I’ll Keep On Smiling From The Times I Had With Them – Part 5 of 5

*This contains spoilers, and is also, really, really long*

Alright, it’s here.  It’s finally happened.  And it’s over.  *sigh*  And it was … interesting.

I wanted to write this review at 3 am this morning when I burst into my house after attending a sold out, nerd-filled showing at my local favorite theater.  But I needed time to marinate.  I feel as though I need to see it a second time to fully appreciate and understand, but I like to keep things timely, if I can.

The Harry Potter series (in case you haven’t figured out if you’ve glanced through this blog) is one of my favorite things, pretty much ever.  I got into the game late (2009), even though my lil’ sis (Prof. X) was a devout believer from the start.  And now that it’s over, I feel empty.  As if there will never be anything else like this, something that captures your mind, heart, and soul so entirely,  you truly cannot fathom how you existed before you knew about this world and these people.  So um, yeah … it means a lot to me.

Coming in, I had high expectations.  Part 1 was very faithful and websites like Rotten Tomatoes had nothing but awesome buzz and tons of snippets of early, excellent reviews.  At the age of 30, one would think I’d eventually learn not to get too amped up, but I guess I’m still a 3-year-old at heart.

The film picks up right where the first left off, and then jumps right on in.  The pace is brisk, and it’s all very action/emotion-packed, but that petulant 3-year old in me is bothered by the changes that were made and things that were glossed over.  Many, many things are omitted:

  • Any explanation of why the Hufflepuff cup or Ravenclaw diadem were chosen as horcruxes, and how they came to be such objects, let alone how the kids figured out how they were going to find them, is just eliminiated.  Harry literally says something to the effect of “I have a feeling the cup is in the Lestrange’s vault, let’s go.”  No, it would not have been prudent to try to explain 100% how those things came to be, but it just felt so rushed, that the horcruxes ended up seeming quite easy to destroy, which is certainly not the case on the page.
  •  There’s no Dumbledore back story here, which breaks my heart because I thought it was so sordid and tragic, and as always it makes you understand why the character is who he is, the choices he makes.  Why mention that Dumbledore has a shady past in Part 1 if you never bring it up again?
  • Certain deaths that take place, while not explained in great detail in the book either, are literally relegated to Harry glancing over at their dead body; if I was a casual movie-goer, I’d have no goddamn clue who any of the dead were, or why I was supposed to be sad.
  • Harry never uses the Elder Wand to repair his own, he simply snaps it in half and dumps it over a cliff.  (!)
  • When he finally kills Voldy, once and for all, it’s only the two of them, no one else witnesses, and it’s like, never mentioned again.
  • The Epilogue is clunky (although to be fair, ’tis the same in the book, so I shouldn’t be bothered).
  • Harry never asks Neville to kill Nagini, he keeps bugging Hermione and Ron to do it, and they keep failing.
  • Harry never explained Snape’s true allegiance to Voldy, they just fight and blast themselves all over the castle, and the awesome scene in the trailer, where he says “because I have something to live for” is nowhere to be seen.
  • They don’t let Ron call Draco a “bastard.”  Can’t you say “bastard” in a PG-13?
  • When certain characters died, they exploded into confetti….when, in the entire saga, has this ever happened?
  • I also had problems with Voldemort himself … he honestly at this point has become a bit silly.  Many in my screening laughed when he was on-screen.  He even awkwardly “hugged” Draco.  Yes, you read that right.

Despite the tone of this post, I don’t want to vilify the film too greatly; in defense of screenwriter Steve Kloves, there probably wasn’t much way to get exposition like the story of Helga Hufflepuff’s cup in without making three movies.  The film did get some things right, one in particular, spectacularly, and I’m ready to go full bipolar and change to the happiness gear:

  • Some of the characters are finally allowed to get the screen time they’ve always deserved.  McGonagall (the marvelous Maggie Smith), who is kind of badass throughout the series, finally gets her awesome scenes on-screen, and we get to watch her duel with Snape, and cast the spell for Hogwarts to start protecting itself.  These were some of my favorite parts of the book, and while they’re a bit truncated here, they were still included, and for that I’m thankful.
  • Neville (Clive Owen-minus-fifteen-years lookalike Matthew Lewis) gets to shine as the badass that he is, fulfilling his pivotal role of chopping the shit out of Nagini.
  • And finally, Snape.  I was TERRIFIED that they’d ruin his death scene and memories, two of the most heart-wrenching, touching, and pivotal moments in the entire saga. Shockingly, most of the Prince’s Tale is included here, and it’s done marvelously.  All the credit goes to the ridiculously talented and plain EXCELLENT Alan Rickman, who hits it out of the park, conveying the pain, tragedy, unrequited love, regret, bravery, and sacrifice that his character embodies.  The death scene was sudden, shocking and violent, even though I knew it was coming.  It’s fair to say a pin drop could be heard during this stretch of the movie; almost 24 hours later, I’m still slightly stunned that the filmmakers managed to get this part so RIGHT.

The Snape-amazement kind of nulls and voids my disenchantment with the rest of the film, and I’m hoping that with another viewing, I might pick up a few more snippets that I missed the first time around, or I’ll just be in a less psyched up frame of mind, ready to see things a little differently.  Overall, I was simultaneously disappointed, and greatly entertained.  I was hoping that with two films and almost 5 hours, nothing would have been missed. However, The Deathly Hallows is an enormous, insanely complex tale, that wove together thousands of pages of plot details and character bits from ten years of story-telling; we as viewers should not expect it all to fit.  Given that it seemed to be a lackluster adaptation, but overall enjoyable film to just sit back and watch, I can’t put it at #1 in my personal ranking.  After some soul-searching, I decided it fits below Part 1.  As time goes on, this may change, but currently, this is the final ranking, and it’s with a heavy heart and choke in the back of my throat that I use the word “final.”  I know we’re all luckier for something of this magnitude to be in our lives.     

  1. Prisoner of Azkaban – the best :)
  2. Deathly Hallows, pt. 1
  3. Deathly Hallows, pt. 2
  4. Goblet of Fire
  5. Chamber of Secrets
  6. Half-Blood Prince
  7. Sorcerer’s Stone
  8. Order of the Phoenix – the worst :(

~Annie

The rest:  The Trailer Test, Part 4, Part 3, Part 2.5, Part 2, Part 1

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You Put A Spell On Me, I Don’t Know What To Do – Part 4 of 5

And so begins the last week before a Harry Potter movie is released, ever.  I feel comfortable commencing absolute excitement, obsession, and all-consuming sadness.  To honor the emotional roller-coaster and epic cultural event, all of my posts this week are going to revolve around the boy who lived (why yes, I get made fun of constantly).

Part 4: Ahh, Just Right                                                                                                           Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1

Deathly Hallows isn’t my favorite book, but it’s damn close.  Every storyline, every character, every moment, serves a purpose.  Loose ends are tied up in knots, there’s heart, deaths, tears, enough action to please even Michael Bay … I can’t imagine any series ever being wrapped up so perfectly.

Many people have expressed anger or annoyance that the book was split into two films; I for one cannot understand how anyone who has actually read the thing would feel that way.  If one film had been made, David Heyman (producer) has said himself they’d have to leave out things like Snape’s memories.  You know, the chapter that explained the crux of the ENTIRE STORY.  So leaving out explanation like that I find to be completely unacceptable.  Was Warner Bros. pumped up to make even more money?  Undoubtedly.  However, a creative and integral choice was made when they decided to go with two; it allowed them to be more faithful, explain more things, and do justice to the finale.  How is that bad, in any way?  Who possibly loses in that scenario??  Definitely not me, who gets to see an extra film.  The 5th and 6th installments left out so many plot points, to try to tie the end of the story up, and explain things, even in a “for dummies” way, REQUIRES two parts.  It could have been done, but would have been a travesty and greatly dishonored one of the most cherished, and magnificent, stories of all time.

