Harry Potter isn’t my thing. The whole wizards and fantasy and magic thing just isn’t my cup of tea (what keeps me wary of Game of Thrones). What I know about the franchise comes from TV commercials and Smodcast episodes. But then the Mrs. said she’d like the Harry Potter movies for her birthday. So with limited knowledge and a BluRay set we decided to make a week of it and go through the movies night by night. Also being who I am I figured it would make for a fun entry. Now for the record this won’t be a traditional review. Instead it will be semi-stream of conscious opinion on the movies, some random observations and an overall rating for the series.
For the record, there will be spoilers but considering everybody but me saw the movie I don’t think this warning is necessary but just in case, here it is. Either way here are my thoughts on the Harry Potter movies.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Straight up I didn’t think this was all that good. Maybe it’s just that I am not used to current kids movies but I can’t help but think this was kind of a disaster. What got to me the most was the pacing of the movie. I understand we have to introduce and establish the characters but we don’t hear about the Sorcerer’s Stone until nearly 2 hours into the movie. What the hell? I also found the characters to be fairly bland. More clichés than actual characters I found myself getting bored with the whole “Harry is the specialist of special people” shtick. The other thing I couldn’t get past was the special effects. Given they were over a decade ago and I should be more forgiving but it looked like a bad PS2 game. It got particularly bad during the Quidditch scenes. This wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever seen, far from it. But in all honesty I can’t say I was impressed. At least it was competently made, I guess.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Does “It wasn’t as bad as the first” count as a valid opinion? On the one hand we’re past the whole “Introduce everybody and show their gimmick” bit. On the other I can’t say I really cared about what was going on. Can’t say I enjoyed the new characters either. Dobbey annoyed the hell out of me. I think he was supposed to be endearing but he just annoyed me. On the plus side I think the movie itself was better in particular the pacing. Still I honestly didn’t care about anything except the massive red herring behind the douchey teacher and Tom Riddle having the goofiest middle name ever. Yay improvements?
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
The general consensus on the Potter movies is that they pick up after the first two. Glad to say this is correct. With a change in director (Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity) and a darker tone this is definitely the most engaging film thus far. No longer feeling like strictly-for-children’s movie the storytelling felt much more mature without making it overly dark. At this point I generally accepted that each character had their quirks and I’d have to get used to that. Another positive was the lack of Voldemort talk. While I know this was world building for what was to come later it’s a bit refreshing to not have that as the backbone to the story.
I hate the ghosts and talking pictures. I didn’t mention her but Moaning Myrtle or whatever her name is bothered the hell out of me. The same can be said of the rest of the ghosts now that I think about it. Unless this changes in the future they are nothing but very poor comic relief. Despite that complaint I found myself generally enjoying the story this time around. Well directed and written with some fun time travel mechanics this is the best movie thus far.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
And we’re back to the inane crap. Okay that was cruel but this movie felt like a step back. From a technical point I think it’s as good as the last movie. It nails the “dark yet kid friendly” tone pretty well. The acting is also improving among the kids. Given there are some weird line reads every now and then but they’re getting better each movie. Speaking of the kids it was nice to see some tension between them. It led nowhere and was pretty bland but it was something. No my main problem is the story. Not the Voldemort stuff, that was fine. Voldemort being a freaky looking baby that grows up because he cut off a dude’s hand is legit. What baffled me was the whole Goblet of Fire tournament thing. The whole thing just baffled me. Who would sign up for Wizard Olympics when there’s a decent chance you’ll die? They had to kidnap people for their crazy underwater gimmick. I just couldn’t get past the logistics of the whole thing. This sucks because that took up most of the movie. Add the annoying ghost chick and you have a good movie taken down by a plot that just couldn’t engage me.
At least the Death Eaters looked badass.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
After seemingly going nowhere in the last movie things finally seem to be in full swing. The best part, the absolute best, is that the people are finally turning on Harry. It’s not that I find him unlikable or whatever but all we’ve seen is people praise everything he does. To have people finally go “Well this kid is kind of wack” is a refreshing change of pace. The other new addition, although it doesn’t seem permanent, is Imelda Staunton as Professor Dolores Umbridge. Oh my god was she a great villain. Playing a Maggie Thatcher-esque disciplinarian with a sadistic side Staunton she steals the show. The other notable character is Evanna Lynch as Luna Lovegood. The character is so weird and out place amongst the rest of the kids that she’s the most interesting to watch. Being able to see dead, flying, horses helps.
