From Best to Worst: the Mixed Bag Movies of Harry Potter

August 9, 2010

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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<h4>Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)</h4> <a rel=”attachment wp-att-2204″ href=”http://lostbetweentheletters.wordpress.com/2010/08/09/best-to-worst/harry-potter-and-the-sorcerers-stone-trio-2/”><img class=”alignnone size-full wp-image-2204″ title=”Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone trio” src=”http://lostbetweentheletters.files.wordpress.com/2010/08/harry-potter-and-the-sorcerers-stone-trio1.jpg&#8221; alt=”” width=”490″ height=”202″ /></a> As much as I hate Chris Columbus movies (and I REALLY do) I don’t have a lot of complaints to make about <em>Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone</em>.  It does what it has to do and doesn’t get in anybody’s way. In brief: <strong>Good enough:</strong> They pretty faithfully follows the plot of the book through all its twists and turns: Harry lives under the stairs, Hagrid knocks the door off its hinges, Hermione tells Ron he’s got dirt on his nose, they fight a troll at Halloween, Harry gets an invisibility cloak for christmas and sees his family in the mirror of Erised, they jump through the trap door and defeat the stated enchantments to get to (gasp) Quirell and then Dumbledore and Harry have a chat in the hospital wing over Every Flavor Beans. <strong>Pretty good:</strong> All things considered they did a pretty inspired job with casting. The adult cast is wonderful:  Maggie Smith has long been my hero and she perfectly fits into my previous mental image of Professor McGonagall.  Alan Rickman is really too old to play Snape and doesn’t (in my opinion) look a thing like him but no one else could so perfectly capture his menacing drawl.  I have to approve.  And then there’s the kids.  I don’t know how the managed it but they <em>found </em>Harry Potter when they cast Daniel Radcliffe (especially in those early years).  Rupert Grint is a great little Ron; he’s got the goofiness, the sweetness and the constant chagrin down pat.  Hermione … well when I first saw Emma Watson in the movie nine years ago I thought they’d cast much too cute but she’s grown on me.  They never have quite managed “bushy” hair but I’ll take what I can get.  What’s really amazing though is they way the three of them have grown into pretty creditable actors and all three of them have managed to reach the age of majority without crashing an Aston Martin into a bridge abutment.   I’m SO grateful.  Sarcasm aside though, I really do adore each of them, both in the characters they’ve been playing for a decade and as potential actors in their own rights. <strong>Bloody brilliant:</strong> The sets.  The sets, the sets, the sets. <strong>And be grateful for it: </strong>But really I’m just grateful that this movie isn’t what it so easily could have been.  Warner Brothers orignially wanted Stephen Spielberg for the job (OK so far) but he reportedly wanted to do it as an animated film (ugh) and cast Haley Joel Osment for the voice of Harry (run screaming from the room) and, again reportedly, quit in disgust when J.K. Rowling insisted that they use an all British cast for the movie.  Then again they gave it to Chris Columbus and he didn’t completely bollix it up either … though he could have.  As evidence I merely refer the gentle reader to his recently released <em>Percy Jackson and the Olympians: the Lightning Thief</em>.  Nuff said.  It could have been so awful and it wasn’t. I wish they would have managed to convey a little more of the whimsey, mystery and even darkness that exists in the first book instead of focusing wholly on the goofy parts.  Similarly the music John Williams wrote for the first three films is cute and peppy and well executed with some beautiful themes (when he isn’t ripping himself off) but doesn’t lend a lot of gravitas to the production.  It feels too much like Halloween all the time.  But really the whole team did a lovely job of bringing a wonderful book to the screen and we should all just count our lucky stars that they did such a creditable job. <h4>Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)</h4> <a rel=”attachment wp-att-2100″ href=”http://lostbetweentheletters.wordpress.com/2010/08/09/best-to-worst/harry-potter-and-the-chamber-of-secrets-trio/”><img class=”alignnone size-full wp-image-2100″ title=”Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets trio” src=”http://lostbetweentheletters.files.wordpress.com/2010/08/harry-potter-and-the-chamber-of-secrets-trio.jpg&#8221; alt=”” width=”490″ height=”207″ /></a> Somewhat unfairly, this movie bears the brunt of my ire over everything they did wrong in both the first two films.  <em>Sorcerer’s Stone</em> somehow has a get out of jail free card but in this one … I have no patience.  I actually didn’t see this one in theaters and didn’t watch it all the way through until last year and, frankly, I have no need to see it ever again, even if I were to watch all the others again in order.  