With Halloween fast approaching, I took this week to watch all the films again. For a franchise based off a book series, it was done incredibly well from the first until the last. I think that mainly had to do with using only 4 directors but most importantly having the author, J.K. Rowling, heavily involved as she was to make sure her stories were told as best as they could on the big screen.
Some may think it is easy to list these films because they consider the first two, “kiddie” and did not come into form until the third. While there is some truth to that, you cannot forget that What Chris Columbus did with the first two was get the magic part right. If you read these books before the movie came out, you already had in your mind a picture of how things were. With he help of Rowling, the minute Dumbledore appears on-screen I was instantly hooked and knew that this was going to be the start of something special.
#8 – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Yes this is the weakest film of the 8, but it is not horrible as some lay to claim. While HP always had darkness in it due to the nature of the story, the real darkness that would come to entrench the heroes in their adventures started at the end of this book. So it still was ok to use Columbus for the charm aspect of the movie. Most of the actors, had even improved in their character performance with in my opinion only one exception. Of all 8 movies, Rupert Grint gives his worst performance. I think at lot had to do with his unfortunate timing of hitting puberty and no matter what he did, his voice cracked at every word and we just had to live with it. This was also the last time we got to see Richard Harris as Dumbledore. I know there are people who favor Gambon or Harris but I think both were fantastic as the character. While Harris may have had the a bit more skill with the words of Dumbledore (in time Gambon caught up), Gambon, because of age, had the physical actions and we all know even if Harris somehow lived long enough to fulfill the movies, he would not have been able to pull that off. The only other complaint, and it is a small one, was i think the CGI effects took a back seat from the first movie and I have no idea why. Maybe in the rush to get out these movies as quickly as possible to make sure the kids did not age too fast, corners were cut. With respect to the book, the editing of the story is great and works well. Rowling knew what was to have been kept. I will also end up saying this often – the books will never be replaced by the movies. The writing was so good, that even as good as the movies have been, they will never be able to capture the backstory and imagination we have of the wizarding world.
#7 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Probably shocking for some, but what was my favorite book of the entire series, for the movie, as good as it was, it falls short for m because of my love of the book. Of all the books, this one gave me access to my two favorite characters, the Weasley twins, Fred and George. From start to finish, these two are the actual stars of the book. In the movie they do get the love but that magic still isn’t as close as it could be. Also, when it comes to actual HP canon, this book gives us the most, especially with history regarding Harry’s parents’ time. There was so much detail I read this book twice in a week. The best thing about this movie though is how they capture one character from the book the best as any had been done in all of the films. Umbridge. I hated reading about her and then seeing her come to life on-screen only made that hate feel real. Thankfully they had to reduce this book so much that many more of her scenes are not in the movie because had they been, I would have felt like I did after reading it. She is the perfect embodiment of how certain leaders we know today are. Oh, also, the other part of the book that should have been on the movie and angered me that it wasn’t was the visit to the hospital. After Mr. Weasley is attacked, everyone visits them. Early in the movie we see Sirius give Harry a picture of the Order and show us Neville’s parents who had been tortured and their minds left to rot. In the book we find out how Neville spends his Christmas. He goes to the hospital with his grandmother to visit his parents. They are bedridden and have no idea who their own son is. For a character that if you weren’t noticing was the 4th most developed in the movies, more than even Draco Malfoy, this part of the book absolutely should have made the movie.
#6 Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone
Yes I use the correct title. No idea how American Publishers thought that using philosopher over sorcerer would have led to poor sales.
Anyways, in this movie, we see it all come to life for the first time; Hagrid, Hogwarts, the Sorting hat, and Fluffy. If you read the book and though Quidditch seemed kind of cool but weren’t sure if it really was, well after you saw this movie you wanted a Nimbus 2000 and Katie Bell.
The effects are well done. From entering Diagon Alley, to seeing transfiguration, and Centaurs, we were bright into this world of magic we had read about for years.