The film looks crisp and beautiful; here, finally, David Yates’ vision finds a harmony between that level of darkness that’s only visible in a theater, and the light of being out in the real world, not solely in a gloomy castle.  I’m usually averse to wasting screen time adding bits that never would have happened on paper (the Burrow burning down in HBP, I’m talking to you) but the extras here were welcome, even pleasant.  The much-maligned “dance scene” between Harry and Hermione that totally never happened worked on-screen – it was a break from the all the heavy drama that was going down, and provided a nice showcase to see these lifelong friends actually act like it.

Honestly, one of my only complaints with this film is why they failed to explain the trace put on Voldemort’s name – in several scenes, it’s used and Death Eaters promptly arrive, with no explanation.  Although, it might get mentioned in the second part, which means I can’t file a formal complaint yet … so I guess I have no complaints.  The kids acting has never been better, there are dozens of emotional punches packed, everything looks FANTASTIC, and even clocking in at 2 hrs and 26 minutes, this puppy is BRISK.  It moves along, and you don’t want it to end.  They got everything of chief importance in there, which is truly saying something, given how little filler there is.

Deathly Hallows, Pt. 1 is a terrific adaptation of about 2/3 of the book, and as a movie, is exciting, sad, and engrossing.  Does it serve to set the stage for part 2?  OBVIOUSLY ( ;)), but what so many fail to realize, is that part 2 means nothing without the groundwork of that stage.

Current rank (verrrry curious to see how I’m going to feel Friday morning!):

  1. Prisoner of Azkaban – the best :)
  2. Deathly Hallows, pt. 1
  3. Goblet of Fire
  4. Chamber of Secrets
  5. Half-Blood Prince
  6. Sorcerer’s Stone
  7. Order of the Phoenix – the worst :(

~Annie

The rest of the series:  The Trailer Test, Part 5, Part 3, Part 2.5, Part 2, Part 1

Wait Until I Come I’ll Take Your Soul – Part 3 of 5

Is the title of this post a tad dramatic?  Maybe, but in all honestly, the 5th and 6th films (two of the most important, foreboding, and enormous of the books) in the Harry Potter series were total failures on many levels, and I need to get it off my chest.  These films are like knives in my gut.

Part 3:  The Blasphemous                                                                                                                                                                  Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix & Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Both of these books begin to unveil the labyrinthine truths behind everything that has ever happened in the series, and guess what?  Said truths focus on the adult characters, their pasts, their sins, and Harry begins to discover and learn facts that change him forever. This is one of my major problems with the films once David Yates took over as director – the adult characters were relegated to the background, and their storylines trimmed to, in some cases, nothingness.  For instance, Snape’s fairly prominent role in Order was somehow turned into about 4 minutes of screen time, McGonagall is almost entirely omitted, and everybody remembers what happened to her in the same book.  I’m WELL AWARE that everything on the page cannot be transferred to the screen, but since Order, it has felt like the filmmakers purposely tried to diminish these vital aspects of the story, because they just wanted to focus on the main trio, apealling to the masses of youngsters who love the franchise.

Some of my many problems with the fifth film are that it’s boring as shit, terribly paced, and overall, the story is just hacked to pieces with an ax.  SO many events of importance are omitted to the point where it’s just like, why the fuck did you even bother to make this movie?  There were ONLY two good things featured in this installment:  Umbridge (Imelda Staunton nailed the uptight, prissy terrorist), and the final, surprisingly awesome battle scene between Voldy and Dumbledore.  Someone named Michael Goldberg wrote this screenplay (this is the only film without Kloves penning the script) and this may be the most unfortunate thing to happen to the franchise.  He’s the first person who trimmed so much fat (that turned out to be lean meat), I honestly don’t know how Rowling didn’t go after this guy with weapons of mass destruction (I know, I know:  Her hands are tied when it comes to the films, and she continues to state that she loves each one).  I wondered what else Michael Goldberg had ever written and guess what I found?  He’s one of the co-writers of the current Green Lantern film, which I have not seen, but is getting decimated by critics, and the poor writing is one of the main complaints.  So, cheers to you Michael Goldberg.

