I didn’t see any movies at the theater this month, so I won’t be reviewing any new stuff – but I have been re-watching the Harry Potter movies. The final chapter is coming out shortly, so it seemed like a good time to catch up on what all happened.
Just a heads-up – this is not a spoiler-free review. I will ruin endings here.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
(“Sorceror’s Stone,” for any philosophy-fearing Americans out there.)
Believe it or not, seeing this in the theater was the first time I had ever heard of Harry Potter. Before this, I never heard of the books, didn’t see any movie trailers, or hear any word-of-mouth about it. I didn’t even know it was playing until my friend spontaneously started screaming “WE HAVE TO GO SEE HARRY POTTER NOW!!!” So we drove down to Cold Lake for a midnight showing, and imagine my surprise when I saw the lobby packed. With adults no less – not a single child to be seen anywhere except on the movie poster. I was really out of the loop back then. And it was a pretty damn good movie. I’ve read all the books since then, and even today, I think Chris Columbus did a bang-up job on it. The cast is perfect, the art design is flawless, the music is memorable, and the first movie on it’s own set the standard for the rest of the series.
Let’s Nitpick: I’m still peeved with the ending of this movie. Why do the teachers reward Harry’s reckless disregard for the rules by giving him the House Cup? What example are they setting? I want to see a version where they give Harry and his friends all those extra points for defeating Voldemort, but still give the House Cup to Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff because they studied and passed their exams.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
(AKA “Harry Potter and the Hurray for Harry Potter”)
On another viewing, I think one is both my favorite, and the most underrated of the series. There’s tons of action, I love the art direction, there’s much darker tones, and what’s more, it’s a perfect stand-alone story where every scene provides yet another subtle clue to the big mystery. There’s no cliffhangers, no villains get away, and you don’t have to start from the first movie to enjoy this one. But on top of that, it’s also probably the most faithful of the movies – dropping virtually nothing from the book (to my recollection anyway.)
Let’s Nitpick: The only downside to not dropping anything from the book is that this is probably the longest of the movies. Also, at the end… Dumbledore cancels exams as a reward? Those seventh years really need those exams, Dumbledore. Don’t ruin their lives just to make the 2nd-graders happy. I swear this school system is rigged just to make sure Harry Potter doesn’t have to study.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
(AKA “Harry Potter Scared Stupid”)
I know this one’s supposed to be the most critically-acclaimed of the series, but I personally found it to be really silly. They swapped out directors at this point, and then mixed in more slapstick comedy, blue filters, and slow fades-to-black. Although it does have some great visuals, (especially on the scenes with the Dementors and the werewolf) this remains the one movie that really sits on the fence for me. Something about it reminds me of an Ernest movie for some reason.
Let’s Nitpick: In the last half-hour of the movie, they use Hermione’s magical hourglass to go back in time and resolve all their problems. Then they proceed to never use this device again in any of the movies (especially when it really matters.) It can’t be that hard to fabricate an hourglass either if the teachers are letting third-graders walk around with them. Also, what’s up with that song at the beginning? Did the music teacher think “Something Wicked This Way Comes” would be a great way to ring in the new school year?
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
(AKA “Robert Pattinson and the Stroke of Bad Luck”)
Another director swap at this point (Mike Newell) turns “Goblet of Fire” into a very rushed, but still very entertaining movie. In fact, this one seems more like a sports movie the way they handle it. There’s a lot more school spirit and the students act like real people rather than wizards. The Tri-Wizard tournament lends to some great action sequences as well, and I only just noticed David Tennant (Doctor Who) as one of the bad guys this time around. Awesome!
Let’s Nitpick: This one marks the first time that you really can’t jump into a Harry Potter movie without seeing the first three. There’s so many obscure side-characters popping up, and important plot elements are randomly re-introduced from previous movies. Of course, if you’ve gone this far already, you probably already saw the first three.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
(AKA “Harry Potter vs. The Establishment”)
With David Yates at the helm, he returns the series to the old Columbus style, albeit more darker, but still retains Mike Newell’s habit of not bothering to provide background information. Still, I think this one’s pretty awesome. Imelda Staunton puts on the best performance of the series as Delores Umbridge – a villain who embodies every despicable thing we could ever hate about a villain. Then we’ve also got Helena Bonham Carter as her awesome freaky self. I really liked the story’s approach to having all the characters rebel against authority – because when wizards rebel, everything explodes.
Let’s Nitpick: I’ll tell you this much – the IMAX 3D version sucked (post-conversion crap.) And at the risk of sounding like a book-nerd, I really think they should have put the original ending battle into the movie, because the movie version was pretty lame by comparison.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
(aka “Harry Potter and Something Vaguely Sinister is Going On”)
During a second viewing, I realized that there’s really no story in this film. In fact, the book’s the same way. It’s just a series of events throughout the school year that range from terrorist attacks, cheating on tests, and Harry snogging Ron’s sister. In fact, for the first two hours of the movie, there’s no actual mission – no mystery for Harry and the gang to solve, other than how to get their teacher drunk so he can spill the beans on how to defeat Voldemort. After that, the movie begins and ends pretty quickly. Still, I really enjoyed watching a lot of the nonsense as Harry and his friends just fart around all year, especially the scenes where Harry gets high on luck potion.
Let’s Nitpick: What bugs me is that throughout the movie is a sub-plot involving Malfoy and a magical cabinet. In the book, this is a relevant plot-point, since the cabinet later enables Voldemort’s henchmen to infiltrate and attack the school, resulting in a chaotic battle between the students and the Death Eaters. Unfortunately, in the movie, the epic battle never happens. They infiltrate the school, mess up the dining hall and then… leave. They do burn down Hagrid’s hut, but otherwise… what’s the point? Why sneak in Death Eaters? Was Hagrid’s hut really that big a threat?
Harry Potter and the Draco Malfoy Puppet
(AKA “Draco likes Pliers”)
And there we go! All caught on my wizard stuff. Now I just need to remember every tiny plot detail for the next few weeks until Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 1) starts… AKA “Harry Potter and the Neverending Camping Trip.”