We also get more Voldemort and for a master of evil he is kind of hilarious. Now I like the design and the makeup look good. But we get shots of him in suits which make him look like a bootleg Slenderman. Add the shots of him posing and I just can’t take the dude seriously. I know it’s nitpicky but I couldn’t get past how ridiculous he looked. Still he isn’t the main villain here. The main villains seem to be the Ministry of Magic and their denial of Voldemort. As it turns out the machinations of a fake government for magical people is way more engaging than it has any right to be.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
So Snape DOES have a role. That’s a bit harsh but it feels like all he did was hit Ron in the back of the head. But enough minor bitching how was the movie? Not bad. A lot of stuff actually happened. It’s like they figured out they’re nearly done so they decided to show why Snape, Draco and whoever else had a role in the movie. This would be a complaint but it felt long overdue. I particularly liked the fact that Snape was the half blood prince. Considering how Harry/Voldemort centric the whole story was it was a nice reveal. If I had any complaints it would be that there is so much magic crap introduced throughout the series that I can’t help but think of ways to fix everything. Like it crossed nobody’s mind to use the Hunger Games time travel thingy to save Snape? I call shenanigans. But this just might be me over thinking things. While I can’t say that I loved the movie but I think it did its purpose in setting up the last two movies.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1
Of all the movies I think this has the strongest start. After a scene of the Death Eaters being generically evil (and an obviously for 3D snake shot) we get a great character building scene showing the three main kids dealing with Voldemort being after them. Hermione’s part in particular is pretty heartbreaking. Followed by a pretty fun chase scene where everyone disguises themselves as Harry. Then they hide out in the woods. It felt like it went on and on without too much pay off. There’s this bit where Ron gets bitchy while wearing the horcrux that also affects Hermione and Harry. Yet they keep wearing it. Did they forget Ron losing his crap? Do they not have pockets to carry it around? So Ron leaves Harry and Hermione solely to come back half an hour later all “Totes sorry guys” and to save Harry from drowning. Maybe it’s a bigger deal in the book or it means more to hardcore fans but it felt like padding for the run time. My other big problem is that the ending did feel a bit anti-climatic. Perhaps it just comes with splitting a single book into two parts but Dobby kicking it didn’t feel like a huge deal to me.
Despite these problems I did enjoy this movie quite a bit. The biggest proof being Dobby getting killed and I didn’t laugh uproariously. Given I wasn’t heartbroken but getting me to care about the most annoying character so far more than proves this is one of the better movies of the series.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2
So here we are, the end. The grand finale of the Harry Potter saga. Have to say they certainly ended on a high note. Picking up where the last movie left off we are quickly taken on a journey looking for the last horcruxes and taking on an invading army of Death Eaters. Around 2 hours long this is probably the best paced of the Harry Potter movies. Given a lot of the heavy lifting was done in the last movie but we go full bore into the movie and it’s a blast. From the massive battles to the redemption of Snape to hideous baby Voldemort I thought everything was wrapped up nicely. There are two things preventing it from being perfect though. First is that with some editing of the last movie I can’t help but think it could have been a single movie. It’d be about 3 hours but if you cut down on the woods stuff you could have had a fulfilling and robust movie. Unlike the first two movies I would have been fine with the final chapter being three hours.
My other major issue involves the epilogue. Now I’m fine with there being an epilogue; seeing Harry and his friends dropping their kids off at the 9 3/4 platform is quite sweet. What I want to know is how do you end this highly regarded series looking so cheap? The cast is filled with some amazing UK character actors. You couldn’t find someone to film a nice cameo as future Harry? You couldn’t get Matt Smith for a day to play Harry? Or Simon Pegg to do a line or two as Ron? This could have been a fun treat that was completely wasted. But hey, that may be asking too much. Let’s say schedules and budget made it unfeasible to do that. That’s totally understandable. If this is the case then why couldn’t they have actually made them look older? All we got was them having new haircuts and Ron sporting a bit of a gut. Is that really the most they could do? Not even some Mr. Fantastic style grey in Harry’s hair? It looked more like they were kids playing dress up rather than actually being older. I know this shouldn’t bother me but it feels so lazy and it left a bad taste in my mouth as the last image of the series.
Despite that rant and my admittedly minor quibbles this was my favorite movie of the bunch. With everything firing on all cylinders Deathly Hallows Part 2 has the best acting, best effects, and most complete movie of the whole series.
– Draco Malfoy, he is supposed to look like a little Gordon Gecko right? Well at least he changes to Ryan Goslings’ hair later.
– Speaking of the Malfoys I can’t be the only one that thought the dad looked like Julian Sands in the Warlock movies.
– With all the fans of Snape I am utterly surprised how little he’s actually used in the first few movies. Alan Rickman plays it like a boss but he feels criminally underused until the last few movies.
– I really hate Helena Bonham Carter as Belatrix. I understand what she’s trying to do but it feels so Tim Burton-lite. Modern Tim Burton not Good Tim Burton.
– Child abuse, murder, mental illness. Take out the magic and goofier crap and this could make a decent crime procedual.
– God must really hate Neville Longbottom. He didn’t even get to kill Belatrix.
I finally get it. Despite my ignorance and “Haha this is stupid” mentality going in I understand why Harry Potter is such a popular franchise. Despite a slow start and a plethora of flaws it is an engaging story with likable characters. Characters that, despite what I would have thought, I came to care about. Do I think these are some of the greatest characters ever? Far from it. But it’s pretty good for a kid’s movie and just got better over time.
I still think Quidditch is stupid though.
Series Rating- B