Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Harry Potter Film Series: My View of the Films

Harry Potter Film Series
My View of the Films
Analysing, Rating and Ranking Them

On the eve of the world premier of the first part of the Seventh and final Harry Potter film, I have decided to take a look at the wizarding world of Harry Potter, an event that marked my childhood and this present generation. The films, which started in 2001 with Harry Potter and the Philosopher's (Sorcerer's in North America) Stone, have truly become a popular franchise, enough so that almost 10 years later the films are more popular than ever.

My expierences through the series:
I was about 6 or 7 when I first watched the first film. Back then I didn't really have great taste in films, and I wouldn't know if the film was good or bad because of the acting, writing, directing, character development, plot, etc. but the film did have an impact on me, making me try to become a wizard myself (lol). I remember about watching it about three or four times in the theater. It had blown my child mind away. It became my favorite movie (or rather one of my faves) and I found myself playing role playing games with other friends that were as psyched by the movie as I was (please, I was only a kid). Then, when the second movie came along, about 1 year after, it revitalized my love for the series and once again I was under the spell of the wizard world. I was much more mature by the time when the third one came, and despite I wasn't playing around with pens as wands the film still enchanted me, and as the wait had been long (and it was killing me) when I finally saw the movie I was more mindblown. Then, another year and a half later, the fourth film was released, and with it the first human appereance of Lord Voldemort, and it quickly became my favorite. The fifth one then, I wasn't as blown away as with the first films (which was ironic because it was the one that I had been waiting for the most; maybe I had my expectations too high) but I still loved it. And last year, the sixth installment in this magically epic journey came out, and it did the trick that the third and fourth had on me. And now, I am here in front of my computer, writing about how much I loved and still do this series, waiting anxiously for the final chapter (or rather the first part of the final book) to be released.

Books vs Movies and Series Overview:
I've read all the series of books and I've gotta say that the ovies are probably better than the books. The films have a more dark and serious tone, while the books still feel like a fairy tale, but they are still a wonderful adventure that young readers would enjoy embarking into.
The films are quite faithful to the books, especially the first two. They practically follow the storyline to the dot, but of course the whole book isn't in the movie, but it only leaves out a very few insignificant details that probably nobody really missed. But then Alfonso Cuaron came, and brought a whole new level to the Harry Potter world. While Chris Columbus was faithful to the source material, trying his best to bring this wonderful world to the screen, Cuaron practically rewrote the story to make it his. And while there were a few plot details that would have been nice to see on screen, the film was wonderful, and is probably the best of all the series. Then, Mike Newell sat in the director's chair to bring his own vision of the series. The film became much darker, and it has a "thriller" feel, and he effectively brought th Dark Lord to our minds to hunt us in our nightmares. After Mike Newell didn't sign to direct the next one, David Yates came along and once again we got a very different and much darker version than the last one. In this film, Yates made the film the darkest in the series, leaving out many details of the book. And it is probably one of the weaker entries, but it is still a fun ride, and its dark tone was very amusing for me. The sixth film, also directed by David Yates, feels like the previous one does, though much less darker and more humurous. It was a step up from the last, and was a very good entry to the series. But then again, it left out a few interesting stuff from the books (like some of the flashbacks), though probably it works well this way. And tomorrow we'll know how the seventh film ends up like. I think that was my favorite book, and if everything goes right it may become my favorite movie. Even J.K Rowling, author of the books, said the seventh was her favorite.

