A magnificent and holy soundtrack raped by the horrendous acting, the idiotic directing, the pathetic cinematography, the ridiculous script, the multitude of Big-Lipped Alligator Moments, and the overall stupidity of the film.
This movie is focused and is satisfying. That’s really the best way to describe it. The story is pretty simple – the Ministry is taking over Hogwarts and is keeping the students from practicing defensive spells, so Harry and his friends decide to secretly teach their fellow students to defend themselves against the Dark Lord. Well, maybe it’s not really simple, but that’s about as simple as it gets in a Potter film. The point is, the focus is on the main characters and their friendship, as apposed to the third and fourth Potter films, which were focused on events, scaring the audience, and teenage drama. This film is certainly a step up.
There are many reasons why the film is probably best described as satisfying, and I must warn you that they include spoilers. First, it satisfies our need for information by showing us things like the past of Severus Snape. Second, it satisfies my need for a break between the dramatic and frightening scenes with comedic scenes. Third, it satisfies everyone’s need for the most annoying/despicable character in the film, Dolores Umbridge, getting captured by angry centaurs and arguably raped (look it up). Fourth, it satisfies my personal need for lots and lots of Hermione being Hermione. I think that this film was a return to the fun of the first two Potter films, perhaps because of it’s Rooney/Garland movie feel. (Oh, and the directing and cinematography and effects and stuff are good too.)
I’m lumping together my reviews of the third and fourth Potter films because these two are so similar, despite having different directors. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is clearly where the film series changes course and becomes a series for teens, not children. The filters, colors, lighting, and overall tone of the film is changed to accommodate this, and its sequel, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is about the same way in terms of tone and mood. As pointed out by Cinema Sins, Goblet of Fire starts with a shot of skulls in order to make the movie seem less child-oriented. This sadly takes away the childlike wonder that the first two films captured so well, and I think that the tone of the series did not need to change to the degree that it did. Perhaps it was Azkaban director Alfonso Cuarón who decided to make the change, or perhaps it was the producers and the studio, but I do wish Goblet director Mike Newell had tried to bring the spirit of the first two films back.
Alfonso Cuarón is known as a good filmmaker from a technical standpoint, and I can see why since his movies do look cool and have impressive cinematography. However, I don’t think he was really quite right for making Potter films. The movie is slow, and it doesn’t get all that interesting until the end, at which point the plot gets so complicated that the movie makes a number of errors in an attempt to express it well (and the aforementioned Cinema Sins video shows this well). Mike Newell made the series even darker, and made a film that has the most whiny-teenager drama I’ve seen in a Potter film so far. He brought on board a new score composer to replace John Williams, so a little more of the charm was lost. It is really rather strange though that I thought they were directed by the same person, until I looked it up, because their styles seemed pretty similar.
Both of the films introduce interesting new characters, such as Professor Lupin – a very likable character that is played perfectly, as is Sirius Black. Sybill Trelawney and Peter Pettigrew are each annoying in all the ways they should be for the sake of the story. Alastor Moody is done brilliantly, particularly from a writing standpoint, but also in terms of acting. Sadly, journalist Rita Skeeter did not get horribly murdered slowly and painfully as I had hoped she would, but in my opinion, she’s worse than Voldemort. The depression of seeing the performer of Twilight’s Edward as a significant actor in a Potter film is balanced out by the joy of seeing David Tennant in a wonderfully evil role. However, all of the new characters means that time is taken away from important characters like Hermione, whom I find more interesting as a character than Harry or Ron at this point. This is probably because I find her more relatable since she seemed to have feelings of inadequacy as a child that she handled by becoming more knowledgeable about magic than everyone else.
Still, I really want to see the rest of the series, so I guess they must have done a lot right after all.
The second installment of the Harry Potter series is certainly just as good as its predecessor. It is a bit darker and scarier, and sadly features a little bit less of Hermione. It is very clear in this film, perhaps more than in the first Potter film, that every single scene in this is important, and every character that has a speaking role has some important function in the plot. Everything is done carefully and with purpose. Because the film is very much a mystery story, one’s mind is actively involved in sorting out the characters and the plot, even during the slower part of the movie. The CGI is far, far better this time around though, which is nice. As far as the rest of the film goes, what I said about the first Potter film still mostly applies, so I don’t have much more to say about this movie, other than the fact that I now have to see the next one.
I’ve known for some time now that I would eventually have to start watching the Harry Potter films since he’s had such an impact on geek/nerd culture, and culture as a whole. I never read the books myself, so it is difficult for me to fairly judge a film adaptation since I have no way of comparing it to its source material, I don’t know who to blame for problems with the story, and I don’t know who to praise for what was done well. Still, I decided to watch Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Sorcerer’s Stone. I’m very glad that I did.
The story, based on a children’s book, makes the film seem really “children’s-booky,” which helps the film have childlike wonder, but keeps the characters from seeming realistic. The characters are interesting though, and they are generally performed well, with Richard Griffiths’ facial expressions making the first few scenes in the film almost enjoyable despite how annoyed I was that the “good guys” left the very important baby in the hands of abusive idiots and their beloved, despicable son. It’s not wise to make the audience this sad and angry at the very beginning of the film, but seeing as how Harry didn’t seem to have much of a personality to make him interesting until the second third of the film, I suppose they had to rely on his awful family life and his mysterious powers to make us interested in him.
Now, I get that there’s a lot of stuff that happens in this story, and the story spends a lot of time appropriately building to a fantastic climax with brilliant surprises, but part of adapting a book to a film is making the necessary changes that will make the story work better as a movie. In this case, it was being adapted to a family film, so an hour and a half would have been the ideal run time, but this film goes for two and a half hours, which is a bit longer than the average child or preteen can wait for the climax. Aside from that though, the film probably had the feel that J. K. wanted the story to have because just about every shot felt magical thanks to great cinematography and enchanting music.
Special effects and makeup is an area of film-making that I generally am not too focused on, but in this film I couldn’t help but focus on it. The makeup looks awesome on the creatures that required it, and many of the effects were really good-looking too… as long as they did not use computers. Whenever a shot had CGI, it looked like a DreamWorks remake of Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The scene in which they played Quidditch looked like a remake Space Jam but with flying brooms and the cast of The Polar Express as the Looney Tunes.
The movie does leave me wondering about many things that it did not explain well, and there’s not much of an excuse for that since the movie had so much time to explain itself (I mean really, two and a half hours is a lot). However, it succeeded in making me get so attached to the characters and enchanted by this world that I really want to watch the sequels now, so I guess it did its job. For this reason, and because John Cleese, I think it’s definitely a film worth watching if you haven’t.