Harry Potter and the Take 5 Reviews
Let's face facts. The final 'Harry Potter' film is due to come out on July 15th this year, and chances are I'm not the only one "Potter-thoning" before the final film to get myself caught up. I plan to watch and review all 8 of the 'Harry Potter' films in this special, kinda like what Sean is doing for 'Planet of the Apes'! Facing facts once again, I may be the biggest 'Potter' fan out of us as well. That being said, I'm gonna try NOT to be too gracious with my reviews and ratings, but keep in mind that I'm a fan of the books AND the movies. They are both a fun treat in their own ways... Oh and yes, this special will involve a new and less long-winded review on 'Deathly Hallows: Part 1'. . Now without further adieu, here is my 'Harry Potter' Special!
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (2001)
Ah yes, this takes me back. I remember being around 20 and I was all like "TO HELL WITH HARRY POTTER!" Let's face it, it was a trend that everyone was into. I just didn't get it (seriously though, to hell with Twilight). I wandered upstairs to the living room of my house one day, and there was this cool scene playing involving three kids on a chess board with the pieces murdalizing each other... it was cool! "What are you watching?" I asked my parents. They said it was "that Harry Potter movie about the wizards" or something like that. Eventually, I sat down and watched the entirety of the film myself, and rather enjoyed it for what it was. I really dug the concept and story behind it, and it was the first film in a while I thought was just truly original and imaginative. This was without reading any of the books though. But still, it holds up pretty well as a fun adventure aimed towards kids, what with the funny candy and 11-year-olds having an adventure and all. By today, re-watching it had me pointing a few things out to myself that I had to nit-pick at about the film. First and foremost was the overall acting of these kids. Now, granted, they were all between 9 and 11 years old while filming, so I can't expect anything too much. But certain lines of dialogue, the way they were said, almost had me cringing. Worst probably being the end of the climactic scene that has Harry going "Aaahh" and it seems so very very fake. The other thing has to be the CG. Even by 2001's standards, it was really pretty damn weak. Remember that some pretty epic CG came out the same year called 'Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within'... That may be an extreme, but the point is, the animation CLEARLY could have been better. Watch Harry in the scene where he gets grabbed by the troll... you'll see what I'm talking about. But what about the GOOD in this film? Even if the CG was pretty bad, I have to admit, I still love the Quidditch scene in this film. Its also great that they take time to explain the sport. The film has a cuteness to it, and its very inviting in the sense that it makes you wish you could have gone to Hogwarts to learn magic. It works very well as a set up for the rest of the films to follow. Its a good introduction to everything. To this day I still find the scene involving the Mirror of Erised very touching, and with that comes Richard Harris' performance as Dumbledore, which I still find suits the character better than Michael Gambon, but I'll get to that in my 'Prisoner of Azkaban' review. So, when all said and done, the adults in this film portrayed their roles almost flawlessly, making up for the kids who, again, I can't be too frustrated at. It ended up being a pretty decent adaptation when all said and done.
Final Rating: 3.5/5
Final Rating: 3.5/5
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)
It actually ends up surprising me how many people truly hate this film. Hate is such a strong word, especially when, at least I feel, they made vast improvements since the first. Starting things off with this, let's talk the CG. We have a new character here named Dobby, the house elf, who plays a pretty big role in this film. He appears in other books again, but this and 'Deathly Hallows: Part 1' are the only films he's featured in. I found him to be quite well done. Mind you, I didn't read the book until after seeing the movie, but as I read the book this character was very easy to picture. The kids' acting seemed to improve as well (and this ends up being an ongoing theme as the films continue). I always found it really cool just to see how much darker the films were starting to get, beginning with this one that actually speaks of the murder of the ghost Moaning Myrtle (I never did like her in the movies... that voice was so annoying). Then just some of the shit that gets said like "let me rip you, let me kill you" and lets not forget the writing in BLOOD that reads "her bones will lie in the chamber forever"... its a chilling step into a darker realm from the first film. However, it still manages to keep its fun factor in the sense that I always found this to be the better adventure of the first two films. This is also where you find out about Tom Riddle for the first time, and I always thought that was kind of creative the way they filmed it using black and white, keeping Harry in color. The film clearly illustrates the fact that these movies and the stories themselves DO get to be really dark at times. For whatever reason though, I always found this particular story to be fairly insignificant to the series. Clearly quite a bit of it ties in by the end of it all, but 'Chamber of Secrets' always seemed to be the throw-away. No one ever really talks about it, and because of its insignificance, not to story, but to audience, I think it ends up losing points fairly easily for people and that may be where the problem lies. Still though, I enjoyed it more than the first.
