deathly Hallows - 79% / 65

Road To Ownership: I had been buying the HP films over the years, when one day, Amazon held a literal one-day sale for the first five films in a gift set on Blu-Ray. It was on sale because the sixth movie was about to come out in a new Blu-Ray gift pack, but regardless, I got the entire series for $60, and have since bought the 6th & 7th films separately. The gift set never mattered to me, the price did.

The Plot: Well if you don't know the plot of the Harry Potter series, it's about the titular boy wizard named Harry Potter, who survived a killing curse as an infant and subsequently brought down the darkest, baddest wizard of all time, Voldemort. Harry of course, has no clue about all of this until his eleventh birthday, when he's invited to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry. Although there are plenty of magical secrets and fun and typical school-age drama to be had, Harry's world is ultimately complicated by his ongoing link to Voldemort, who is at first rumored to be biding his time for a grand return, and eventually threatens to take over and destroy the entire wizarding world, once again. Harry's role in all of this is as the 'chosen one' - the one boy everyone believes can once again put a stop to the dark times that preceded his legendary status.



The Good & The Bad: I have to say, watching the films back-to-back has been an enlightening experience. I don't think I've ever done it before. Anyway the bad thing about the Harry Potter films is how much - particularly in the early days - they just kind of plod along in an attempt to retell even a fraction of the rich world JK Rowling created in the books. They're also incredibly confusing to anyone that's never read the books, and with all they leave out, only mildly satisfactory for the series' readers.


Of course, it is magical to see everything come to life as it were, and I particularly liked the way the films spun out to sort of suggest a world beyond Hogwarts - something which the books struggled with, admittedly - after the fifth film and David Yates took over the reins of directing. The first two films are definitely out of place in the the franchise, they feel very saccharine and are more about setting up the "magical" parts of the world as opposed to the darkness that is to come...granted, the books aren't too different in this respect so I can't totally point fingers, but in some ways it would have been neat to see Yates - who is, in my opinion, the first person to really make the films feel like independent, engaging MOVIES of their own - to direct the first two. One neat thing about the progression of films is how the cinematography changes. Alfonso Curoan's celebrated third entry - one which I typically point to as the best in the series, although having rewatched them, I'm ambivalent - was the first one to really make the world feel more real, and perhaps, more realized. His beautiful cinematography and use of the lush greenery on the supposed Hogwarts grounds really opened things up, although the tones were still warm - in the last few films many of the characters appear almost black and white with hints of Slytherin green, things are so desaturated.

Best Scenes: I gravitate towards the scenes where the characters actually get to talk. All too often the action overshadows the characters in these films, when there is plenty of good non-plot-related dialogue in the books. I love Lupin and Harry's scenes in the third movie, and the times they include Dumbledore's parting scenes with Harry at the end of each film, the Mirror of Erised, pretty much anything Sirius has with Harry (although far better developed in the books). I also LOVE the flashbacks, I wish they'd included more of them in the sixth film.

Worst Scenes: Hm. I never like how drawn out some of the random action scenes are. Another sophistication of the later films is that they handle these scenes deftly - enough to cause you a panic but not stretching them out forever & ever, like say, the finale of the second film. I also hated how they handled the maze challenge in the fourth movie.


Best Character: This is a bit hard to answer because I don't really have a fave character from the books, and to label a best character here is to really be labeling 'best actor'. That being said, I think Daniel Radcliffe has truly blossomed into a more and more accurate portrayal of what I'd always pictured Harry to be like in the books, to the point where I finally think he's handsome, something I could never get behind before. I also think Alan Rickman's portrayal of Snape has been bang-on from day one. Love.

Worst Character: Same as above. I guess discrepancies would be the thing to focus on here. I'm not a huge fan of who they cast for Luna, but I get why they did. I found the house-elves to be pretty far off from what I'd pictured. It's a shame they made Lavender Brown so obnoxious, although again I get why they did.

Soundtrack of our Lives: You know the score...John Williams' (same score master for Home Alone) created an eerie symphony of bells and strings which is still used to this day, in increasingly varied yet familiar forms.

If You Like This You'll Like: Well, Lord of the Rings springs to mind as a much more involved, war-oriented version of Harry Potter. And next year's The Hunger Games trilogy, hopefully.

Ratings:
You know, my feelings differ greatly from the critics. So here's my ranking of all the films to date, although from what I've been hearing, the finale is THE best of the them all. Always nice to go out with a bang.



1. Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban - I'm hesitant to put this in the #1 spot because after re-watching the films I REALLY liked what Yates did with them. But it was the first one to open up a world of possibility for the franchise, and the handling of the complex time warp at the end was genius. 4.5/5

2. Harry Potter & The Half-Blodd Prince - I'd like to point out that books 3 and 6 are my least favourite, yet the films are the best. Odd. Anyway this is probably Yates' most successful offering, critically at least, and for good reason. He started to figure out how to tell the story properly in the fifth film, but here he really gets it - he only includes the elements of the plot that can be resolved and understood as part of the film's overall arc. Would I have loved to see more flashbacks? Sure, but I appreciate that Yates was able to make the *funniest* Potter film by a landslide when things are conversely oh-so-dark. 4.5/5

3. Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Part 1 - Funny that this movie got such mixed reviews when I actually think it did an outstanding job of setting up the final film, the splitting of which was about 50% necessary, and 50% out of Yates' control. There was plenty of action and tension and sweetness and sadness, and it brought the kids out of Hogwarts successfully, and deftly covered chapters and chapters of expository content. I'll note that in all of Yates' films he goes the farthest off-script, but he only ever seems to do it in ways that will enhance the storytelling of the film, so kudos. 4/5

4. Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix - I have a soft spot for this one because the book is my favourite, which I know to be an unpopular choice. It was definitely the hardest to adapt to film, and I think Yates might have focused a little too hard on the wrong thing, of all the possible focuses - the lockdown from the Ministry of Magic. I know that's a big part of what the book is about, but I felt like it missed the mark in terms of the Occlumency / link to Voldemort, Harry's overall emotional angst (which is pretty much forgotten by the mid-point of the movie), and most importantly, his ties to Sirius. If those things were stronger, and the prophecy better explained, it probably would have been more successful...but the fact is, it's the first film that felt like a *film*, and Yates' cinematography was inspired. 3.5/5

5. Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire - A lot of people praise this one (and the book, might be the soft spot speaking I guess) but I never really liked it. I felt like it didn't really build on what Curaon had established in the third film, and was almost a reversion to the first two in some ways, given how closely it followed the book. Also Harry's hair was so terrible I'm automatically biased against it. I just felt like there were too many action sequences and missed opportunities, although it did manage to cover all the memorable major events of the book. 3/5

6. Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets - The first two films are relatively interchangeable for me. The actors weren't particularly (understandably) skilled in either one, the setting was altogether too cheerful and focused on the quirky, fun side of the wizarding world, and the plot climaxes seemed to come from nowhere...I prefer this one a bit because the Tom Riddle stuff was interesting. 2.75/5

7 Harry Potter & The Philosopher's Stone - See the above. The first two films really suffer from very linear, by-the-book storytelling, which may or may not have been JK Rowling's doing, or Christopher Columbus' fear of adapting one of the most beloved series' of all time. It was a treat to experience everything for the first time, but again, I wonder how different Hogwarts would look if another director had started the franchise off. Then again, perhaps the movement from warmth and light to cold and darkness isn't such a bad thing, and this was a perfect way to kick things off. 2.75/5


- Britt's On

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