Potter-palooza: Harry Potter franchise movie reviews
I am totally stoked for the release of the fifth Harry Potter movie this weekend. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix has the potential to be the best one yet, and that’s saying something since these movies have consistently gotten better and better.
In preparation, my wife and I had what I dubbed “Potter-palooza” this week. We watched a marathon of all the movies that have been released up until now. Did I still enjoy them? Do they hold up? Let’s find out…
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – Wow, this movie was released in 2001 — six years ago. It’s unbelievable how young the kids look in this compared to Goblet of Fire. They were so adorable (well, they still are). Watching it this week, it’s easy to remember why I loved this movie (and the book) so much in 2001. The whole beginning where Harry is mistreated by the Dursleys and Hagrid comes to take him to Hogwarts had me crying like that 12-year old Sanjaya fan on American Idol. It’s such an underdog story and I forgot how irritating Hermione is in the beginning of this movie (but she ceases to be by the mid-point). Many of the other characters are very well defined too; the Weasley twins, Fred and George, coach of the Quidditch team Oliver Wood, Snape. It’s just such a good movie with good characters that are all based on an unbelievably rich universe. Amazing. Also, the special effects are jaw dropping, still. The Quidditch match, now six years later, still doesn’t look outdated. Bravo to ILM for getting it done. All in all a great movie and a wonderful starting point for the franchise. It followed the book very well, even though some say too well. Whatever. If a movie differs from the book people bitch. If a movie is too much like the book, people bitch. WTF?! You can’t win for losing. I loved this movie and all the actors in it. They became how I see the characters in my head when I read the book. That is the ultimate test for me and this passes with flying colors.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – In the second movie, you can noticeably tell the kids are older. This is a good thing. It helps the viewer feel they are growing up with these characters (which is part of the appeal of the books). It’s also easy to see why this movie is the one most forgotten. It drags — slightly — in the middle. You get a lot of information here, too. Much of this information is called back in Books 5 and 6. Once again, as in the first movie, the movie makers stay true to the gist of the book and give you most of the information you need while only cutting out the unnecessary side stories. This is more apparent in the next two movies, but you have to make cuts somewhere otherwise these movies would be 4 hours long. So, while this is probably my least favorite of the current four, this is still a strong entry in the series. Also, is it just me, or does Godric Gryffindor’s sword in this movie look a little gay? Silver with rubies? It even LOOKS like a toy. Thin and plastic like. Always drove me crazy.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – This is a significant entry into the franchise for a few reasons. It’s the first without director Chris Columbus. It was based on (until recently) my favorite book in the series. Michael Gambon takes over the role of Dumbledore after the death of Richard Harris. And you see another jump forward in the physical age of the actors (again, not in a bad way). I saw this movie twice the year it came out, 2004. The other night was the first time I’d seen it in 3 years…and it was actually better this time than the first two times I saw it. The whole atmosphere and “look-and-feel” of Hogwarts is different. It’s darker and more “lived in”. The storyline is darker, and the addition of Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) and Remus Lupin (David Thewlis) to the cast makes it all the better. This is just a wonderful story and is probably tied as my favorite with Goblet of Fire…well, okay, I’ll make a command decision, it’s my favorite in the series. Goblet of Fire is an extremely close second. Watching the danger get amped up in this movie was a great call. A lot of book material had to be trimmed but it doesn’t really show in the movie as they get across all the important information that will be needed in the next adventure.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – When this movie was released, 2005, the book Order of the Phoenix had just been released. Goblet of Fire was my favorite book at this point, so I was looking forward to this movie greatly. Your feelings about this movie will hinge entirely on how much you compare it to the book. If they had stuck to the book, this would have been split into 2 movies, there’s that much material. And they cut A LOT out. Not only did they cut out material, they also changed a few plot points having to do with Harry and the Triwizard Tournament. The first time I saw it I had problems reconciling the book and the movie. I was a little disappointed at how much was cut out and changed. However, years later, I’m able to forgive the movie’s transgressions and just enjoy the movie on its own merits. It’s really good. Lots of action, great characters, wonderful effects. It really earned its second place spot, almost overtaking Prisoner of Azkaban. The idea of other magical schools in other countries was brilliant. And the competition between them was also awesome. One of the best parts of this movie is the final scene where we get to see the reincarnated Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) face off with Harry. I’m really pleased with this entry…and the new director. Really, really good movie. I cried more in the last two movies than I did in the first two movies combined. My only beef with this movie now? Only one scene with Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) and you don’t really even see him. However, he should figure prominently in the next movie.
Well, Potter-palooza has been a big hit so far (by big hit, I mean I stayed up late watching these almost 3 hour movies while my wife rolls her eyes and falls asleep early). I’m really glad I did this. I’m so F’N stoked for Order of the Phoenix that I’m about to just start giggling maniacally and wetting myself until Saturday afternoon. I’m dying over here. And if you haven’t, check out the above four movies for some really good entertainment.
Stay tuned…Potter-palooza continues next week with reviews of the newest movie, Order of the Phoenix and the first 6 books in the Harry Potter series.