In case you're tuning in late to this, let me start with the links to the six reviews:
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (2001)
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)
As indicated by my original mission statement I haven't read any of the books, and I don't plan to. I have seen each of the six films once before, but I never really got into that whole Potter universe. So what interested me was giving the films another chance, and seeing how they would hold up, when they were watched very close to each other. It turns out that wasn't such a bad idea after all. I had a good time revisiting the films.
Knowing what to expect greatly improved the first two films, which I must admit I have been bad-mouthing for years. The third, the fourth, and the sixth were as good as I remembered, while the fifth one was every bit as awful as my initial viewing had branded it. But were the films more than the sum of their parts?
No, but they weren't less either.
Originally I didn't quite get where the films were heading. Watching them a year or two apart there was no clear course through the franchise, but this time I had a much better sense of the direction they were going.
An unexpected bonus, was an added appreciation for the differences in the films. Along the way I complained about some of the minor inconsistencies in the franchise, like Emma Watson's performance, and I'll stand by that. I also felt the young wizards' magic abilities varied from film to film, and that was a bit annoying. However, suddenly I could appreciate the big differences. The varying styles of directing, changes in cinematography and production design, and the fact that the actors were slowly growing up, all these factors actually helped the films. Compare the Potter franchise to The Lord of the Rings trilogy, for example. The three Rings films look like one big movie. The look is the same, the actors are the same, everything is the same, and by the end of the third film, you'll be sick of it. Literally. The differences in the Potter movies kept them fresh, and I didn't realize this until I watched them a day or two apart.
Still, I would have liked if the producers had been able to secure some interesting, iconic directors to helm these movies. That would have added SO much to them. There was talk about Terry Gilliam at one point. Alfonso Cuarón wanted to return. Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Kenneth Branagh, and Guillermo del Toro were also mentioned. They were all scared away, because the producers kept too tight a grip on the reins. What would Potter have looked like in some of these hands? I think Gilliam might actually have saved the fifth film! Imagine him tackling the bureaucracy, Brazil-style.
So did this experience transform me into a fully-fledged Potter fan?
No. I'm still not sold on the wizard universe, it all just seems a bit uncool to me, you know, like line-dancing or baggy pants. Plus, how cool can it be when parents can get into something, along with their kids?
What sells the franchise to me are the characters. Okay, Ron is best when he's standing quietly in the background, but Hermione and Harry have my full attention. Hermione, because she's cute, Harry, because his destiny and his past are interesting. These characters are the reason I want to see the next two films.
Award time! Gotta give a final shout-out to my favorite films and characters. Here we go:
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
No doubt. Not too long, tight story, great personal drama. Just a straight-up solid film.
Best Franchise Actor/Actress
Gary Oldman, as Sirius Black
Gotta go with with Oldman. His commitment to the character surprised me. He's just so good.
Best Guest Appearance
Kenneth Branagh, in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Branagh is so damn funny! Be sure to watch Much Ado About Nothing (1993) as well, by the way. I only wish he'd shown up in more than one film, but so be it.
Most Fascinating Young Wizard in a Supporting Role
Evanna Lynch as Luna Lovegood
Luna. Definitely Luna. If there was a book series about her, I would read that. God, she's weird.
Harry and Dumbledore's secret mission in the dark cave, from Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince
When you're playing with magic, when people can transform, disappear, rise from the dead, it's difficult to get a sense of danger. This scene is different. This scene chills me to the bone. And I genuinely feared for Harry and Dumbledore.
Well, that's it for the Potter-ness. Almost. Believe it or not, I'll be milking this project for one final Potter-ish blog (sort of), stay tuned for that one. I also think it could be fun to do this again with another series of film. Any suggestions? Post them below!
The future of the Potter franchise will bring us a massive two-part adaptation of the seventh and final novel in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I'm actually going to try to catch that at the cinema. That's the plan.
Until then... I'm officially Potter'ed out.
Special thanks to Dennis Rosenfeld and Anne Petersen for their assistance during these trying times.