Final Rating: 4/5
Final Rating: 4/5
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
This was the last of the 'Potter' films I saw before reading the book of it. I had been warned that there would be stuff in here that I just wouldn't have gotten if I didn't read the book first, but I discovered quite the opposite. In fact, of the early films (1-4) I actually found this one to be easily the best of them! The story, as any Potter fan knows, makes the threat of Voldemort obsolete to make way for Sirius Black. It's pretty much the first time we see Harry going all out, starting with getting fed up with his Aunt and Uncle after a visit from his Aunt Marge. It still manages to keep the fun magic of the first 2 films, but when entering the wizarding world this time around, things get much darker (again, a progression) as Harry discovers that a man named Sirius has escaped from Azkaban Prison in order to hunt Harry down and kill him. But this film has other major characters working for it as well. The first, a personal favorite, Remus Lupin; the new Dark Arts teacher this year. It ends up being the first time you actually like the Dark Arts teacher. Lockhart was this annoying heartthrob klutz of a man, and Quirrell was this annoying and nervous jittery guy (though he had good reason I suppose). Lupin was a breath of fresh air, and you could tell he really cared for Harry's well-being. The second character, and I'm calling it a character, is the Marauder's Map; a really cool map that shows you where anyone is any hour of any day. It plays a role in the closing credits as well, which really adds to the whole effect of the film and allows it to stick with you more. My only complaint is that they don't really cover who made the map in the first place, which could have been done in a matter of moments. I think the hints are there in plain sight, but they don't really go into it like they did in the book. Another aspect of the story I really enjoyed was the aspect of time travel for the whole secondary climactic scene. Yes, secondary. That's such a cool thing about this particular story! Right around the time you think its all over and not much of a difference had been made, but perhaps a lesson was learned, they get to travel back in time and have a secondary climactic scene! And the aspect of time travel in this was written so well, managing to wrap things up in a neat little package. With an adventure that exceeds the last film, and a darkness that's just a hint less aggressive than the last film, this easily works out to be the best of the first four!
Final Rating: 4.5/5
Final Rating: 4.5/5
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)
This was the first of the series that I actually read before the movie came out. I dunno if it was that aspect that affected this movie as much though, 'cause going in blindly, it ends up working pretty well as a movie. As an adaptation, however, this was the one that bothered me the most. I went into the film expecting very plainly that the whole 'SPEW' side story was gonna be chopped as its not at all crucial to the Harry Potter storyline (I don't care what anybody says, I honestly feel that). It was clear that this was gonna work as the funnest "ride" we'd have so far, involving the Tri-Wizard Tournament; a series of three incredible challenges that three witches or wizards are to take part in, chosen by the Goblet of Fire, hence the title. Harry gets his name drawn suspiciously and by accident, and has to compete due to rules being absolute. Again, this movie does deliver that thrill ride for the big screen for the first time, really, seeing as the past three films seemed more like mysteries to be solved. While this still has that aspect, Harry has to participate in these events, making it more exciting. Now, lets get one complaint out of the way 'cause we all know where I'm going with it; the build up and complete leaving out of the Quiddich World Cup at the beginning. That will always be something that makes me cringe about this film. This was also the first time I felt that the overall pacing was a little too fast, completely leaving the Dursleys out of it in the opening and basically hitting the ground running. There's also a scene taking place in a maze that was completely chopped and screwed, making the book version not only better, but about fifty times better than the screen adaptation. There were, however, a few scenes I thought were perfectly done and were basically what I envisioned reading the book, but it wasn't enough to make up for what it lacked. Certain lines of dialogue really took away from the film as well. While it did end up working nicely as a film on its own, it was still poorly adapted (insert argument that all of the films were poorly adapted here). But, once again, I try to overlook adaptation aspects of these films as much as possible, and there are certain things I can forgive. It was really just the World Cup and the Maze scenes that bugged me. Otherwise, it wasn't that bad.
Final Rating: 3/5
Final Rating: 3/5
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)
The first four films are done, and its time to get a little more hardcore with this series. Throw the fun out the window, kids, the Harry Potter gang is growing up, Voldemort is back, and in the words of Mike Lowry; "shit just got real". Things get more intense when there's a set of non-believers going against Harry and Dumbledore's words that Voldemort has returned after the last 14 years. The Ministry of Magic appoints the series' most hated character (in my opinion, anyway) Doloris Umbridge to become the new Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts. She eventually works her way up the ladder with the help of the Ministry to become High Inquisitor, and sets out to become the teacher we all hated as teenagers; the one who wants to straighten everything up. In doing so, she tries to provide a "safe" environment for her Dark Arts students to learn, and not use magic, but read books. Knowing what's on the horizon, Harry, Hermione and Ron start Dumbledore's Army; an underground group of kids who Harry teaches magic to in order to prepare them for what lies ahead. The book ends up being one of the worst in the series (even though its still great, its pretty long-winded and she made Harry kind of a whiner) so I'm actually quite happy with what they did for the movie. They focused a lot on Dumbledore's Army which was always my favorite part of the book. I always thought it was cool that these kids were rebelling against Umbridge, and its clear that Harry is finally readying himself to do what he needs to do. Now, with this new story came a new set of characters, so I'm happy to say that the casting was actually VERY well done! Namely, they cast the roles of Luna Lovegood, Dolores Umbridge, and Bellatrix Lestrange pretty much to a T. Unfortunately, with such a huge book, you had to go into this expecting the worst, as you know that they're gonna have to leave certain things out of it. The truth of the matter is, however, I found that new director David Yates worked well with what he had. There was a real intensity about this one, and its better than the previous in my opinion. But maybe that's just 'cause I love the idea of Dumbledore's Army so damn much!
