I’ve said it before but I’m gonna say it again …
Don’t read if you have not seen the films (where have you been all this time if you haven’t?!?!?) and don’t want to know what happens. I gave you fair warning you only have yourself to blame if you continue to read on from here.
And apologies for the rather long blog.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Director: David Yates
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix continues the evolution of the series. Harry has become the surly teenager who is angry at the world. In some ways I’m surprised it has taken him this long considering how much he has gone though in his life already. As with the other films we have new characters introduced (not all are spot on though). Imelda Staunton has definitely got the mannerisms of Umbridge down to a tee and comes across as this sadistic woman in a pink casing, despite not looking right in my opinion – nowhere toad-like enough for me. Luna Lovegood (Evanna Lynch) is a welcome addition and one that brings a lightness to an increasingly dark film. She is beautifully quirky, even by magical standards and I love her for it.
I love the formation of Dumbledore’s Army as it shows the students we have come to know and love take an active decision to fight for something, despite the danger inherent in making that decision. They have the feel of an underground resistance group and could be seen as the younger Order of the Phoenix … indeed many of the members of Dumbledore’s Army will go on to become part of the Order.
The Ministry of Magic is gorgeous with all that stunning tile work. The climatic battle between the Order and the Death Eaters in the Ministry is epic! I love the way that the Order are symbolic of the light with the whiteness while the Death Eaters all in black are their polar opposite. Seeing Dumbledore battle Voldemort is magnificent – he actually becomes the great wizard everyone says he is rather than this genial old man and you can see how uneasy Voldemort is around him.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix sees David Yates take the helm and really launches the final section of the franchise. Yates is a director who really understands how to use moments of silence, something that he continues to do in the following films. However the first time we see this is at the moment of Sirius’ death, which is so much more heart-breaking than Cedric’s as once again Harry is losing a family member and father figure.
Each film sees the main trio grow in strength but none more so than Daniel Radcliffe who not only copes admirably with the increasing pressure of carrying the juggernaut of a film franchise but also puts in an outstanding performance every time.
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
Director: David Yates
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince sees the darkness level jump up once again. It no longer feels like a children’s film which reflects the audience growing up alongside the films. The London shots that whiz by when the Death Eaters are kidnapping Ollivander and destroying Millennium Bridge are brilliant. And ground the wizarding world alongside ours.
Jim Broadbent as Slughorn is wonderfully eccentric – exactly what a retired professor should be – and provides many comedic moments. I’ve said before that Yates understands how powerful moments of silence can be – he also understands the importance of balancing out the story with perfectly timed humorous moments in order to stop the darker moments from becoming overwhelming. Rupert Grint has excellent comedic timing, honed throughout the films but especially in the scenes when under the effects of a love potion gone awry.
The budding romance between Harry and Ginny annoys me but I think that is because of all the core characters she is the only one they got wrong. She isn’t nearly fierce enough to do the Ginny from the books justice and in no way is a rival to Mrs Wesley in the films. Tom Felton really comes into his own in Half Blood Prince but then it is fairly Draco centric. Having said that he gives a really powerful performance that moves Draco on from just your standard high school bully. You really feel that he is conflicted in where his life is taking him.
Seeing Voldemort’s history through the pensieve is illuminating and done extremely well visually. As much as I dislike Gambon’s portrayal of Dumbledore his death is incredibly moving. Once more Yates employs moments of silence masterfully really allowing the emotions and the moment to sink in, another father figure taken away from Harry! The moment when the entire school removes the Dark Mark by raising their wands in silence is one of the most poignant and memorable moments of the entire series.
I do have an issue with the climax of the film as I think it differs too much from the book. In the book when the Death Eaters breach the castle the core characters (Harry, Hermione, Ron, Ginny, Neville and Luna) along with members of the Order all fight to protect the school. However in the film it is just Harry alone who goes after the Death Eaters, which just feels wrong to me. So much of Harry’s strength comes from the fact that he has people willing to fight with him and for him out of love as opposed to intimidation and fear like Voldemort.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Director: David Yates
They definitely made the right decision to split the last book into 2 films. This way they really did the final installments in the franchise justice. If they had tried to do just 1 film so much would have been cut out that the story wouldn’t make sense. The first film (and indeed book) to break away from the formulaic structure surrounding the year at Hogwarts and I find it rather refreshing. It is very much an adult film now rather than a children’s film as the franchise started out.
As with past films the new additions slot in well with those already established albeit briefly in some cases – Bill Nighy’s Rufus Scrimgeour. Part 1 and indeed Part 2 are filled with poignant and moving moments. Seeing Hermione effectively removing every trace of herself from her parent’s life in order to protect them is heart-breaking. How many of us could make that sacrifice?
The scene with the 7 Potters is just fantastic – excellent acting from Radcliffe coupled with flawless CG creates one of the most memorable scenes for me (not just within the Harry Potter films but films in general!) I think they gloss over the death of Mad Eye a little bit, especially as he is such a powerful presence. All of the scenes with the Weasley twins cause me to well up and yet at the same time they still manage to provide much-needed comedy moments – especially George sticking his toothbrush in the hole where his ear used to be for safe keeping!