Here is my order of favorites, from least favorite to most favorite:
6. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
It was the first one, they were probably only learning, exploring new territory, but it was the worst (from my POV) of the series. That doesn't mean it was bad, on the contrary, it was the one that started my love for the series, but it is still the least good one. The film feels a lot like a kids or family fairy tale, and also feels like a kids movie, unlike the rest of the series. Also, the characters are underdeveloped, with the high majority being 2D, and it didn't have the dark tone of the next ones had. Nevertheless, the film is highly entertaining, with magical adventure and great sense of friendship.
5. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Fancy, 5 on number 5? Haha, okay. So this film is not like the preceeding three and subsequent one, but it was still a good one. The film is probably the darkest in the series, dealing with the aftermath of Harry's battle with Voldemort and Cedric's death, displaying a Harry full of anger and desires of revenge, a one who even questions himself of his heart nature. But, while these subjects may be interesting, I feel that David Yates failed to execute them in a fashion that all the family would like. This was a more mature film than all the previous and subsequent ones, and it was a movie more directed towards teens rather than to the whole family. And while the previous film I've mentioned felt like a fairy tale/adventure film, this felt rather like a psychological thriller or even horror film, without the scares. So probably, that's the reason of why so many disliked it. Plus, it is the movie that follows more loosly the book, though the studio made the filmmakers cut about 45 minutes of the film, making it the shortest in the series, from the longest book. I think that probably if those 45 minutes had been left, or at least 20 of them, the film would have been better.
4. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
The second film in the series to be directed by David Yates, the Half Blood Prince was a step up from the last one, but still it wasn't the best of the series. David Yates film is still pretty dark, but much lesser than the previous one, which I didn't really mind considering that the fifth book was darker than the sixth. What I really didn't like was that it had more humor than it should. I'm not asking for a stiff, melodramatic film, but one that takes itself more serious. It can have a couple ofjokes, like all of the others had, but not as much as it does. Anyway, I felt that the performances here from its three leads have improved, and also the rest of the under 18 cast did too, like Ginny or Draco Malfoy. I think also that Michael Gambon, who plays Dumbledore, gives what could be his strongest performance in the series, and considering that this is the installment that has him more involved, it is adequate. I also especially liked Helena Bohan Carter as the demented Bellatrix Lestrange. The writing improved from the last one, as it returned to the original screenwriter Steve Kloves. And in this film, the feeling of an adventure film returns.
3. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Well, probably you wouldn't place it as high as this, but I am very fond of this film. This was my favorite for a long time, until in 2008 when I rewatched all of them and decided that I liked the remaining ones better, and it is still one of my favorites. The plot of the film is basically a haunted house crossed with a detective mystery, and I liked that. The basilisk is one of the most interesting creatures (along with Buckbeak and Fluffy) in the series, and the fact that we have Voldemort's past come to life is also very cool. But the film's characters are 2D once again and lacking of depth. I also didn't like that the film still feels like a family film, which has clearly evelotuionated into something different (a haunted house film crossed with detective mystery anyone?).
2. Harry Potter and Prisoner of Azkaban
This is a common favorite, a popular opinion, that this is the best of all the series, and while I may agree, I don't think it is my favorite. Let me say, that Alfonso Cuaron is probably the best thing that ever happened to this series. His take into the films is so beautiful, so wonderfully dark and complex and so rich in surprises that this might really be the best. It features Buckbeak, the Hypogriphe, who is also one of the most interesting creatures, and the dementors are as chilling as hell. The film's increasing dark tone is what differentiates the film from its predecessors. I also felt that the performances increased here too. Gary Oldman and David Thelwis, who play Sirius Black and Remus Lupin, are wonderful in their roles, becoming each their own character, giving their depth and development. And the rest of the cast also do a great job too. Also, Cuaron's direction is top notch, with the dark tone and his view to the series being one of the great parts of the film, making the film feel like a thriller. And while this might be probably the best of the series, my favorite of course is...
1. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Precisely. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is probably the most entertaining of the series for me. It doesn't only feature one of the most exciting storylines in the series, the Triwizard Cup, but it also has the return of Lord Voldemort's plot arc, which takes in the whole movie secretly. Also, Alostor Moody, played magnificently by Brendan Gleeson, was introduced in the film, and his probably one of the coolest and oddest characters of the series. Other actors that were excellent in their roles were Ralph Fiennes as he-who-must-not-be-named, Michael Gambon as Albus Dumbledore, Maggie Smith as Professor McGonnagal, Alan Rickman as the cold Severus Snape, Predrag Bjelac as Igor Karkaroff, among others. Also, Mike Newell's direction is great too. He makes the film what it is, giving it its dark tone and its thriller or action feel. So this is the most entertaining film in the series for me, for the Triwizard Tournament and the Lord Voldemort story arcs. It is my favorite of the series, and I'm gonna stick to it unless tomorrow we get something that tops this.
So I think a resume of this films and my like of them is like this: 5 and 6 lack the emotion of the first four films, but 1 and 2 lack the maturity and darkness of the next four, making 3 and 4 the perfect films of the series! Hahaha, but yeah, that is really what I think about them.
*And, if you were wondering what are the "feels" of each of the films I said here's a recap: Sorcerer's Stone a child fairy tale/adventure film, Chamber of Secrets a haunted house flick mixed with a detective mystery, Prisoner of Azkaban a dark thriller, Goblet of Fire a dark thriller too or an action film as well, Order of the Phoenix a psychological thriller or horror movie, and Half Blood Prince an adventure film. :)