Its not ALL bad … but it is all Chris Columbus all the time and I’m never planning to watch Home Alone again either! <strong>The things they did improve:</strong> (From the first movie I mean, NOT as compared to the book.)  A few things are added or improved in this one that I <em>do</em> appreciate. The kids are much better actors by this point, which means there’s a lot less reading of lines and a lot more delivering of dialogue.  That’s nice. The special effects are much improved.  I laughed out loud when I read <a href=”http://mugglemeetswizard.wordpress.com/2010/07/07/the-last-muggle-watches-the-chamber-of-secrets/&#8221; target=”_blank”>the Last Muggle’s assessment</a> of the “special effects provided by your Windows screensaver” and supposed that she could have done as well “with a green blanket and a MacBook Pro”.  The effects in <em>Chamber of Secrets</em> are better. And not that the sets were bad before but I can not stress enough how much I adore the Myrtle’s bathroom set.  Clearly it is The Most Beautiful Bathroom in The World.  And its also one of my favorite sets of all time  (but I can visit it in film six with better lighting and no Myrtle anyway). <strong> The violence:</strong> The VIOLENCE!  Why Hollywood?  WHY?  The wizarding world is a scary one: people are murdered in their homes, students inside Hogwarts are turned to stone and abducted, the forbidden forest is populated with menacing centaurs and enormous hungry spiders.  All of that is legitimate material for the movies to play up as both dramatic and scary.  But (largely) instead they choose to add in their own stupid three stooges violence and it makes me crazy! <strong>The things they add: </strong>First there’s the insistence on souping up the spells; <em>Expelliarmus </em>is supposed to knock the wand out of someone’s hand, not blast them backwards bodily across a room.  If they wanted it to cause a person’s arm to jerk dramatically as the wand flies away (theoretically toward the spell caster) fine but wire work effects are just so totally over the top.  There is no need to try to make magic more magical. And Lucius Malfoy turns <em><em>Avada Kedavra </em></em>on Harry in a hallway right outside Dumbledore’s office.  Come on!  The man is completely capable of using the Cruciatus curse on an underling in a dark alley or even the Imperius curse on a ministry official he wanted something from but only in secret.  He’s not going to publicly execute an Unforgivable Curse on Hogwarts grounds and land himself in Azkaban, giving up all his power and prestige, when he spent years forswearing the dark lord to avoid just that.  Its insane. And then finally there’s Ron-as-Caveman which takes place in what is one of my favorite scenes in the book.  Lockhart has just tried to erase Ron’s and Harry’s memories with a broken wand brought the ceiling down instead, blanking his own mind at the same time.  Harry goes on to defeat the Heir alone and when he comes back he finds Ron has opened a passage in the rock fall and Lockhart a total loss.  (This is from the book, mind). <blockquote>Guilderoy Lockhart was sitting there, humming placidly to himself. “His memory’s gone,” said Ron.  “The memory charm backfired.  Hit him, instead of us.  He hasn’t got a clue who he is, or where he is, or who we are.  I told him to come and wait here.  He’s a danger to himself.” Lockhart peered goodnaturedly up at them. “Hello,” he said.  “Odd sort of place this, isn’t it?  Do you live here?” “No,” said Ron, raising his eyebrows at Harry.</blockquote> So basically in the book (let’s all notice) Ron doesn’t even make Lockhart help him dig out of the rubble because he’s too damaged.  Granted, Ron does kick Lockhart in the shins twice right after the rock fall … reasonably well deserved since he nearly stole their whole lives from them.  In the movie it goes down like this.  Lockhart yells “<em>Obliviate</em>.”  The ceiling comes down with Harry and Ron on opposite sides.  The dust settles.  Lockhart looks up at Ron and says, “Do you live here?”  And Ron picks up a fist sized rock from the rubble, hefts it, and conchs Lockhart on the head with it, knocking him out cold.  Then he and Harry make a plan for what to do next. This is just a) so uncalled for, b) so out of character and c) such an unbelievably violent act for a 13 year old kid that it takes my breath away.  WTF. So basically … I hate this movie.  It has several redeeming features but I’m tired of talking about it so I won’t go into them. <h4>Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)</h4> <a rel=”attachment wp-att-2101″ href=”http://lostbetweentheletters.wordpress.com/2010/08/09/best-to-worst/harry-potter-and-the-prisoner-of-azkaban-trio/”><img class=”alignnone size-full wp-image-2101″ title=”Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban trio” src=”http://lostbetweentheletters.files.wordpress.com/2010/08/harry-potter-and-the-prisoner-of-azkaban-trio.jpg&#8221; alt=”” width=”490″ height=”217″ /></a> I love this book.  I love this movie.  