The pace of Part 1 is quite different to all the previous films and while some may argue it didn’t need to take an entire film I disagree. I think its important that the quest element was given enough time to set both itself and the rest of the story up properly. The changing relationship between the main trio is actually quite satisfying as it shows they are all growing up and nothing stays the same. You can really feel the tension between Ron and Harry during their stand-off in the tent which is a testament to both the writing and the boys’ acting.
The loss of Dumbledore is palpable especially as Harry begins to question how well he knew Albus and the task set before him. The wedding of Bill and Fleur provides a light-hearted moment in a film that has very few. Rhys Ifans is perfect as Xenophilius Lovegood … just so fantastically eccentric, it’s clear where Luna gets it from.
There is a lot of body swapping in both films which really highlights just how much the main 3 have developed as actors and how well the entire cast works together. Everyone’s morals are questioned – how far are they willing to go in this war and where to draw the line. I would have loved to see the change in Kreacher and his attitude towards Harry, Ron and Hermione.
I was distraught the first time I watched Part 1 when Dobby died. Yates handled it extremely well. I hadn’t expected to be as affected by the death of Dobby as he isn’t a human character so was overwhelmed with the feeling put into the scene by all parties involved. He is a completely innocent character who becomes collateral damage in a war between good and evil. It didn’t bode well for how I will react to the numerous deaths coming in Part 2.
The attack by Nagini is terrifying!! Yates found a simple but effective (and extremely stylish) way of telling the story of 3 Brothers and the Hallows. It could all too easily have become a cumbersome and boring part of the film yet Yates neatly avoids that trap. The set pieces just keep getting better and better, more spectacular all leading up to the epic final battle at Hogwarts. The reappearance of Ron resets the balance of the film – they work best as a trio!
I’ve never really been sure of Ollivander. Don’t get me wrong John Hurt plays him wonderfully with a delightful creepiness about him. It’s just I can never tell what side he comes down on. There has always been the sense that he admires Voldemort. Helena Bonham Carter plays Hermione pretending to be Bellatrix splendidly – she gets that touch of vulnerability, or rather nervousness, that Hermione puts on the character due to the goodness inherent in her.
The first set piece in Deathly Hallows Part 2 … the break in at Gringotts is spectacular with an awesome dragon. And it sets the tone for the rest of the film. I love the scene when the trio are trying to dress themselves after having jumped off the dragon. It makes me laugh out loud every time, not because it is an especially funny scene as it isn’t, but because the boys are having such trouble dressing themselves due to being so wet! The music has taken on an eerily melancholy tone in keeping with the film while at the same time retaining those elements that are quintessentially Harry Potter.
The battle at Hogwarts feels like a violation … this place of safety, the home for Harry is being destroyed by the embodiment of evil. Once again Voldemort is destroying something Harry loves!! There are however still moments of laughter to be had and Yates has placed them in just the right places – usually coming from Filch. These humorous moments are much-needed as they break up the tension and provide some light relief.
I love that Neville (Matthew Lewis) has really become a character to contend with. Gone is the chubby, forgetful boy nervous of his own shadow from the early films; instead there stands a hero! And it’s fitting that he gets to destroy one of the Horcruxes after all it could very nearly have been him rather than Harry that was destined to destroy Voldemort. For me the women really stand out in the final installment, two moments in particular. The first when Harry reveals himself in the Great Hall and is confronted by Snape it is McGonagall who takes Snape on. The women are also the first to step in front of Harry, bodily protecting him from the Slytherins. And then the fight between Bellatrix and Molly Weasley – two women both incredibly strong and yet polar opposites of each other in every respect.
I would have liked to see more of the Order appear for the final battle, especially Neville’s gran, but that’s just me. While the battle is quite different from the book Yates has kept the tone and created such a visually dynamic piece that it works splendidly. I do think that some character deaths were swept over too quickly (Tonks and Lupin!) and yet every death was moving … indeed I was distraught when Fred does but then the Weasley twins have always been my favourite characters! The death that was handled beautifully was Sanpe’s. You really felt his love for Lily and it was a heart-breaking scene when you realise he does actually have a heart. I was genuinely moved by his demise. Seeing his history added a greater depth to his character and an insight into life not only before Voldemort but also during Voldemort’s first reign.
When Harry goes to meet Voldemort is one of the most poignant moments in the entire franchise. Seeing the four people he loved the most in the world who were ripped from him by Voldemort there to greet him is beautiful. It’s something we all hope for – that at the end we will once again be with the ones we love.
The defenses around the castle are brilliant and seeing Hogwarts itself coming to its defense is outstanding. The epilogue is okay but that’s all and in some ways seems a bit of a let down after the rest of the film. While it is lovely seeing Harry talk to his son, Albus Severus, and explain about his names the parents hadn’t been aged particularly well and the humor from the books was left out.
There is a greater sense of cohesion or rather continuation with having Yates direct consecutive films. The final few films went from strength to strength and while I still have some issue with the decisions made this is a collection of films that I will never get tired of no matter how old I am or how many times I watch them.
Oh one last thing … Hello to Jason Isaacs!!