In my opinion, Half Blood Prince was much gloomier than Order – shit gets BAD.   And there’s lots of meaty information divulged.  But here, inexplicably, Kloves/Yates and company have decided to make this a PG rom-com. The book’s side plot of Lavendar hearts Ron has been brought to the fore-front, and the kids hormones and teeny-bopper love issues (which were nothing of great importance in the book) are the main plot.  !   What.  In the.  FUCK.  Were they thinking?  Honesty, how can they live with themselves?  When Lavendar Brown has more screen time than Snape ( I apologize that my irrational Snape love colors all my posts, but he’s the most complex, interesting character in the books and if you can’t agree with that, go fly a kite – in a lightning storm) something’s definitely rotten in Denmark.  The filmmakers have said that this is the darkest film, blah blah blah, you know what’s dark?  The color scheme.  Everything is so grey/blue/cyan-ified, unless my house is pitch-fucking-black, I can hardly see what’s happening on the screen.  I give them credit for trying to make the thing look unique, but when I saw the 6th film in theaters (at this point still not having read a single page of any book), I remember being really angry that Dumbledore’s death was less poignant and intense than Cedric Diggory’s.  That hurts, on a cellular level.

I’m sad the prophecy was never properly explained.  I’m sad Dumbledore got the shaft; there was no funeral to honor this beloved character.  I’m pissed Snape’s memory of getting terrorized by the marauders was chopped up into little pieces like it was at the mercy of Jigsaw.  I’m sad they dropped a grenade on the Tom Riddle memories – which has done a massive disservice to the entire franchise by relegating Voldemort (who in the books is a much more Hitler-like, complex bad guy) to the one note “evil for no reason except he’s fucking evil” villain.   Hmmmppff.

All I can say is, Half-Blood Prince is paced better, and if you don’t worry about the book, it’s a decent film.  That’s why it’s a few spots higher in my personal ranking. Phoenix however, (minus Umbridge and that final action-packed ministry scene) sucks as a film, and is an abortion of an adaptation.  I wonder if Goldberg had never written that film and planted the seed into the heads of the suits that you can cut most of the book out and still make tons of money, would the following two films have contained more meat of the story?  Did the suits tell Kloves (who wrote faithful, decent adaptations before his one-film break) post-Goldberg – “cut this shit down?”???!  I found this awesome little nugget on the interwebz, and you can see that films 1, 2, and 5 have a GINORMOUS disconnect between length of film vs. length of book.  Oh wow, the ones who match up approximately are decent films (6 is not a bad movie, it’s a bad ADAPTATION), and 5 is both the longest book AND shortest movie.  That is fucking warped and ass-backwards.  I’ll never be able to get over this.  Ever.

Current rank:

  1. Prisoner of Azkaban – the best :)
  2. TBA – although you can figure it out by now 😉
  3. Goblet of Fire
  4. Chamber of Secrets
  5. Half-Blood Prince
  6. Sorcerer’s Stone
  7. Order of the Phoenix – the worst :(

~Annie

The rest of the series:  The Trailer Test, Part 5, Part 4, Part 2.5, Part 2, Part 1

You Take The Breath Right Out Of Me

As promised, today’s post is dedicated to Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, which, along with HP and The Order of The Phoenix, is tied for my favorite of the Harry Potter series (books ONLY- I have yet to see any of the movies).

Deathly Hallows, for me, was so very long-anticipated that I feared it wouldn’t, that it couldn’t possibly live up to my absurdly high hopes for it.  But it shattered all expectations I had and far exceeded them.  Unlike the books that preceded it, no pages were wasted re-capping what had previously taken place.  It was nonstop action- intense, suspense-riddled action.  There were times I became so enthralled, I had to make a conscious effort to keep my eyes from darting ahead on the page.  Harry and Hermione in Bathilda Bagshot’s house, during which Nagini (Voldemort’s huge, deadly snake) erupts from the old lady’s corpse, Hermione being tortured by Bellatrix in the Malfoy’s living room, Harry, Ron & Hermione robbing the Malfoy’s vault in Gringotts and escaping by riding a DRAGON- it was almost more than I could handle.