I’m not too proud too admit that I when I saw a pink hoodie like the one Hermione wears through the climax sequence of the movie I bought it on the spot.  And when I wear it I still feel extra bad ass.  I think Alfonso Cuaron took the franchise to a whole new level with this film and we all owe him SO much.  Its dark.  Its dramatic.  Its complicated.  Its not afraid to condense here and there to tell the story it needs to.  And its stunningly beautiful. <strong>The way they changed the set:</strong> In the book Rowling implies that you walk down the main steps from the front door (which is the one Harry always seems to use even when sneaking out of the castle in the middle of the night … seriously, the castle doesn’t have a single side door?) and out to the lake.  Hagrid’s hut seems to be somewhere off around to the side (past the greenhouses).  In the first two films, the kids bop down the steps and walk across a wide open green and straight up the steps to Hagrid’s. <strong>Hermione in general:</strong> This is really Hermione’s movie nearly as much as its Harry’s.  That’s less true in the book (because the movie edits out the months in which Ron and Harry shun her for having told Professor McGonagall about the mystery Firebolt).  I don’t mind losing that although it does unbalance the movie in her favor … which I, again, don’t really mind. Hermione action I love in this movie: <ul> <li>She generally kicks academic ass and takes names.  How many times have I wanted a time turner in order to take more classes than there were hours in the day?  Too many.</li> <li>Specifically, she takes no crap from Divination (although I’m not sure she actually quits the class in the movie the way she does in the book).</li> <li>She punches Malfoy.  In the book this happens differently; Hermione first slaps him and then escalates to pointing her wand at him … at which point he runs away.  But I actually like this better.  Her instinct is to use magic but instead she does something more physically satisfying and less potentially dangerous.  And I’m glad she punches him rather than slaps – its much stronger.</li> <li>She puts her body between Harry and Ron and presumed danger in the form of a werewolf and an Azkaban escapee.  Nobody puts Baby in a corner and nobody messes with Hermione Granger’s friends.</li> <li>She’ll hang dead ferrets around her neck in order to save the life of a Hippogriff.</li> <li>The pink sweatshirt.  Its an interesting choice to put the kids in street clothes for so much of the movie and in other circumstances I might have some complaints about it … but I’m totally disarmed by my love for that hoodie.  Incidentally I think its great the way they use the action sequence that the Whomping Willow to get it so dirty that the two Hermiones are easily distinguished.</li> <li>She’s got time travel DOWN …</li> </ul> <strong>They absolutely nail the time travel: </strong> This is a tricky concept in any movie.  There’s a scene I love at the beginning of an Austin Powers movie (I no longer remember which) where Austin’s boss is explaining to him how the time travel has worked in order to get him back to the same place as Dr. Evil and after a minute of long winded convolutions Austin makes a terrible face and says “Oh no, I’ve gone cross eyed.” At which point his boss says some thing like ‘Yeah, well that can happen if you think about time travel too hard,’ and then turns to the camera and says “That goes for you too, audience.”  Its so true.  But in this movie it really works.  This is partly due to Rowling’s careful plotting but also due to some great visual material.  And its so well shot that I don’t mind watching a few of the scenes twice, as when Hermione and Harry watch the confrontation with Malfoy and then follow themselves and Ron down to Hagrids.  Its so beautifully shot that I’m actually grateful to see it again from a different angle!  The time turner stuff works out perfectly and the theme of time is woven through the whole movie in a lovely way which brings me to … <strong>The things they got just right: </strong>The clock.  I don’t even care how ridiculously impractical it is to have an enormous bonging clock not twenty feet from the door of the Hospital Wing, the image of Hermione and Harry spinning back through time and then running out the door and down the steps as the camera pans across the clock mechanism is so stunning it doesn’t matter. Also, the Whomping Willow is beautifully done.  And I simply adore the way they use pans across the castle and to the willow interspersed through the movie to show the passage of time.  The scene where it destroys the twittering bird in a puff of feathers reminds watchers that its not to be trifled with and then we’re brought back to it, in the fall when a single leaf drifts to the ground in a beautiful moment and then all the rest of them drop, and again to show that spring has arrived when it shakes all the snow off itself.  Its lovely and also serves to keep the tree in mind through all the rest of the action. The maurader’s map is lovely.  I think having different pieces fold up and pop out is inspired.  