So the Harry Potter series has a special place in my heart. And while I may have grown up now and I like other mature stuff, this will always be the movie of my childhood. I write with a tear in my heart of nostalgia, as the ending of this series probably means the end of my childhood, but also there is joy and emotion to see the final conclusion and climax. But then again, there is Part II in July 2011. We'll see how my view of the series changes after tomorrow when I see the seventh film. Who knows, there might be a new number 1 in my list. Expect to hear from me tomorrow for my review of the first part of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, seventh film and first part of the finale of this epic series.


  1. Very nicely thought out blog. I must say that I strongly disagree with some of your logic esp. rating the very first film, The Sorcerer's Stone last. While I can appreciate all of your personal remarks about the directors,etc. just thinking about the risk it took to bring the first film out was incredible. It's very nice to have all this hindsight, but as in all franchises, had The Sorcerer's Stone flopped, you would not have been able to construct this premature listing. If you had seen Sorcerer's Stone initially as a teen, a completely different coloring might have resulted. This ranking is further flawed because such a ranking should not have even been constructed with two installments, already completed, still to come. It is very possible That Deathly Hallows as a unit or when viewed individually may be so outstanding as to obliterate this entire exercise. However, without the foundation of the Sorcerer's Stone, everything else is moot. Your POV is a very good one, even if the levels of analytical measurement are very inconsistently applied. Of course, I CAN'T WAIT to read your opinion of P1 of the Deathly Hallow! I may have to check out your reviews, in sequence, of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Lord Have Mercy What will you have to say about the next installment of SCREAM!?! After all the drivel we have been indoctrinated about sequels, I really do like how you defy conventional wisdom and rate Goblet of Fire so highly, but since I hated Brendan Gleeson's and his character, and hated to see Cedric die everything I've said is too subjective to be any real criticism of your system of ranking. Live long and prosper!

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  3. Nice job. I am certainly older than you, but I have thoroughly enjoyed everything Harry Potter. I have read all of the books at least twice and the first 3 three times. I have seen every film at least twice, and I am actually watching each film as the release date nears. I just have Half-blood Prince left. I am looking forward to the next film as well. So far the reviews have been on par with the other films so I am expecting a good film. Can't wait to see how things turn out. BTW, Prisoner of Azkaban is both my favorite book and movie.

  4. Great work

    I've never been a fan of the books or the films, but I do agree that the films are better than the books.
    Still, they both are very mediocre in my opinion.

    Nicely written and I prefer this layout of your blog to the previous one!

  5. @Scace, I made this list prior to the release of the Deathly Hallows with the point to say my opinion aout the series with the last film approaching, so that wasbasically a point. And I agree on what you say about Sorcerer's Stone, I can appeciate it, but comparing it to the rest of the films it is my least favorite.
    @Sparky, it is always great to see grown ups liking this series so much!
    @Jack, yeah the movies or books aren't masterpieces, but I can highly enjoy them myself. And thnxs, I like this layout better too!