Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Rank The Films: Harry Potter

Lists, as I may have mentioned once or twice on this here blog are pretty nifty; straight-up, simple and so on. I like list. As because of this, lists form the basis for a new feature here on feeling fuzzier where I attempt to pull apart the pros and cons of a series of films and such. First off, the mega, the magical, the childhood defining (for me anyway) Harry Potter franchise.

8th - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson in
Goblet of Fire
Alright, let's start off with the easy stuff. Let's face it everyone, Goblet of Fire was more like a Goblet of Crap. Whilst director Mike Newell did well to veer the series towards the darker tone that would become commonplace by the end of the franchise, Goblet didn't capture the magical wonderment of the books in the same way that the earlier films had. Many of the books stand out pieces (the Quidditch World Cup/the aftermath of the Death Eater attack) were skated over and so was the explanation surrounding Priori Incantatum and the final confrontation between Harry and Voldermort. On the whole, it felt rushed and ultimately lost me rather than grabbed me.

Also, don't even get me started on Ron's haircut. Seriously, I don't remember Goblet being set in 1984?

7th - Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

2004's Prisoner of Azkaban
This ones a tricky one; personally, Azkaban is one of my favourite books. The introduction of Sirius, Lupin (two of the best characters) as well as the clever plotting in the final third are simply brilliant. In the film, it feels as though most of that is brushed aside. Whilst the time travel element works better on screen, the key plot points surrounding the history of Sirius, Lupin, Pettrigrew and Harry's Parents aren't given the necessary gravitas. For someone who was unfamilar with the source text, the end exposition is severely lacking.

By this point, the cast are starting to settle into their roles and improve on their acting however which is something that weighs in Azkaban's favour.

Yes, I know that Azkaban is one of the highest acclaimed critically. But no-one said that this list was based on fact, simply personal opinion.

6th - Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Dumbledore's Army
In my mind, Order of the Phoenix suffers from the same mish-mash plotting as Goblet of Fire; it felt like many of the aspects of the books were overly rushed. Whilst this can be expected when adapting a 900 word novel into a two and a half hour film, the way in which many of the key scenes surrounding Dumbledore's Army were reduced to a montage kind of hurt. Also, no Quidditch! No Weasley is our King! 

The film did do a great job of making Harry not seem like such a whiner like the book did however. And that's a plus. The ending is also a corker, the death of Sirius resonating well through the characters in this instalment and then next. 

5th - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One

Harry and Hermione pause and reflect
Deathly Hallows Part One was never going to be the best of the franchise; it never had a proper ending and many critics said that there was all too much camping and teenage angst. 

On the contrary I argue; after the whirlwind fourth, fifth and sixth entry's, the series needed a breather. Deathly Hallows serves as a pause; a deep breath in before the plunge that is the final film. It didn't have a storyline that raced by at the speed of light and that's a big bonus. It added extra time for characterisation between the lead trio, something that had previously not been a top priority. It focused more on how the trio had changed and interacted with one another rather than squeezing in as many plot points as possible. 

4th - Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

The Forbidden Forest
The first entry into what would become one the biggest franchise's of all time can also be counted as one of the best. Director Christopher Columbus' imagining of Hogwarts, the characters and every in the magical world laid the groundwork for what was to follow.

In my mind, the first two films best reflect what the books convey. They look and feel magical, the colours are bright and warm, the score is swooping and ethereal. It has laughs and crucially it had tears; try and watch Harry's scenes in front of the Mirror of Erised without having your heart strings tugged at.

The actors may not have yet grown into their roles; each of the trio is slightly wooden and inexperienced but, as always, this is offset by the stellar supporting cast of Richard Harris, Maggie Smith and Alan Rickman. 

3rd - Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince 

Michael Gambon in Half Blood Prince
In my mind, Half Blood Prince managed to what the previous three entries had kind of failed to do; that is, combine equally style and substance. Visually, the sixth film looks striking; Hogwarts casts a bleak and sombre silhouette that contrasts with the early films. On the other hand, the script also manages to find a great rhythm, bringing both action, drama, love and laughs to the table. 

The ending falls a little flat, the shock factor dulled by the fact that everyone pretty much knew how it was going to play out and by the fact that there is no final battle between the Death Eaters and the Order like in the book. Also, don't get me started on casting Jim Broadbent as Slughorn. Seriously, he ain't Slughorn. 

Nevertheless, Prince works well as an adaptation of what is my favourite of the books. The growing relationships between Harry, Ginny, Ron and Herminone are done really well, playing out more like a teen film than a fantasy one at times. 

2nd - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two 

Harry facing off with Snape in Deathly Hallows
Part Two
The final film in the franchise holds the advantage of having something really important in its arsenal; payoff. Sweet, sweet payoff. After seven films and many hours of magic, Deathly Hallows Part Two has the final clincher, wrapping it all up and bidding farewell to our heroes. Most important though, it does this really well, with the story coming to satisfying and complete conclusion. 

The final battle within the walls of Hogwarts looks visually stunning and is also paced well. The action doesn't feel drawn out or rushed, something that plagued the middle films.

1st - Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Chamber of Secrets then, is in my mind the most complete and fully fleshed Harry Potter movie; it stays loyal to the book, the supporting cast is still top notch, the new casting is spot on (Branagh as Lockhart, genius!), the tone is consistent with the first and it manages to hold the attention of fans and newcomers alike. 

The Writing on the Wall
Whilst the later films are lauded as having the overall darker tone, Secrets is by no means a slouch in this department. Killer willows, killer spiders and yes, an ancient killer giant serpent (oops, spoiler alert) roaming the halls of a school isn't exactly Saturday morning television. 

It has the welcome addition of the oh so huggable Dobby and it also benefits from the introduction of Jason Isaacs as the scenery chewing Lucius Malfoy. We catch our first proper glimpse of the full Weasley clan with Bonnie Wright bringing up the rear as Ginny, a future key character of course. As the longest film, it takes it time to provide the details and not glimpse over those that the fans love. 

All in all, Secrets works best as an adaptation of the book because it looks, sounds and most importantly feels the closest to the magical world depicted in the book.

So there we have then, my take on the good, the bad and the downright ugly of the Harry Potter films. Let me know what you think below - some good calls or way off the mark? Which order would you rank them in? Let me know and thank you. 


  1. Thanks for sharing this with us! Some really amazing features.
    sam pepper big brother

  2. Weirdly my favourite Harry Potter film is the Deathly Hallows Part one. I remember being pleasantly surprised and refreshed by the abrubt change in pacing. If only it was like Lord of the Rings, and we could have extended editions 2 discs long!

    1. Not a bad pick, Deathly Hallows Part One is certainly a different pace and tone. I'm not sure an extended cut of just the three of them camping is such a good idea though... :)



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