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Harry Potter and the…

Sorcerer’s Stone – It’s just awful.  The Potter franchise gets off to a dubious beginning.  A boring, drawn out, dorky kids film with some terrible special effects, bad performances from the kids and some slavish adhereing to every drop of Rowling’s text, and certain things were still confusing.  After loads of fuss and anticipation this movie lead me to believe that Harry Potter fans were a pack of dopes excited about zip and zilch.





Chamber of Secrets – I was so thoroughly unimpressed by Stone that I didn’t even see this in the theater, and to this day I’ve seen it only once, so my recollections of it are kind of vague.  A sense of danger is actually there, giant spiders and a big, freaky snake dragon thingy at the end, but overall most of the same problems from Stone carry over.  It’s an ungodly overlong 160 minutes, the longest in the series.  The producers determination to fit in every little thing Rowling wrote down makes for another Potter adventure full of crap Potter fans want to see on screen, but contribute nothing to the narrative of the movie.  I think I’m done with Harry Potter.




Prisoner Of Azkaban – Hold the fort.  The worm turns.  Everything is better here and for the first time Potter feels like a franchise worth following.  Director/Hack Chris Columbus mercifully steps aside and Spanish auteur Alfonso Curon, a shocker choice, takes the reigns and turns the Potter world on it’s head.  The sunny, overlit skies become cloudy and ominous and for the first time Hogwarts actually feels and looks English.  The kids also begin to gel with their parts, turning in semi-mature work, no longer being cutesy or belabored.  Richard Harris died and took his benign, granddad Dumbledore vibe with him.  Replacement Michael Gambon takes over the role and brings mischievousness to the part.  David Thewlis and Gary Oldman also come on board to liven things up.  Thewlis instills a lot of hard life and tragedy into werewolf cursed Lupin while Oldman goes all haggard and crazy as Potter godfather Sirius Black.  Most important of all, Curon hacks away at the text, turning in one of the shortest Potter efforts, 141 minutes, and in turn actually achieves narrative tension.  Hooray for tension!


Goblet of Fire – Things go wrong again but not horribly so.  Sadly, Curon doesn’t return and another surprise director of a different sort steps in, Mike Newell, an okay helmer with a resume peppered with solid if down to Earth works (Donnie Brasco).  Once again things are overlong, back to over 2 1/2 hours, and a real sensation of wheel spinning hangs over most of the effort.  Newell can’t make this Potter novel feel like anything more than a series of set pieces meant to kill time.  Brendon Gleeson’s Madeye is a fun creation but the plot is transparent.  The movie doesn’t spark to life until the very end when Ralph Fiennes makes his grand enterance as the noseless one and kills the pasty creep from Twilight.  All in all it feels like the Star Trek III of the Potter films.  Something which works in pieces but fails as a whole.



Order of the Phoenix – So here’s the Star Trek II of Harry Potter films.  New director David Yates gets Potter firing on all thrusters, getting some of the best performances out of the cast, utilizing fantastic effects and generally building up a solid sense of dread which culminates in a showstopping, heart tugging climax.  Once again a sprawling novel is pared down to its most basic, streamlined points and is all the better for it.  Fans may miss many pieces of Rowling’s magical, monolithic text but the movies are flirting with being something genuinely special, not just popular, at this point.




Half-Blood Prince – Yates hangs onto the job of director for the most serene of Potter movies.  There’s very little action but the point seems to be to enjoy quiet time with the characters before everything goes to Hell.  It’s probably too prosaic by half but it’s a likable if tension free experience.  It’s probably the nicest looking Potter film to date.  Jim Broadbent joins the cast and turns in the kind of fine, quirky performance the series has specialized in since it started.  All in all it’s very okay but it can’t quite shake the sensation of being filler.



And a finished Deathly Hallows?


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