My buddy James over at Up Your Architecture has also been immersing himself in the Harry Potter movies of late and suggested that we each do a post on which were our favorite movies and why. I’ve had a seriously love/hate relationship with the Harry Potter movies. They’ve had some magical moments … and there’s no doubt that the casting choices that Chris Columbus and David Heyman made have really affected the way I visualize the stories. But I’ve worked hard to keep my distance from the movies in the interest of preserving the magical parts of the books from the depredations of Hollywood storytelling. Some things I still like to imagine MY way. Nevertheless I do like the movies … and like some much more than others. Here’s my list from least to best. Oh, and here’s James’.
I’m making this ranking based on my opinion of the movies’ quality and the quality of the adaptation from the book. I have my own opinions about the relative merits of the 7 books but (for the most part) these don’t affect my feelings about their film counterparts.
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince A
Its really a toss up between this and Prisoner of Azkaban … but this one wins because of the musical score; Nicholas Hooper, you are a golden god! Other than that I thought this was a better adaptation of the book than the last few have been AND when it wasn’t a good adaptation it was usually in ways I found (unintentionally) humorous. Plus it was just so beautifully shot: the room of requirement … and the girls bathroom … and the cave … beautiful. The atmosphere was mysterious and understated and the whole thing left me aching for more – can’t wait for November!
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban A
I LOVE this movie. Its all about Hermione and that is such a good thing. The new director was fantastic and seems to have improved everything from the kids’ performances, to the updated and more complex sets, to the symbolism dripping from the cinematography. They couldn’t have changed the look and feel of the movies more without re-casting it. And they didn’t need to because this seems like the first one where the three kids can really act. Its dramatic and moody and beautiful. I’m such a fan.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix B
This one has some beautiful scenes (the DA, everything with Luna, everything with Sirius) and interestingly makes Harry far more likable than he was in the book but it still feels choppy. I think it falls into the same trap as the fourth one – it wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense if I hadn’t read the book (multiple times). But if the point was to create some great little vignettes to illustrate favorite moments from the plot then … mission accomplished.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone B-
The first installment of the Harry Potter saga gets the job done. Its not my favorite movie ever – I don’t really even need to see it again but it follows all the plot twists through stunning sets peopled by cute little kids who look like the characters and say all their lines to the camera. Its more goofy then magical but … it could have been MUCH worse (I’m talking about you, Percy Jackson movie).
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire C
Goblet of Fire just makes me tired. There whole thing feels like a race to the finish … starting in the first scene. In their mad dash to fit in all the plot points they forgot to leave any time for character development (although they did add a 5 minute dragon chase scene clearly designed with the video game in mind). Blech
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets F- (see me after class)
I hate this movie. It boils down an intensely comedic book (singing valentine dwarfs anyone?) into ridiculous slap stick. Dobby looks ridiculous. Kenneth Branagh somehow manages to do a bad job. And then Ron knocks him unconscious with a rock. I’ll never watch it again and I think the production team should be ashamed of themselves!
Hmm … My initial explanations for where I put each one in the list have blossomed out of control into full on reviews … so rather than write the world’s longest post I’ve broken them out for easier readability. I’ll be putting them up over the next few days.
Note: really what’s on my list at the moment are the two that haven’t yet come out. I am so excited for these last two movies. They may turn out to be hyper-dramatized drek and totally miss the mark emotionally but … I can’t bring myself to be pessimistic. Every time I hear something about them I get excited. And although the first trailer did nothing for me I recently saw a sort of “first look” trailer on the special features for Half Blood Prince that had me so excited I was pacing around my apartment and jumping up and down. I also scoured imdb for a half an hour one evening and reassured myself that they will be putting in the Bill and Fleur wedding (which hadn’t been mentioned to date) and I’ve really begun to talk myself into a state of total anticipation. Fingers crossed that they are good because I SO want them to be.
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