#5 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
For years I thought this was my favorite of the movies. It still is up there but after my recent viewing of it I think I have to slide it down into the bottom half. Book wise, it is my second favorite. Like Order of the Phoenix, with Rowling delivering us her longest book to date, we knew many aspects would never make the film. With that said, the script worked well, and the flow of the movie is probably the best of the 8. When I read the death scene for Cedric Diggory, I had actual tears appear, and the first time I saw this in the theater, the same thing happened. All three main heroes shine in this movie. Acting can be tough for children, and now these children entered their early teens and hormones raging, it came off on screen naturally. The saddest thing about all these movies are when they cut things from the book are the non-Hogwarts parts. I think most times, I enjoyed reading about the events at the beginning wither at the Dursleys or the Weasleys.
#4 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2
While part 1 of this single book felt more like a road trip move for our three heroes, we got a big action movie for the second installment. This is not a criticism, just the truth. It worked though. Part 1 gave us mainly all the character development we needed except for the events revolving around Snape. The late great Rickman, really gave it is all in his death and pensive scenes. It is my favorite part of the movie. For most of the 7 books and 8 movies, we saw Snape as a man jealous of Harry because he thought he was his father all over again. A man who when Snape was a child had made growing up hell. For the ultimate redemption, Harry as well, we see the sacrifice that was made by a person that while he had issues with the boy, never went against the one person that tied them together, Harry’s mother…Snape’s only love. The movie gives us a clean ending, too clean if you ask me, and the final scene regarding the Elder Wand, was poor. In the book the wand is buried back with Dumbledore, with Harry hoping that with all the darkness gone, he will never have to duel again and lose command of the wand for another to then go and find to use. The only thing he does with that wand is repairing his original wand. Instead we are given him simply snapping it in half and throwing it over the ravine. That was kind of lame.
#3 Harry Potter and Prisoner of Azkaban
What you say? This surely should be #1. Well it isn’t. This movie may have helped steered the franchise into what it was by the end of it, but upon seeing the movie I had many issues with it. As a movie, it is shot, written, and flows well. As a fan of the books and coming from the visions of the first two movies, it took be back. First. Hagrid’s cabin now being ages away from the castle and down a hill was not necessary. It is not like that at all in the books so when Curon made that change it almost took me right out of the movie. Next, to make the flow work so well, many points from the book, especially the relationship between Lupin, Harry and the dementors, were missing. It is not even the shortest film in the series. Instead of getting those silly scenes of the boys in the dormitory making animal noises or a choir singing Halloween songs, or some boy explaining the Grim we lose character development. Just as in the Order of the Phoenix, Emma Thompson is wasted in her role as the loopy Divination teacher Trewlaney. In Phoenix they just had the prophecy told to us through dialogue with Harry instead of it being told to Harry in a trance. In this movie, her trance does not add anything to the movie. She is a character that really, could have cut out of the movies all together and even though us book hardos would have known, as a movie, it would never have affected the story in one bit. The introduction of Sirius Black, played by Gary Oldman was a fantastic choice in casting. It is amazing how Oldman can blend into almost any role he takes. We also get our introduction to Dumbledore 2.0. I love Gambon as Albus. By the end of the franchise, I am sad to say, I forgot at times that Harris had played the part. From his first scene, Gambon wastes no time in making the role his.
#2 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Pt. 1
I have to say, when I read this book the first time; I think I read it too fast. I shouldn’t have, seeing as at the time I thought like many, we would never get another HP story. And no, the Curse Child does not count as canon. It is a play. The story is partially Rowling’s but until otherwise said, it is not canon because, well to be honest, it is not a very good story, it is just a giant, “well what if this happened?” I just felt though that I had to go back and read it again because I felt I missed too much, and I did. The ending of this book and even the movie if you are not paying attention can confuse the hell out of you.
We get to see the goodbye to the Dursleys, we get the Order with Moody one last time, we sadly, say goodbye to Hedwig, though just as the book does along with the movie, his is quickly forgotten. From Voldemort and the plotting Death Eaters, to the short wedding scene only used to give the three heroes an escape, we are properly given a movie where each faction of characters are given a proper send off, though I guess Hogwarts in the movie does get a bit shafted, though that is made up for in Pt. 2.
It was great seeing Harry, Ron, and Hermoine traveling and solving the clues to defeating Voldemort. The chemistry has probably never been better with these three and it is great to see they had it until the very end of the franchise. Ron’s emotions of rage and despair for his family he could not be near to protect, Harry’s guilt of letting his friends tag along, thinking only he should be the one to risk it all so no one else can get hurt, Hermoine, really, having no one at all besides these two – even destroying her parents memories so if the Death Eaters came, they would never know of her. All three living their lives in the worst moment they have yet lived in.