Although Harry can describe it in the book as a mere “bit of old parchment” it works visually to have it be a little more complicated – after all Hogwarts castle is a very complex place.  I do wish they’d taken ten seconds to make it clear to Harry and the reader that Lupin, Sirius, Pettigrew and his dad were responsible for making the map. Gary Oldman <strong>The score is much improved:</strong> This is the best of the John Williams scores (for Harry Potter).  He really tones himself down and the music transitions from exciting and cute to dramatic and moving.  The “double double toil and trouble” theme drives me absolutely up the wall.  I really hate it.  But for the most part it was this movie I was thinking of when I was shocked that they were bringing in a new composer.  Now having gone back and watched the first two … its clearer.  And even at its best the soundtrack is constantly echoing the driving theme from chases in<em> Indiana Jones</em>, the melodramatic strings in the love theme from <em>Star Wars Episode 2</em> with little hints of <em>ET</em> cropping up constantly.  Still the “Window to the Past” theme is lovely and can easily make me tear up if I’m not paying attention. <strong>But they did miss the mark with:</strong> Some of the effects.  Lupin’s werewolf form is just dreadful.  Actually Lupin in general left me pretty cold.  He’s one of my favorite (if not actually my favorite) adults from the books and yet in the movie … he just felt ever so slightly off.  Oh well.  The whole knight bus bugged me – I was afraid right off that the movie was going to veer off into the riduclous (that talking head!) but fortunately it course corrected shortly after Harry got to the Leaky Cauldron. Still I love this one will all my heart.  It renewed my faith in the movies and even kept me going back for more after <em>Goblet of Fire</em>.  Its beautiful and worth watching again and again.  Two enthusiastic thumbs up (and some jumping up and down on the sofa with glee). <h4>Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)</h4> <a rel=”attachment wp-att-2102″ href=”http://lostbetweentheletters.wordpress.com/2010/08/09/best-to-worst/harry-potter-and-the-goblet-of-fire-trio/”><img class=”alignnone size-full wp-image-2102″ title=”Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire trio” src=”http://lostbetweentheletters.files.wordpress.com/2010/08/harry-potter-and-the-goblet-of-fire-trio.jpg&#8221; alt=”” width=”490″ height=”236″ /></a> This is far from my favorite book and I guess its no surprise that I consequently don’t really enjoy the movie which feels like a race more than a story with the characters even walking quickly as they move from place to place.  I’m not sure if Mike Newell, the director, is really to blame here.  Steve Kloves, the screenwriter, wrote each of the scripts with he exception of Order of the Phoenix so its hard to say.  There’s just too much to cover and, unlike some of the other book plots, very little can be left out of this one – imagine cutting one of the three tasks.  Nevertheless I don’t enjoy being hurried from one scene to the next.  The elements they do cut entirely (like Ludo Bagman) destabilize the plot and contribute even more to it feeling like a slide show but in a way I wish they’d cut a little more dramatically and left time for a few emotional breaths.  If I hadn’t read the books the film would have made no sense at all. Here’s what makes me crazy: <strong>The things they change:</strong> Why did they make Beaubatons and Durmstrang single gender schools?  I guess if you’re a boy in France or a girl in unspecified-northern-european-region you don’t get to go to wizarding school. <strong>The things they add:</strong> Once again the little violent sight gags, like Hagrid accidentally stabbing Flitwick in the hand with a fork at the high table while flirting with Madame Maxime, are distracting and infuriating.  And does Dumbledore spend the entire movie yelling?  Michael Gambon is a wonderful actor so I have to blame the direction.  Putting ferret Draco into Goyle’s pants?  What?  And Ron turning the first year class into his minonsWhy, Hollywood? Why? <strong>The things the just do badly:</strong> Hermione’s horrible dress.  Her horrible horrible dress.  Only matched by her horrible screeching reaction to not enough provocation by the guys at the end of the dance. <strong>The gratuitous action sequences:</strong> The First Task was far too similar to the video game it was obviously intended to be turned into.   I was furious that they wasted five whole minutes, a movie eternity, on added nonsense of  crashing brooms and destroying Hogwarts castle and its surroundings, which could have been much better spent on emotional realism elsewhere in the movie. <strong>And then there’s Myrtle:</strong> She gets a category to herself because shes SO AWFUL.  It was stupid in Chamber of Secrets when they cast an adult with a weird voice to play a dead teenager.  Now its just disturbing.  Its undeniably creepy when you give the line “nearly all the bubbles had gone” to a 40 year old woman sitting next to a naked 14 year old in a tub.  