I just started watching the Harry Potter films. They’re not bad! Man, why didn’t anyone ever tell me to watch these? You know, outside of everyone! Anywhere, here is my power ranking through four films. Spoilers abound, although apparently everyone has already watched these films.
4) Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. This flick is just way more scattered and not as interesting as the other movies. The biggest problem is the focus on the wizard tournament, which is an idea that has potential that goes wasted. Why not just have a tournament with representatives from each of the houses at Hogwarts? Instead, we get two other schools that surely will not be featured in future movies – the Stock Movie Amazons, and the Male Wrestlers. (I forget the actual names of the schools.)
This is the only one of the four movies that I just flat out didn’t enjoy. It wasn’t that good, and also, it wasn’t funny-bad, which we’ll get into when it comes to some of the other movies. It’s just steadily disappointing throughout, with a small uptick of interest thanks to the ending, which reestablishes Voldemort.
3 and 2) Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, which is narrowly behind Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Both of these movies are elevated above Goblet of Fire for two reasons. First, I think they’re more successful at their goal, which is essentially to provide fluffy kids entertainment. If I saw these flicks at age 10, I probably would have been hooked on the series, so it’s understandable to me why they had such a hold with the newspaper kids I advised for a couple years. (For comparison’s sake, I was 17 when the first movie came out, and it wasn’t ever really on my radar as a result.)
Secondly, these two movies are wonderful to watch as an adult because Emma Watson is going Full Shatner or Brian Blessed for these films. Her EMPHASIS is completely ALL OVER the place and IT IS WONDERFULLY entertaining to LISTEN TO. Unlike everything else, there doesn’t seem to be a good compilation of this on YouTube, otherwise I would have linked in a hella-second.
But oh yeah, the movies themselves… They’re decent little yarns for kids. Beyond the two things I already mentioned, I would also like to note that the first movie especially is VERY Home Alone. It makes sense, because Christopher Columbus directed that film and the first three Potter films. I think he did a serviceable job, but amusingly, I thought Steven Spielberg had the best quote about the series, after he allegedly passed on the directing job and said it was like “shooting ducks in a barrel. It’s just a slam dunk. It’s just like withdrawing a billion dollars and putting it into your personal bank accounts. There’s no challenge.”
1) Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Now this hits the sweet spot for me, as the kid actors have mostly matured out of their ridiculous overacting phase, and the plot features time travel and time loops. As I’ve mentioned previously, I’m a sucker for any good flick with time travel, and there should be way more movies that use time travel as a plot device.
It probably helps that Alfonso Cuaron took over as director. In terms of a film CV, it’s not often that a director of his quality takes on something like a Harry Potter series. They managed to get him at that perfect time, right before he totally blew up with sci-fi flicks like Children of Men and Gravity. Between the movie just seemingly being shot better, more of an effort was seemingly paid to developing the characters themselves, which makes sense, given their increasing age in the series. The plot is ultimately a tiny bit muddled – lot of balls in the air, after all – but it’s still capable to grasp in one viewing.
- Best bit / minor character: The Sorting Hat.
- Alan Rickman (RIP) as Snape is surprisingly underutilized in these early movies. Because I’ve been on The Internets in the past couple years, I realize that he and Dumbledore are gonna have some shit go down, but still. He’s clearly the worst-applied actor of the first four movies.
- In contrast, the best of the “grown-up” actors in the early movies is Robbie Coltrane as Hagrid. His comedic timing is spot-on, and he actually made me chuckle a few times, which is good for a movie that’s aimed at tweens. Most of the other humor consists of, “OH LOOK IT’S FUNNY, RON AND THAT BAD LUCK KID CAN’T DO MAGIC!”
- I would offer predictions for the movies I haven’t seen, but honestly, I’ve proofread so many reviews of the series for the aforementioned high school newspaper duties that many of the story elements have already bled into my subconscious. While watching these movies, I like to pepper my watching with commentary like, “That Dumbledore, he seems like a real pussy-hound!” and “Hermoine and Ron, they seem like they’d make a cute couple, but of course she’s totally going to end up with Harry, unless he marries Ron’s sister.”
- Also, I have absolutely no timetable for when I’m going to watch the last four movies of the series. It’s usually been a late night thing, and it sometimes gets bumped for watching political primary results or the NBA on TNT. Also also, I’m not reading the books. I’ve just got too much on my plate in terms of other (old) shows and (old) video games! I mean, I know everyone wants my hot takes on Star Trek: The Next Generation and Voyager…
The little Harry Potter tykes picture is a still image from this YouTube video. The Voldemorte image is a common Internet meme, and the sorting hat picture comes from the Universal website.