Like many other book/movie series, such as Star Wars and Tolkien, Rowling delivered such a immense and diverse world that when Harry returns to his parents home, I could have wanted a whole movie on just that alone.
The biggest shock for me in this movie was when it came to the telling of the Deathly Hallows. I did not know we would be taken into a cartoon to tell story. It was unexpected and at first it took me out of the movie because I felt they could have done it with real actors like everything else when it came to flashbacks. By the end of that scene though, I understood why it was done. It was a tale, a story, it in theory, was not real even though it had its believers. For Yates to say, o.k., lets use animation to tell the tale, was a good move.
As we get to the end of the film, we have arrived at the Malfoy’s mansion. For the most part this scene was spot on, with the best bit being delivered by everyone’s favorite free house elf, Dobby. The execution of Harry disarming Draco to give him control of the wands could have been done better, as I think it confused many casual moviegoers, which they then have to explain twice in Pt. 2. Though, we sadly are then dealt one of if not the saddest moment of the series, Dobby’s death. Bones can grown back, dark magic can’t be repaired, but a dagger wound too could not be saved by magic, and we lost one of the most, in my opinion, unique characters to be given to us on print and pushed to the big screen.
#1 Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
Not my favorite book. After the Order of the Phoenix I read this and thought, while good, it could’ve been great. With the Deathly Hallows following and that being great, I wonder if around this time Rowling really had been worn out with her whole life and everything it was asking of her, that it affected the story. Sure at first glance, it seemed all was normal. Another new thick book which would mean, tons of new stories and background to our characters. The thing is though, I think in this book to get us ready for the last, she crammed too much info and it made it a tough read. I have read this again and especially after seeing the movie, I do appreciate it more and like it more, but of the 7 books, it is the weakest.
That is not the case with the movie though. As I’ve said before. I thought the Goblet of Fire was my favorite movie. Then this week after watching this one, I changed my mind. The prior film we barely had any Draco. It was really noticeable after doing this project. Though, once I saw this movie, it was easily realized what a good move it was to hold back on that character. In the book, Draco is just as much the main character as Harry. In the movie that trend is followed. Snape has moved into the position he long desired, and so now the “new” potions master is Horace Slughorn. Slughorn is a key piece into discovering what Voldemort long hidden secret is. Dumbledore knows that he has used an ancient and not well known type of magic to return to power, so naturally there must be a reason for how this happened.
If there is one piece of the story, whether book or film, Rowling gave us that was quite weak, was not the concept of a horcrux but the way it was told to us, that no one could have possibly thought this might be something the most evil of wizards would use, since he was a master of all dark arts. Yes, they did try to save this part by portraying Slughorn as some guild ridden survivor, who’s favorite student was Harry’s mom, so that after she died, he modified his memory and kept quiet so no one would know out of shame. Well if you think about it that really makes it worse for what he did, and almost an irredeemable character. In theory, Slughorn, could have said to Dumbledore (who also being the greatest wizard of the times, should have known about horcruxes and the possible use), hey, this happened one day back in school, hey might use them. Oh, ok, well he is gone for now so instead of waiting 11+ years to start to solve the puzzle of how Harry lived, we can start looking for the potential objects and destroy them. SO yes, a bit of a weak point in the story but hey, worse ideas have come to life, such as who is allowed to run for president.
This movie though, from start to finish, really, is something special. The acting might just be the best of the whole series, and when we get to those final scenes of Dumbledore, a man who we will come to learn more about in the next book, where sadly was not explained to the movie audiences except for a few lines of how he just wanted to protect Harry from not worrying about his certain death, that he was never perfect. In this chapter, he has tried to redeem himself and fix it himself, though he knows that Harry we will eventually be needed to help finish Voldemort once and for all.
This movie for me at least, had all the right pieces from the book and the story never felt out-of-place at any moment.
So there you have it. My rankings for all the Harry Potter Films. If you enjoyed these films but had never read the series and you do actually like to read, go read them. The depth that is there with the foundation of characters is amazing.