Thursday, 14 July 2011

Harry Potter So Far. Seven Down, One To Go...

In the last week, I have watched the first seven Harry Potter films (chronologically) in preparation for the final chapter Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 that’s released tomorrow. I’m sure I’m not the only one whose done this, but I thought I’d just write up some of my opinions of the franchise so far...
The first thing I will say is that watching the films back to back in such a short period of time actually makes the series even stronger in my opinion. The only thing that stands out is the characters growing up and it’s quite noticeable from film to film especially during the first five, but this can’t be helped.

It’s amazing how well the stories flow from one into the other, especially the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh where Harry loses someone at the end of the prior film and is still mourning in the next film. Anyone else notice that end and start set-up? I imagine Deathly Hallows Part 2 will start in the same way...

Other smaller things that strengthen the series are the small pieces of dialogue that set up events in a future film, these now have much more dramatic impact. I think this is incredibly helpful as none of the films start with a summary of what’s happened so far.

The tonal shift in the films is also quite apparent, with the first two being the most likely to be called children’s films. Prisoner of Azkaban and Goblet of Fire begin to bring in the darkness but still balance the fun and playfulness. But from Order of the Phoenix onwards they’re definitely much more mature films (not quite adult but I think there are less pure fun aspects for younger children to enjoy).

I like all the films, but personally I think the weakest in the series so far is Half-Blood Prince. Not only because nothing of substantial impact happens (apart from in the last half hour) that effects the overall story but also because I think it’s the first film that requires you to have read the book to really understand what’s going on. A lot of key moments are skipped over and sometimes never explained at all, which considering it’s also one of the longest film isn’t right.

For example, Snape admits he’s “the Half-Blood Prince” but what actually is that? Dumbledore has the 2nd Horcrux (a ring) but how did he get it and how or has he even destroyed it yet? Why is Dumbledore’s arm dying/wilting away?

Now these questions could be answered in Deathly Hallows, but considering the film was split into two parts and none of the above is explained in Part 1(which also has similar unexplained bits e.g. why does Harry have that mirror piece?) we end up waiting two films for answers (that’s presuming they do get answered in Part 2!)

I think part of the problem is that Half-Blood Prince is essentially all set-up for Deathly Hallows, but then Deathly Hallows Part 1 is also all set-up for Deathly Hallows Part 2, so you’re left with the sixth and seventh film in the series not feeling like complete films. I don’t think either are bad films (in fact Deathly Hallows Part 1 is one of my favourite) but depending on how Part 2 plays out both these films could become much stronger when viewed as a whole.

It is also worth just stepping back and appreciating how amazing this franchise is in terms of primarily keeping the same cast in all the roles from start to finish across 8 films and the continued financial and critical success each film has achieved. This is a rare beast, and a series that will be missed from the movie release schedule in the years to come.

So before the big day tomorrow, here’s how I rate the existing films in the franchise.

Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone - 7/10

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – 7.5/10

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - 8/10

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – 8.5/10

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - 8.5/10

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - 7/10

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 - 8/10

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