What were they thinking? Overall I just don’t have much patience with this movie.  It doesn’t really go anywhere or say anything to me – it just illustrates the various events that happen in book four.  The musical score doesn’t really help either – its lost the sacharine cuteness of John Williams’ scores but picked up a heavy handed edginess that doesn’t blend well into the feel of the action. <h4>Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)</h4> <a rel=”attachment wp-att-2105″ href=”http://lostbetweentheletters.wordpress.com/2010/08/09/best-to-worst/harry-potter-and-the-order-of-the-phoenix-trio/”><img class=”alignnone size-full wp-image-2105″ title=”Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix trio” src=”http://lostbetweentheletters.files.wordpress.com/2010/08/harry-potter-and-the-order-of-the-phoenix-trio.jpg&#8221; alt=”” width=”490″ height=”184″ /></a> This is an up and down movie in my opinion.  Somethings are delightful and done so well … others are awful and creep but supposed to be … and somethings are tragic mistakes.  They had a lot of ground to cover  so somethings had to be cut.  But still I mourn the loss of Kreature, of all the emotional development and insight into the adult characters that takes place at Grimauld Place and,  for that matter, all of the personality in Tonks full stop, etc etc etc. There’s a lot packed into it but still it somehow manages to retail a good sense of pacing.  There are the usual high adrenaline action sequences but there are moments of down time and character development which I really appreciate. <strong>The good and bad of the book:</strong> I love Sirius (with all his flaws) and I’m glad we get at least a little time between him and Harry at the train station and again at Christmas.  Its not much but I love every bit of it.  Gary Oldman just nails the role.  In a few short scenens he gives all of Sirius’ pathos and bravery and yet still hints at his recklessness and rebellion. And I absolutely adore the DA.  More on my general love of it in another post.  For the moment I’ll just say that I think the room of requirement is beautiful and the spell practicing scenes are note perfect and that just listening to the soundtrack from that scene makes me smile. Umbridge, of course,creeps the hell out of, as she is supposed to do.  Imelda Staunton does a great job with the role and I admire her … but I don’t enjoy it. <strong>The things they did oh so well:</strong> The way they used dramatic swoops through the Daily Prophet to sweep through chunks of exposition at several points and particularly at the end is really elegant.  It gives us all the information we need about the vindication of Harry and Dumbledore, the shift in public consciousness and the sacking of Fudge as minister.  Plus the design of the <em>Prophet</em> (admittedly not new for this movie) is lovely. Similarly I just loved Umbridge’s wall of Ministry decrees.  It was so beautiful … and told so much plot in such a clean visual way that I didn’t even mind the mildly stupid gag of Filch climbing up a ridiculously long ladder and nearly hammering himself off of it to post them. <strong>Then there’s Cho:</strong> I don’t have much use for her in the books (even when its her friend who sneaks on the DA – which seriously WOULD NOT have taken any more screen time to explain and I don’t know why they changed it).  She’s weepy and useless.  The last time I watched this movie I used the fast forward and scene skip controls to edit her out of the movie and found it much improved. On the other hand, there is my favorite scene re: Cho, and possibly in the movie.  Granted, though, she isn’t in it. <blockquote>”Don’t you understand how she’s feeling?” “No.” “Well, obviously she’s feeling sad about Cedric, therefore confused about liking Harry and guilty about kissing him, conflicted because Umbridge is threatening to sack her mum from her job at the mininstry and frightened of failing her O.W.L.s because she’s so busy worrying about everything else.” “One person couldn’t feel all that.  They’d explode.” “Just because you’ve got the emotional range of a teaspoon…”</blockquote> Overall, its handled competently.  There are lots of moments to enjoy.  But it doesn’t exactly set me on fire.  Its surprising to me that my reaction is so markedly different to this one than to <em>Half Blood Prince</em>, released just two years later with the same directorial team. <h4>Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (2009)</h4> <a rel=”attachment wp-att-2106″ href=”http://lostbetweentheletters.wordpress.com/2010/08/09/best-to-worst/harry-potter-and-the-half-blood-prince-trio/”><img class=”alignnone size-full wp-image-2106″ title=”Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince trio” src=”http://lostbetweentheletters.files.wordpress.com/2010/08/harry-potter-and-the-half-blood-prince-trio.jpg&#8221; alt=”” width=”490″ height=”218″ /></a> I liked this movie a lot.  