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The Harry Potter films (2001-2011)

All eight films were made available on HBO Max on launch day. Over a week, I watched them all. I think it is a great film series and does a good job of bringing the books to the screen.

My rankings of the movies are 1st Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban <><><><>

2nd Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2 <><><><>

3rd Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince <><><><>

4th Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 1 <><><><>

5th Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire <><><>

6th Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix <><><>

7th Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets <><><>

8th Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone <><><>

Here is a summary of some of the key names involved in the series.

Overall, in the series, there is a lot of wonderful world-building. Hogwarts keeps revealing new secrets in every movie. Alfonso Cuaron dramatically enlarged Hogwarts and put it on a much grander scale. It is a noticeable change in how massive Hogwarts is between the second and third films. This also marks the arrival of Michael Gambon as Albus Dumbledore replacing the recently deceased Richard Harris. There is a lot more continuity from the third movie onwards and the tone shifts to a more serious one as Voldemort gains power. It can feel abrupt when watching the movies in short order, but by the time you get into Goblet of Fire, everything feels familiar.

The movies have aged well because of the judicious use of practical effects. CGI often ages poorly, and the expensive decision to rely on practical effects will preserve these movies for many years to come. I hope HBO Max eventually gets 4K HDR and we all get another chance to appreciate this wonderful world that was built for the viewer.

The movies did not explore the Malfoy family or Draco well enough. Draco is a bully from day one but is also the ultimate coward. He is not exceptional in any of his wizarding work nor quidditch. He is the embodiment of privilege, but he comes from what should be a disgraced family. There is no explanation as to how he got his henchmen other than he has a famous father, Lucius. Lucius has a lot of sway in the Ministry of Magic, but it is never explained as to why. It is also clear that he is not reformed from his first round of being a Death Eater.

I still struggle to figure out why Harry is immediately a rebel at Hogwarts. He quickly learns that he is infamous, but there is little time before he starts rebelling from all forms of authority. It is something you must accept early on. He is foolhardy throughout the series believing again and again that he can take on the world himself, yet constantly needing the assistance of others. Hermione and Ron, to a lesser extent, save Harry countless times yet he does not recognize it. Fortunately, Hermione is always principled enough to stick with Harry. Ron seems to be along for the ride because of his feelings for Hermione or an attraction to Harry’s name while his family’s name is not held in as high esteem.

The Weasley's name should be more appreciated than Malfoy after the first defeat of Voldemort. It seems like the entire Ministry of Magic supports Voldemort and those that brought his downfall are few and lacking in reputation. In any other universe the Weasley family name would be a shining beacon of hope, but not here.

Ginny’s love for Harry in the movies is the ultimate fan-girl dream. Her life is saved by Harry and she never leaves him after. They never seem to develop an emotional connection. Harry and Hermione have more chemistry than Harry and Ginny. Harry and Hermione also have more chemistry than Ron and Hermione. These are issues in the source material that J.K. Rowling addressed after the books were completed. The movies are true to the source material’s lack of chemistry. Ron constantly frustrates Hermione and does extraordinarily little to redeem himself. It feels forced to have them end up together after Ron takes advantage of Hermione so many times.

Severus Snape is not given adequate time in the film series. The books develop him much more fully. The movie will leave you wondering why he is so mean to Harry. He does not seem to challenge Harry so that Harry can rise to the occasion, instead, Snape seems to take out all his anger on Harry. The reveal in the last movie is not as impactful as it could have been. The glimmers of Snape’s true intentions throughout the series are always muddled by constantly trying to show you that he was and remains loyal to Voldemort.

The first two movies had similar people working on them. John Williams lays a solid foundation for how to score a Harry Potter film that leaves a legacy. The first two movies carry a PG rating and hold back on darker themes. They are also filled with a lot of montages that do not advance the plot but attempt to build out the world. More character exploration, possibly of Draco could have served to fill the time better. The same red herring is used twice with defense against the dark arts teach in both movies.

