Harry Potter Movies: A Rundown

So, with the last chapter of the Harry Potter franchise just around the corner (fans are already making advance reservations on IMAX while Transformers is still playing), I would like to devote this blog to a brief review of previous movies featuring the boy wizard who lived from the very first installment to its penultimate chapter.  Enjoy, Potter fans!

While I am a major Potter geek and count the books as my top literary picks for this generation, some of the movies did not quite make it up to snuff in my opinion. Some, I absolutely adored. Here’s why:

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)
Director: Chris Columbus

I could still recall how excited I was when I first heard that Hollywood was doing movie adaptations of the Harry Potter books. I was even more psyched when I first saw the lead stars (who were mostly amateur British actors) who were to play the part of Harry and the gang. They were exactly the way I pictured them. The set was amazing, as were the costumes and scoring for the movie. What I did not appreciate was the fact that most of the dialogue was lifted straight from the book, which did not work as effectively on the big screen. I’ve said this once during a previous blog, it’s different in the books because readers get an insight into the inner workings of the characters’ minds. Using the same words in the movies when actors rely on actions lessens the impact of the otherwise logical exchanges among the characters. Favorite scene: Ron’s chess match.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)
Director: Chris Columbus

Chris Columbus returns to the franchise to direct the second Potter movie which deals with mysterious events happening at Hogwarts with no clear idea of who is causing them. Ron’s sister Ginny first appears to the franchise in this installment, and the gang starts to form, other supporting characters (both protagonists and antagonists alike) are introduced. This is one of the better Potter movies because the pacing was good, as well as the script, which has been adapted more for the cinema this time around. The CGI was even better with the creation of Dobby the Elf, who looks a bit like LOTR’s Gollum (with pointier ears) but more adorable. The actors’ chemistry was also more established in this installment.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) 
Director: Alfonso Cuaron

Two years after the Chamber of Secrets, the franchise returns to Hogwarts with Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron at the helm. This Potter adventure was one of my favorites in the book, but in my opinion, was one of the worst movie adaptations in the set. The film, while making great casting choices for the role of Sirius Black (Gary Oldman), Harry’s godfather  who was wrongfully imprisoned for killing the wizard Peter Pettigrew, and the new Dumbledore (Michael Gambon), to replace Richard Harris who passed away, the movie shaved off a lot of the better parts of the book, focusing on the less important details and not quite being able to establish the relationship between Harry and Sirius as deeply as in the written work. Critics received this installment well enough though.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)
Director: Mike Newell

Prince of Persia director Mike Newell takes over from Cuaron to make this movie, one the most commercial action adventures in the Harry Potter books. Fans would well remember that before Robert Pattinson was Edward Cullen, he first starred as Cedric Diggory, the Hogwarts champion in the Triwizard Games. This was for me, one of the books that managed to bring to life the excitement of the  book and relate to young audiences as well as the older ones and gave the fans the first glimpse into the Ron-Hermione love story.  The setting for this movie was grandiose, yet dark and exciting and I loved every minute of  it.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007) 
Director: David Yates

Before directing his first Potter movie,  David Yates was a relatively low profile director working on small to medium budgeted films but his first outing into the blockbuster franchise gave him an avenue to explore the interpretation of the book into film. This installment features Harry and his extended gang revolting against the Ministry’s attempts to control Hogwarts in the wake of Voldemort’s resurfacing at the Triwizard Games, and their efforts to unravel the mystery behind Harry’s dreams that appear linked to He-Wh-Must-Not-Be-Named. The movie is one of the more average outings in the set for me, but in its own right, it was a good movie.

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (2009) 

Director: David Yates

It took another two years before the next sequel was released. This time, the movie was decidedly darker, and more mature.  Harry embarks on a quest with Voldemort to destroy the horcruxes which carry part of Voldemort’s soul in order to defeat him entirely. The book wasn’t one of my favorites as it was generally depressing and the twist at the end fairly predictable. However, I think this installment was one of the strongest in the franchise as it managed to add something new to the book. It was brave enough to explore the possibilities beyond the words. Purists have bashed the movie from deviating from the literature, but in my opinion, the deviations provided more of an enhancement amid the depressing premise of the book, injecting it with some suspense and emotional impact before the predictable reveal.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (2010) 
Director: David Yates

The franchise more than had enough time to establish the positions of the characters in the series, and the actors are getting better and better with each installment. Supposedly the final chapter in the Harry Potter saga, the producers decided to break the last book into two volumes due to the lengthy premise of the literature. Actually, the first part of the book was a tad slow and quiet, but Yates yet again managed to make it interesting by focusing on the inner turmoil affecting even the lead characters, who find themselves way over their heads and lacking direction in waging a war against the Dark Lord and his Death Eaters. Friendships are tested and sacrifices are made in order to fight evil in this riveting and touching penultimate episode in the colorful and engaging saga.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (2011) 
Director: David Yates

The final chapter of the Harry Potter saga was expected to deliver on the action packed book finale but sadly, while visually, it was a masterpiece, it did not quite achieve the same epic level as other movies adapted from literature, most particularly the most successful Lord of the Rings. The story stayed true to the written work, enough to please hard core fans but was too careful in eliminating an integral part to the story which details the early life of Dumbledore and his choices’ impact on the final showdown against Voldemort. The reveal on Snape’s actual role in the war was a defining moment in the film but there were a lot of lulls and reflections in the movie that should have focused more on the characters’ struggle against the powerful forces of evil. The movie was good enough but not great as people would expect from the end of such a well known franchise. Check out full review here.