If for some reason you’ve ignored the Potter films or books but think you might want to spend a lot of time on your couch in the couple of weeks leading up to the new film, I’d highly recommend it. The first two movies are children’s films, for sure. But very well made, very fun children’s films. Here’s how we would rate the other films …
The Sorcerer’s Stone (aka The Philosopher’s Stone) - Chris Columbus (Home Alone) directed this movie. The studio put everything into the production, so it definitely has the feel of an epic hollywood film. It’s a big, brilliant children’s movie that, aside from some of the acting, is pretty much perfectly made. A timeless children’s epic that makes most children’s movies look like saturday morning cartoons. A
The Chamber of Secrets - Also directed by Columbus and utilizing much of the crew from the first movie, this Potter flick was, at time of release, considered to be better than Stone. I don’t know that I ever agreed with that, but it does remind of the late-80s/early-90s style of hollywood sequel in that, despite having a different story, it kind of feels like the same movie. The fun is turned up and the fantasy is on high. Also, the set design was some next level stuff at the time of release. B+
The Prisoner of Azkaban - This movie, directed by Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men, Y Tu Mama Tambien, Solo Con Tu Pareja, etc.) is where i became a big fan of the series. I had liked the first two movies just fine as pieces of fantasy/escapism, but Azkaban gave Potter a serious art house appeal. Imagine if your favorite art house director had all the money and resources he could ever need … what would he do? Well, this film kind of answers that question. That Cuaron made the Potter crowd happy while also making a creepy, super inventive movie (think early Burton, even) is a huge accomplishment. I think this is probably the best reviewed of the potter movies, as the script is tighter than the first two and the acting is great. Look over the cast and you’ll see a serious who’s who of british actors – Michael Gambon, David Thewlis, Timothy Spall, Emma Thompson, Maggie Smith, etc. A huge cast and one of the most enjoyable Hollywood movies I’ve maybe ever seen. A+
The Goblet of Fire - Mike Newell (The Awakening, Donnie Brasco, Enchanted April, Into the West, etc.) directed this movie and, if you ask me, he was not the right choice. I know that Terry Gilliam wanted to direct the whole series or none of it, but I think he would’ve been right for this one. Or maybe Guillermo del Toro or even Tim Burton – any of those dark fantasy masters. No idea why they went with Newell. The story in this film is pretty big and awesome, but the film is kind of meandering at times (not surprising, as the book is biggest, longest story yet). It’s a great movie, for sure, but, I feel, could’ve been the best of the series in a different director’s hands. Where Cuaron made his film into a creepy art house movie, Newell attempted to make his into a fantasy-meets-John-Hughes teen saga. The whole thing just feels awkward at times to me. Should’ve been soooo good. B
The Order of the Phoenix - David Yates’ first potter movie was a return to what the series was supposed to be – a story about characters you grow with. Yates had a less juicy – but I’d argue better – story to work with than Newell but made a better movie. This is where we REALLY start to feel the bad vs. evil theme, and also where Harry starts to rise as the hero. The movie has the best cast yet, the best visuals and is, for what it’s worth, Potter creator JK Rowling’s favorite of the movies so far. Oddly, it received the worst reviews of the series. Oh, and a lot of people criticized the book-to-screenplay adaptation, saying that it made Yates’ job more difficult. A-
The Half-Blood Prince - Yates, the guy who directed the last flick and the next two, is a pretty damn brilliant filmmaker, and I greatly look forward to what he does after the Potter movies are done. The whole classic cast and production crew it back, as is Steve Kloves, who adapted all but the Phoenix script (as well as Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys). This is my favorite Potter movie, as it totally abandons the children’s genre and becomes an all out epic/saga sort of film with some deep characters, themes and storylines. Also, Bruno DelBonnel, a cinematographer I adore who is very choosy with the movies he works on, shot the film. It’s by-far the best looking of the movies due to DelBonnel (Amelie, A Very Long Engagement, Infamous, etc.). I could go on and on about all the classic scenes and shots and moments in this movie, but wont. So far it’s the best potter movie yet, IMO. A+
The Deathly Hallows - Part one comes out Novemeber 19 and part two July 15. Shot at the same time and said to be one of the biggest film productions ever, look for these movies to probably be compared to the LOTR movies. No doubt in my mind they’ll be better, as I’ve always kinda/sorta hated the LOTR flicks. The trailer is great and, on paper, everything seems to be in the right place. Suuuuper stoked for these flicks to come out.