The third movie sees academy award-winning director Alfonso Cuaron take a seat behind the camera. It is the most beautifully shot movie of the series. The camera never stays fixed for more than a few seconds. Long sweeping shots bring out a more grandiose and imposing Hogwarts. Cuaron also gets darker source material and a PG13 rating to play with. He sets the darker tone for the rest of the series and makes a wonderful stand-alone film. The story is also much more interesting as we learn about the original resistance and Harry gains a few allies.

The Goblet of Fire spends a lot of time pointing out how much of a dick Ron is. He is a teenage boy with new hormones pumping through his veins, but he is constantly pouting and making bad decisions. Even with hormones, he is way too jealous throughout the movie. This is also the only film with Robert Pattinson and our first look at the death curse. It would have been nice to have more of a back story on Cedric Digory. It is also unclear why all of Hogwarts hates Harry. Even if you think he cheated at getting his name into the goblet, why all the hostility?

The fifth movie, Order of the Phoenix introduces the scariest character in the entire universe, Dolores Umbridge. If you are familiar with the series, you will likely have a visceral response to Imelda Staunton’s performance. She is pure evil and responsible for a lot of bloodshed and sadness. Harry gets his turn to be the whiner but never reaches Ron levels. There are a lot of montages throughout the film that feels unnecessary. The timing does not even make sense; everyone can make a perfect Patronus on the first try, right after Harry says it will take time. We are also introduced to the Room of Requirement, but it is unlike the Room of Requirement in the remaining films. Harry is also able to see Thestrals in the fifth movie for the first time. This means his mother’s death did not trigger his ability, I guess. Luna Lovegood is also introduced. For such a ‘strange’ girl you would think she would have made an appearance earlier in the franchise. She is one of my favorite characters yet does not ever get the respect she deserves. She is a good complement to Hermione, filling in knowledge gaps, but nobody trusts her until she forces her way in. I do not know why Harry, Ron, and Hermione don’t see her value right away.

The Half-Blood Prince is a very dark movie, the color palette is blues and blacks with harsh lighting throughout. The Malfoys have heavily involved in the movie, but it remains unclear why they have a favored position with Voldemort. Harry continues his me-against-the-world-alone crusade and it is tiresome after Hermione saves him so many times to this point. There are also multiple love plotlines in the sixth movie that do not go anywhere and are not interesting. Despite all of that, the buildup to and the ending of the sixth movie are a big payoff. The second to last scene is powerful and will likely bring out a few tears. The last fifteen minutes helped save this movie.

The two Deathly Hallows movies should be lumped together. The book was exceedingly long, and it deserves two films. Part 1 is a lot of table setting, but it is done in an appropriate amount of time and an interesting way. Again, I am confused by the Malfoys. The Tale of Three Brothers is a wonderful vignette to explore one piece of wizarding lore. It is a unique take and a wonderful piece of art all on its own. The return of Dobby the house-elf is also a fun surprise with an emotional end. The close of part one is complete but still leaves you wanting to start part two immediately.

The Deathly Hallows part 2 is a great closing film. It does enough fan service while offering a compelling story. The Battle for Hogwarts feels big enough, yet still intimate as we see each of our favorite characters contribute. I would have loved to see Alfonso Cuaron direct the battle scenes to bring a grander scale, but I was satisfied. The movie does not live up to the books though. The death of Voldemort feels somewhat anti-climactic as he disintegrates like the marvel universe ‘snappening’. He dies like a weak old man all on his own. Somewhere in the last two movies, the viewer is supposed to intuit that Tonks and Lupine had a child. Tonks never got the amount of screen time she deserved.

The reveal of Snape’s history is more interesting than Voldemort’s death. It is a series of emotional vignettes but does not add up to the sadness you will feel reading the book. More time should have been spent in this movie and all the other movies to explore such a pivotal character. Alan Rickman is a wonderful actor that died too young. Severus Snape is a complex character cast perfectly. The film series let us all down with a five-minute explainer of his backstory.

Overall, this is a fantastic series of movies. It has a cohesive storyline weaved throughout a decade of film. Fans of the books will always advocate for reading them first. I do not disagree, but the films leave out so much that the books will still reveal new secrets to you even after seeing the movies.

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