The Harry Potter Retrospective – The Films

You may remember that last month we spent two nights at the BFI IMAX watching all seven Harry Potter films over the course of two nights. (Thanks BFI IMAX!) We finished our journey through the franchise on Monday night as we watched and scored Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. What follows is a run down of all eight films, written using the increasingly brief and incoherent notes we made at the time. Spoilers lie ahead.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
philosophers stone

In which Harry Potter learns he is a wizard, goes to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and defeats a teacher harbouring the evil wizard Voldemort at the back of his head.

We start the franchise with an over-long film with terrible acting, odd prosthetics and scenes bordering on pantomime. From the initial scenes with the Dursleys playing out as a knockabout comedy to the final showdown in which a man completely disintegrates, Christopher Columbus produced a completely uneven film which relies mostly on reaction shots for laughs. Horrible acting from the kids is made up for by sheer cuteness and ultimately the film is a bit better than you remember. 6/10

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
chamber of secrets

The series continues with Harry hearing voices and writing in a diary which writes back. Turns out that pesky diary was Voldemort again.

As the kids seem to have experienced a growth spurt since the previous film they are less cute and their acting has improved slightly to compensate. Early scenes at the Burrows with the Weasley parents are great but even Julie Walters can’t make exposition work properly. Jason Isaacs and Kenneth Branagh are pretty awesome but Christopher Columbus again fails to make anything remarkable happen. With students being attacked (but surviving) the series begins its journey into becoming “dark”. 6.5/10

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
prisoner of azkaban

A Voldemort-light entry in the franchise as Harry discovers that an escaped convict, and a stray dog, are both in fact his god-father. Ron’s rat turns out to be an evil wizard and the new teacher is a werewolf. Hermione learns how to time travel and her cat does nothing special.

With Alfonso Cuarón on board the films suddenly have a new visual style, making the series look more Hollywood and less ITV1. Cuarón also brings sexy hair with him, just look at the image above. The stark contrast in style compared to the previous two films makes many people mistake this film for the best in the series. Sadly it still falls a little short, though this may be because I fell asleep during the climax. There is bizarre banter between the teens but time travel fun to compensate. Everyone loves a bit of Gary Oldman right? 7/10

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
goblet of fire

Harry is entered into a deadly competition and due to some very strict wizarding rules can’t back down. After many trials and tribulations, battling a dragon, going for a swim and traversing a maze, Harry ties with Cedric Diggory for first place. He wins by default after Cedric is killed and Voldemort rises from the dead.

Mike Newell does away with the sexy hair from the previous film and brings on BIG HAIR instead. Both Ron and Harry could do with a good haircut. The majority of the film has the feel of a light-hearted teen romp as there are parties in the common room, an awkward ball and unrequited love. Things only really get dark at the very end when Cedric goes and get himself killed… and a man hacks off his own arm. Funniest moment of the night was Potter fans booing the appearance of Twilight‘s Robert Patterson. 7/10

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
order of the phoenix

Harry joins a resurrected group against Voldemort, the Order of the Phoenix, starts a fight club at school, gets tortured by a teacher, has his first kiss, gets Dumbledore fired and loses a loved one.

David Yates finally arrives to sort the series out and give those boys a haircut. Unfortunately we are still stuck with the Dursleys being too farcical and setting completely the wrong tone at the start of the film. This is a much darker film than before as Harry is essentially tortured by the new teacher played by Imelda Staunton. Staunton is on top form and a real creepy highlight. It was particularly noted that Neville is always great – his reactions during all of the Dumbledore’s Army sequences were especially enjoyable. The wand-based fighting at the end of the film pretty much set the combat style for the rest of the series. 7.5/10

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
half-blood prince

Harry becomes brilliant at potions thanks to annotations in a text book, because he didn’t learn his lesson in the second film. We first learn about horcruxes, Malfoy finally does something properly evil and Dumbledore dies at the hands of the Half-Blood Prince.

I feel it’s worth noting that this instalment shares a cinematographer with Amelie. Noted. Bugbears with this film include Dumbledore’s roaming accent and the fact that the “Half-Blood Prince” in the title doesn’t have much impact on the story, and is essentially a sub-plot. The sixth film does however mark the point at which Emma Watson finally learnt to rein in her eyebrows and includes Daniel Radcliffe’s hilarious stoner acting, including a perfect demonstration of pincers. Jim Broadbent is a great addition as the obligatory new teacher, this time not so much evil as criminally starstruck and cowardly. The tragic end to the film was a stunner. 8/10

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
deathly hallows part 1

On a camping trip the big three hunt down horcruxes while Voldemort and company hunt them. There is jealously, rage and angst accompanied by some beautiful animation and the most convincing kiss of the franchise. In the end another good guy dies, a horcrux is destroyed and Voldemort gets what he was looking for.

Easily the best of the series we finally get down to what we love here at Mild Concern, young people filled with angst and jealousy, literally lost in the woods. Some may dub this slow paced entry as too boring but their opinion is wrong and irrelevant. The torture of Hermione (which I slept through at 6am) marks this out as by far the darkest of the series, and also features the afore-mentioned most convincing kiss, which is ironic considering it wasn’t “real”. 9/10

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
deathly hallows part 2

As Harry and his motley crew return to Hogwarts for the last few horcuxes the final battle begins. The bad guys win! And then the good guys win! And then everybody has babies.

We’ve gushed about this enough this week. There are flaws, plot holes and unconvincing romances, but it was still a fine two hours of cinema. It just needed to finish about two minutes earlier than it actually does: no one needs to see Bonnie Wright dressed like her mum. Alan Rickman stole the show and his incident in the boathouse was painful to watch. 9/10

As a whole the series is something much greater than the individual films put together. It is a record breaking franchise, reaching a total of eight films without the cast leaving (barring arrests and death), and delighting generations of audiences. Yes, it took a few films to find its legs but when Harry Potter was done well it was a real marvel. It all goes to show that British film-making isn’t just period dramas and romantic comedies.

potter films

Looking at the updated chart we have undeniable proof (ha!) that the films did keep getting better and darker. The last two buck the trend a little but they’re the same instalment essentially. Harry Potter improved and grew up with its audience; those who laughed along with the broad fantasy of the first film were ready for a darker, more violent and emotive, film after the decade the franchise spans.

But what about the “Harry Potter”s? How many times was it said in the final film? Let’s check the graph:

harry potter

With no Dobby, but a determined Voldemort, Deathly Hallows Part 2 hit 14 instances of “Harry Potter” being said, exactly as predicted.