Though I love the story itself, and the gripping way its many subplots are interwoven throughout, what impressed me the most was the impeccable character development.  This, in my opinion, is Rowling’s greatest talent.  The culmination of the slow, natural development of so many of the characters in this final book absolutely blew me away.  We always knew Hermione was smart -she studied constantly and aced all her tests- but that hex she instantly threw at Harry when they’d been discovered by some Death Eaters to make his face swell as though he’d had a bad allergic reaction, effectively disguising him against their enemies, was pure genius.  And Neville, the boy who could have been The Boy Who Lived, who gradually grew confident in his inferior abilities as a wizard, ended up vital to Voldemort’s defeat when he courageously slayed Nagini.  Professor McGonagall’s unwavering loyalty to Harry and Draco’s blatant cowardice, which we’d seen coming since the very beginning, it all came together with perfect timing.

If I had one complaint, it would be simply that Snape deserved a much more dignified end.  To be bitten by Voldemort’s snake and left to die alone is a sad, quiet death not befitting to the strong, bold character of Severus Snape.  I remember reading the end of the 6th book, HP and the Half-Blood Prince, when Harry chases after Snape upon Dumbledore’s death, eager for a fight, for vengeance.  And Snape brushes off Harry’s curses with the flick of his wand, making Harry’s best efforts look like mere child’s play.  I thought then that Snape would be a deadly enemy, or a powerful ally, however the chips might fall.  Reading his final scene felt so anti-climactic to me after all I’d come to expect of him.

I won’t comment on the epilogue other than to say that for me, it felt unnecessary.  I choose to ignore it and pretend the book ends with Harry, Hermione and Ron in the Headmaster’s office.  I need nothing else from this beloved story.

~Nikki

There Ain’t No Road Too Long When You Meet In The Middle – Part 2.5 of 5

Part 2.5:  The Happy Mediums                                                                                                  Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

The 4th Harry Potter film finds itself in the comfy position of #3 on my personal favorites list, and also the second of the “Happy Mediums” – the films that found a groove between being completely fair and reasonable adaptations of the marvelous source material, and at the same time, good, entertaining movies that can stand on their own, if need be.

Mike Newell (Donnie Brasco, Prince of Persia, Four Weddings and a Funeral) took over the directing reins for the fourth film, and seems to exist in a middle ground between Columbus and Cuaron.  He was able to showcase the growth of the characters and give the film its own look and feel, but reign in some of that unique director vision, allowing the Harry Potter world to just be what it is.

Goblet is a massive book (approximately 700 pages, depending on the edition), and a favorite of many.  It’s the last hurrah, in a way, before the series take a dark, much more adult turn, and the film captures this all perfectly.  It’s fun and adventurous, adding new characters, ideas, and places to the awesome world, all before the dire, tragic end that leaves readers/viewers knowing things will never be the same.

Steve Kloves penned the script for the fourth time, and it had to present the biggest challenge, up to that point.  The book is stuffed with action, characters, and details, which don’t feel like too much while reading – on the contrary, it’s like you can’t get enough.  Obviously, there’s no way in hell that’s all fitting into 2 1/2 hours on-screen, so there are many, many things left out or changed (Winky and Dobby’s stories – gone, the Barty Crouch details – changed, some omitted).  However, they kept in enough things of importance that will matter later (the lesson about the Unforgivable Curses, the wizard council scene through Dumbledore’s Pensieve), and miraculously, Kloves managed to weave a majorly enjoyable film that still does the book justice.  Had I been a fiend back then, seeing this film would have given me hope that the future, humongous books would all be given same treatment (I would have been wrong, but more on that in the weeks to come).

This film is great because it hits on every emotion.  The effects are light years better than the prior films.  The kids continue to grow into their roles, and do better here than ever before.  Robert Pattinson is the perfect Cedric Diggory.  His death scene is intense and extremely moving – as it should be.  Brendon Gleeson is a rockin’ Mad-Eye Moody.  The graveyard battle between Harry and Voldy is scary, awesome, disturbing, and makes me cry, every time.

