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a trio of Harry Potter

Posted by martinteller on December 27, 2014

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is just ridiculously better than the first two movies.  It really shows what a difference a smart director (Alfonso Cuaron, sadly his only entry in the series) can make.  There’s a lot more style here and less rigid adherence to the book.  The characters are given room to grow… just seeing them in regular clothes rather than flapping around in their robes all the time is a huge improvement.  We get to see them being real kids, with genuine personalities.  And although the magic is often displayed with delightful wit and whimsy, it also feels more like a palpable threat this time.  This is a crazy world and for the first time we get a real sense that things can go horribly wrong if you’re not careful.  The young leads seem much more talented, and as an added bonus, we’ve got David Thewlis and Gary Oldman.  The film moves effortlessly and doesn’t get overwhelmed by a complex plot (even the time travel elements are handled gracefully) nor does it ever stray far from the story at hand.  I will say the Screaming Shack scene is drenched in expository dialogue — and requires Lupin and Black to be pointlessly menacing and oblique just for the sake of dramatic tension — but it’s fun nonetheless.  Still my favorite of the series.  Rating: Masterpiece (96)

What a shame, then, that Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is such a dud by comparison.  This one gets worse every time I see it.  In my previous review, I pointed out some of the problems, and they seem to be multiplying with each viewing.  The pacing is drastically uneven, rushing through important material and then stalling out on inconsequential stuff like the ball.  That would be fine if the ball scene had some good character moments, but it really doesn’t.  It’s just kind of a drag.  The whole movie is too teen angst-y and broody, and suffers a lot from the strife between Harry and everyone else.  Ron and Hermione barely exist in this film, and they’re sorely missed.  I still enjoy this universe, but as much as I liked this entry at first, it’s become my least favorite.  Fragmented and unaffecting.  Rating: Fair (68)

By contrast, I enjoyed Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix way more than I ever have before.  I still think the prophecy ball is poorly handled in the storytelling; it comes out of nowhere and ends up being a lame Macguffin.  And Yates doesn’t have quite the directorial flair of Cuaron (and the CGI for Hagrid’s brother Grawp is just awful).  But otherwise, this is a really exciting tale that economically squeezes a lot of story into a (relatively) tight running time.  And yet — except for the bit about the prophecy ball — it doesn’t feel nearly as rushed as the previous movie often does.  And after Harry’s pouting loner routine in the previous film, it’s a breath of fresh air to see him embracing the friendship of his comrades.  Plus we get fantastic new characters here with Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton is one of the series’ most memorable performances) and Luna Lovegood (the perfectly cast Evanna Lynch).  I think one of the biggest mistakes Rowling made was pairing up Harry with the boring Ginny, when Luna would be so perfect for him.  Oh lordy, now I’m “shipping” Harry Potter, and no, I’m not a 13-year-old girl.  I’d better stop.  Rating: Great (92)

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2 Responses to “a trio of Harry Potter”

  1. Dan Heaton said

    The Prisoner of Azkaban is the Harry Potter film that I’ve seen the most, so I’m right with you about it. I’ve only watched Goblet of Fire once despite owning the DVD forever, so that might be a sign. I agree that Order of the Phoenix is a great return to form and sets the stage for the final three movies.

    • This may be the last time I watch them all. I guess it depends on if I have kids and if those kids like Harry Potter. Otherwise, I’ll probably just watch the ones I like from now on instead of feeling compelled to revisit the entire series.

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