The last half hour is (necessarily) super depressing and it ends on a bad note but that will be fixed when they finish the series.  For the moment I though I can still say that it was breathtakingly beautiful … and funny.  The teen romances that start to build up in the story make for a lot of humor.  But basically: <strong>The Score is Fantastic:</strong> I can’t possibly rave enough about how much I love the musical score by Nicholas Hooper.  Its odd because I don’t love his score for <em>Order of the Phoenix</em> nearly a well.   The subtle waltz rhythm to Harry and Ginny’s love theme knocks me sideways.  The drama over some of the action sequences is not perfect and the menace of, for example, Snape and the Unbreakable Vow is truly unsettling.  Slughorn’s Confession, which is really a bit of a Lily Potter theme, nearly brings me to tears. <strong>The added details are delightful:</strong> I love that Hermione is working in the library.  Its not in the book – I don’t think Madame Pince would willingly let any student shelve her books – put its perfectly in character.  And I LOVE the scene it sets up where she and Harry talk about Slughorn’s party and the danger from girls wielding love potions.  Also the way that Slughorn’s party is illustrated is great – McClaggen is a thankless role that who-ever-that-is does brilliantly.  I didn’t even mind Harry’s non-cannon flirting with the girl in the shop at the beginning.  It works. <strong>The things they screw up are funny: </strong>I think its hilarious the way the movies throw Harry and Hermione together and then have to work so hard to separate them again all the time.  For some reason the movies have always downplayed Ron and emphasized Hermione in the importance, skill and utility of the trio.  Hermione is on the ball and Ron is goofily distracted – snoring, looking blank, pigging out, tripping etc.  I mostly try to ignore it.  However in this movie its taken to whole new levels.  It even shows up in the blocking: the last scene on top of the astronomy tower shows Harry and Hermione leaning out at the rail rehashing the plot and checking that the audience didn’t miss anything important while Ron sits in the background looking at the floor.  She even gets his line; “Ron says its ok” meaning Harry and Ginny.  Its all so strange and unnecessary. The result is that we now have Hermione set up as a brilliant, bold and very, very stylish teenage beauty who is supposedly head over heals for a boorish prat who has to be helped onto the Quiddich team.  Any viewer in their right mind would decide she’d be better off with Harry.  Its further compounded that Ron and Ginny are both demonstrably with other people and Harry and Hermione spend a lot of time consoling each other about it, one way and another.  So what does the movie do about it? They have to work constantly to throw up barriers between them, visually.  At the burrow when Harry arrives, Hermione runs down the stairs and hugs him and then pulls back, grabs him by the shoulders and pushes him away.  After the Gryffindor win where Ron kisses Lavender, Harry goes out to find her crying on the steps.  The most natural thing in the world would be for him to put an arm around her shoulder but instead he sits down on the step below her and sort of leans in slightly so that she lean back on his shoulder.  Its a lovely moment but I laugh out loud every time I see it. <strong>And yet somehow it manages to stay serious:</strong> Its even creepy.  The Slughorn memory is really well done from start to finish and Harry’s relationship with Dumbledore seems appropriately unhealthy all over the place … as it should be.  The scene in the cave scares me every time and I have to cry when I watch all the students raise their wands to Dumbledore and erase the Dark Mark. <strong>The one thing that really gets me: </strong>It does make me ABSOLUTELY CAPLOCKS CRAZY that Dumbldore doesn’t incapacitate Harry under the cloak before the final confrontation.  That changes EVERYTHING.  If he could have moved there’s just no way that a person as brave/reckless wouldn’t have jumped out and got himself killed in the aftermath.  Its the perfect symbolism for his general inability to prevent the chain of events.  And its the way that he knows, really knows, that Dumbledore is dead and that its not a trick – because the spell on him breaks.  Grah <strong>But that reminds me … Draco Malfoy totally steals the show:</strong> Its partly just because his scene are shot in my favorite two locations among all of the Hogwarts sets, of course.  And the lovely and eery musical theme is also great.  I loved the way they show him testing the vanishing cabinet, first with the apple and then with the birds.  But also Tom Felton does a brilliant job with the part. I can’t wait to see where they go from her

One Response to “From Best to Worst: the Mixed Bag Movies of Harry Potter”


  1. [...] rest is here: From Best to Worst: the Mixed Bag Movies of Harry Potter « Lost … Tags: astronomy, audience, blocking, hermione, its-taken, rail, the-astronomy, the-audience, [...]


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