Final Rating: 4/5
Final Rating: 4/5
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)
Harry and his friends are back in the sixth installment of the 'Harry Potter' franchise. It's finally crystal clear that Voldemort has returned, and he is raising his army to take shit over, not only in the wizarding world but those poor muggles are getting tormented as well. Meanwhile, Dumbledore carries on playing head master to Hogwarts, pleading for one man in particular to come back to teach his potions class; Horace Slughorn. Dumbledore calls on the help of Harry to help collect one of Slughorn's memories, which plays a vital part in figuring out Voldemort's big plan. For the most part, this movie brings into play the whole "teenage hormone" thing, where we see love interests sparking between several students, holding a good sense of humor about it. It is, however, unfortunate that the film focused more on that and less on the memories that Dumbledore wants Harry to see as they were a much bigger part of the book having the lovey dovey stuff take a back seat to it. You'd think the memories to be far more important to the story. That being said, however, when Harry did delve into the memories to learn more about Voldemort, the kids they got to play him at ages 11 (Hero Fiennes-Tiffin) and 16 (Frank Dillane) were brilliant. I kinda wish I could have seen more of them. The only other thing that kinda bugged me about this movie was... not what everyone would think... and it surprises me! A lot of people got really miffed at the added in scene of the Death Eaters coming in to destroy the burrow. While I can agree upon seeing it this time around that its pretty unnecessarily crowbarred in there, I tend to shrug it off as it illustrates the imminent danger of whats currently going on. It was a good way to remind us that during good times, these guys could attack at any moment. But I do understand why it bugged people so damn much. My beef was just the fact that despite the film's title, they really didn't go into the mystery surrounding who the half-blood prince was. The title probably ends up throwing the non-readers off quite a bit in the film whereas in the book there's much more to it. The book had the title for a good reason, whereas the film's namesake takes the seat furthest back it seemed. Let's not forget the complete and udder subtraction of the final battle through Hogwarts after a certain death scene. That whole "just walking out" doesn't cut it if you read the book. Its this films equivalent to the lack of the Quiddich World Cup in the 4th film. The film isn't without its strong points. Certain scenes were done very well, namely the cave scene which was just awesome. Overall though, this lacks so much from the book that should have replaced other things that upon viewing it the second time around its practically the weakest of the adaptations. It works very well as a film on its own, but as a fan of the book its gotta lose some points unfortunately.
Final Rating: 3.5/5
Final Rating: 3.5/5
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2010/2011)
Originally I had this set up to be reviews of both parts 1 and 2. The thing is, though, I already have reviews for both films, and really, this ought to be reviewed as one big movie for this particular section. The film involves, quite simply, Harry's mission (along with his best friends Ron and Hermione) to find Voldemort's seven horcruxes and destroy them, so that they can finall be rid of the dark lord once and for all. For those of you who are new to this whole thing (and you probably aren't 'cause you're here reading this) "the function of a Horcrux is to store part of a person's soul so that in the event that the user who creates the Horcrux's body is destroyed, the user still has a means of surviving" (Wikipedia). Basically, Voldy can't really be killed without destroying these things that have bits of his soul in them. Anyway, too much explanation going on here. If you're a noob to the whole 'Harry Potter' thing, these films are best left completely avoided 'cause you will have absolutely no freaking clue what the hell is going on. This film is meant to be the final chapter for those who have read the books and/or seen the previous films 'cause there is a LOT that ties in with the past six stories in this two part epic. If you're like me, though, you've read the books, seen the movies, and this was what you've been waiting to see. Here we have the only two Potter films that stuck JK Rowling herself in the producer's chair. So keep in mind before you bash it and get too nit-picky about it, the story's creator had some creative control here. In Part 1, the biggest issue people seemed to have was something I thought to be blown completely out of proportion. Yeah, I'm talking about that dance scene that took place between Harry and Hermione, forming this supposed "love triangle" according to a LOT of people. I still stick to my guns though, I just couldn't see it. To me, personally, it was nothing but good, solid friendship at work in a time of need. The biggest problem with Part 2 had to be the basic skimming over of various deaths that occur. There was only really one death in the film that I thought really needed more, but actually for the most part, the deaths were kind of skimmed over in the books as well. I honestly loved these movies, and I can easily make up my mind that together they are the epic Potter film I have been wanting to see these past 10 years. A perfect wrap up to a great saga if I do say so myself.