In all honesty, I wish Newell had continued to direct the rest of the films.  I think he captured the magic and adventure, action sequences, along with the darker, ominous parts of the story, superbly.  His style, along with the balance found by Kloves’ script, cements this film as my third favorite.

Current rank:

  1. Prisoner of Azkaban – the best :)
  2. TBA
  3. Goblet of Fire
  4. Chamber of Secrets
  5. TBA
  6. Sorcerer’s Stone
  7. TBA – the worst :(

~Annie

The rest of the series:  The Trailer Test, Part 5, Part 4, Part 3, Part 2, Part 1

There Ain’t No Road Too Long When You Meet In The Middle – Part 2.0 of 5

It’s time for Part 2 of my Harry Potter series, and this post focuses on my favorite film, the one that captivated me, hook, line, and sinker.  (Originally, I was going to discuss both the third and fourth films, but I love them each so desperately, I cannot control my yammering on, so Goblet of Fire will be discussed in Part 2.5 :))

Part 2.0:  The Happy Mediums                                                                                                  Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

I’ll never forget seeing Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban the night it came out, with a sold-out crowd that included a large group of friends who were all huge fans.  I, however, hadn’t read a page, and had only casually watched the first two with my family.  I believed they were a little kid’s fantasy series, nothing to get worked up about.  But then, something magical happened (pun intended):  A story began to unravel that was amazing, twisted, had a time-travel element, and more interesting characters than I had seen in so long, I couldn’t help but become intrigued by this world of Dementors and a faraway prison called Azkaban.  I wanted to know so much more.

This was the first film not helmed by Chris Columbus, but Alfonso Cuarón (Y tu mamá también, Great Expectations, A Little Princess), who is credited with rejuvenating the franchise by giving the film an edgier look and feel.  There’s a distinct Halloween vibe to this film.  It’s much darker than the first two, and much more engrossing.  Cuarón’s mark is noticeable from the first instant, when the film opens on Harry using his wand as a light to read under the covers.  Not that wild of a scene, but a little add-on like that would never have worked in the first couple of films.

One of the aspects of the Harry Potter saga that I adore is the back story of the adults in Harry’s life, and this is the first book/film that gives you a taste of their histories – that there’s much more going on than any of us know.  I found this hint of the past irresistible and fascinating beyond belief.  I said to my sister (an ardent fan) as we left the theater that summer night, “I want to know more about the grown-ups.”  Gary Oldman is terrifying and heartbreaking as the misunderstood Black.  David Thewlis embodies to a T the tormented, weary, yet kind, Lupin.  The delightful Emma Thompson is especially screwy as Professory Trelawney, and Alan Rickman, as always, brings the elegant villainy as Snape.  Michael Gambon is introduced here as the new Dumbledore, to replace Richard Harris, who had passed away between films.  Everyone has their opinions, and there are arguments for and against, but I much refer Gambon’s take on the head of Hogwarts.  He fills the character with that zany eccentricity he possesses in the books.  Terribly kind, yet terribly kooky.  In later films, he also proves that he can do bad-ass wizard as well, which I don’t believe Harris would have been capable of.

This film packs a massive emotional punch, as Harry discovers strengths he didn’t know he had, and learns more about his father and how the past plays a part in his life.  When Harry bellows the Patronus charm over the lake, effectively defeating the Dementors, never before had these films moved me so.  All that is represented in that scene , and the beautiful, haunting way it is portrayed, has cemented it as an all-time favorite moment, and one of the reasons Azkaban is my favorite film.

Azkaban also marks the third and final time John Williams scored a Harry Potter film, and this is surely the best of the three.  Sure, “Hedwig’s Theme” is the iconic song that everyone knows signals the coming of Harry Potter, but “Buckbeak’s Flight” and “A Window to the Past” are outstanding, chill-inducing tracks.

While my top 3 are slightly interchangeable, if I had a gun to my head, and could only have one HP film to watch for the rest of my life, Prisoner of Azkaban would have to be it.  It’s a damn fine movie on its own terms, book or not, and a reasonably faithful adaptation.  Not as by the numbers as the first two, but it gets all major plot points right and the filmmakers still cared enough to include plenty of small things that either come into play later, or just plain MATTER.  It’s amazing what compromise can foster, isn’t it?

