The Harry Potters…

In preparation for going to see the final Harry Potter instalment I decided (like pretty much everyone else has) to watch all of the other films beforehand to remind me of what has gone before…Oh and I didn’t watch them marathon style – I likes me sleep…

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is a great film to set up the series and introduce aspects of the magical world that J.K. Rowling has created. It’s a good film but it feels very…family friendly Sunday filmy – although this may be more to do with the story as darker aspects haven’t yet been brought in. The child stage school acting isn’t great either, but the presence of some more than capable adults makes it work – mostly Alan Rickman as Severus Snape, Richard Harris as Albus Dumbledore (replaced by Michael Gambon after the second film) and Maggie Smith as Minerva McGonagall. This excellent thesp acting talent is something that is repeated throughout the series too, making them all the more watchable…

The Chamber of Secrets is the weakest film out of them all – this is mostly coz it’s a film (and book) to establish parts of the plot later on (horcruxes, etc.). It doesn’t really work but it’s a necessary film to have. It just seems to peter on until it’s conclusion – and the scene with the Basilisk at the end is good but just a little…boring. The one saving grace is definitely the introduction of the evil Lucius Malfoy played brilliantly by Jason Isaacs and of course the excellent foppish Gilderoy Lockhart played by Kenneth Branagh (who also brings much-needed fun to the proceedings here).

The next film, The Prisoner of Azkaban, is my personal favourite: both story wise and aesthetically. The story (and plot twists) are so much more interesting. And the direction by Alfonso Cuarón is beautiful – I hadn’t realised until I watched it again recently just how many long takes are used with v. few cuts and fluid camera work. And it also has 2 of my favourite actors of all time in it: David Thewlis and Gary Oldman (as two of the best characters in the series, Remus Lupin and Sirius Black respectively) – watching them acting in the same room together is just, WOW (although they should have explained more about the Marauders and the map…). And the introduction of the Dementors is also brilliantly done – they are cleverly designed and genuinely creepy, watching them makes you feel like the room really is turning cold.

The Goblet of Fire is the second weakest film in my opinion – too much is omitted about the Triwizard Tournament and other things: it feels far too rushed. The fact that they kept the Yule Ball in though makes up for this and shows what Mike Newell was trying to go for with this film – showing more of the teenage relationships and growing up. The introduction of Mad-Eye Moody is a highlight though and Brendan Gleeson is amazing as him – a little bit funny and a lot intimidating. And of course, this is the film in which we finally get to see Voldemort in his true form: Ralph Fiennes is at his best as the snake-like, terrifying dark wizard (and he gets all the more scary throughout the rest of the films…). Unfortunately Emma Watson’s eyebrow acting in this one reaches all new levels of weird. And who’s this Robert Pattinson? Don’t see him going far (sorry, old joke…).

Then onto the David Yates directed films, starting with the Order of the Phoenix: again not brill plot-wise (the conclusion seems disappointing after the huge build-up about the prophecy – which to me seems a little rushed over and forgotten…). But the death at the end of the film is excellently done and truly upsetting – especially when it’s so sudden (like in the book). Imelda Staunton as the controlling Dolores Umbridge is also great – she’s sickly sweet, condescending and completely horrifying. And Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange is just horrifying with added doses of wide-eyed crazy…

The Half-Blood Prince is another one of the best films of the series – again very well shot and directed by Yates: the idea to include an opening scene with wizards destroying London is clever and shows the first signs of both worlds colliding. And again another great character is added – Horace Slughorn played by Jim Broadbent adds comic relief at times and also forwards crucial parts of the plot. Another person worth mentioning here is definitely Tom Felton as Draco Malfoy – he truly comes into his own acting wise and shows Draco as no longer in control of his fate, and scared of what will happen to him – he makes you really start to feel sorry for him. And the inevitable death scene at the end of the film is truly affecting yet again…and devastating.

And finally the penultimate film – the Deathly Hallows: Part 1. The idea of having them out of the school brings a bit of relief – it’s very freeing and Yates lets both the Muggle and Wizard world merge even more. Again there are some great standout action scenes – the last chase scene through the woods with the Snatchers is kinetic and heart-pumping and the scene of the infiltration of the Ministry is brilliantly realised and just as scary. And the brave decision to tell the story behind the Deathly Hallows by coming out of the story and showing an animation was a clever risk – it’s beautifully done and well explained for people who haven’t read the books. And yet more standout thesp actors added to the cast list: Peter Mullan as Yaxley is gruff and menacing, and Nick Moran as Scabior is creepy and looks like Adam Ant for some reason.

And now onto the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (which I will be seeing today!) – I know that I am inevitably going to enjoy it and that it is going to be pretty epic. It’s also going to be sad to see the films come to an end – although a lot of the films have their flaws, they are all enjoyable in their own ways and I’ve always been excited to see them. I’ll let you know what I think soon enough though!

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~ by square-eyed-geek on July 18, 2011.

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