Current rank:

  1. Prisoner of Azkaban – the best :)
  2. TBA
  3. TBA
  4. Chamber of Secrets
  5. TBA
  6. Sorcerer’s Stone
  7. TBA – the worst :(

~Annie

The rest of the series: The Trailer Test, Part 5, Part 4, Part 3, Part 2.5, Part 1

I Will Be Faithful – Part 1 of 5

Anyone who knows me, knows that I desperately adore the Harry Potter series.  Since the 8th and final film is coming out in just a few weeks (*bawls*), I wanted to do something to commemorate its release.

And so begins my five-part series on the films vs. books, which ones I felt worked and which didn’t, culminating on July 15th with my (hopefully) super-wonderful, amazed, over-the-moon, expectations met AND exceeded, review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, pt. 2.

Part 1:  The Faithful                                                                                                                        Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone & Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

The first two films in the Harry Potter franchise are tremendously similar.  Same director (Chris Columbus), same screenwriter (Steve Kloves – who’s written all but one), same Dumbledore (the late Richard Harris).  These two are mediocre movies at best; enjoyable enough, but I find myself only watching them for nostalgia’s sake.  The kids are adorable, McGonagall and Hagrid look young!, you get to see Alan Rickman’s bare leg, Kenneth Branagh hamming it up.  They’re funny, heartwarming, and just plain cuddly.  Then again, so are the first two books, which these films are extremely faithful to.  Book loyalty has caused me serious issues with some later films, but here they went a little too close for comfort.  Or did they?  You could argue that setting up the entire franchise (which, from the start, no one involved  had any clue if the films would be successful or if they’d even get the chance to make more than one), the filmmakers needed to stay as close to the source material as possible, if only to create a solid foundation of the world, characters, locations, costumes, the now-iconic music, hell, even the famous font – it was all established here.

Many have derided Columbus (the Home Alone movies, Goonies, the Gremlins movies, countless other things that are awesome), saying that these are the worst films of the series, but I can’t agree with that sentiment.  They are good, for what they are, which is an introduction to a new, original, and magical world.  I really think Columbus’s contribution is the most important of anyone’s, besides Rowling herself.  He helped create all that we see on screen, and I think he wrongfully gets more hate than credit.

The sets and costumes look great, and nobody can argue that Hogwarts is flipping amazing.  How can you not get chills when the students float up to the castle in the middle of the night, all blue and black splendor?  Some of the special effects however, haven’t held up, but that’s not the fault of the filmmakers, just the fact that CGI never looks as good as it did ten years ago.  The troll, some of the ghosts, the quidditch scenes (ugh), Ron and Harry in the flying car, to name a few, look terrible.

As far as performances go, the kids are all inexperienced, which is fine, but it really shows in these two films, where they’re at their brand spanking newest.  Their acting sometimes hits elementary school production-level bad, and it’s certainly distracting.  The adults, as always, are fan-f***ing-tastic, and while they have more to do here than in the later films (one of the more heartbreaking facts about the big-screen treatment), it’s more fun than serious.

While HP is technically a young adult series, with the latter half being more “adult” and the earlier half being more “young”, Sorcerer and Chamber are really kids’ movies, and the plots aren’t especially twisted or complex.  That’s another reason they’re not at the top of my list, the stakes haven’t gotten high yet – we’re still being introduced to the game and its players.

All in all, in my own personal ranking, where 1 is the best and 7 depresses the shit out of me, I’d put Sorcerer’s Stone in 6th place and Chamber in 4th. These films are not godawful by any means, but the only reasons I find enjoyment in them are purely sentimental ones.

Current rank:

  1. TBA – the best 🙂
  2. TBA
  3. TBA
  4. Chamber of Secrets
  5. TBA
  6. Sorcerer’s Stone
  7. TBA – the worst 😦

~Annie

The rest of the series: The Trailer Test, Part 5, Part 4, Part 3, Part 2.5, Part 2,