As a series it has its high and low points, fantastic performances and some really rotten ones, thrilling moments that don’t last long enough, and dull ones that seem never to end. Here I’m going to go through all of them.
The Philosopher’s Stone
This is the film that captured the world’s imagination, with its fundamental charm coming from watching a person that could be you go to a school where they learn magic. And the whole film is really quite magical, sure it’s not directed very well, but when the central idea is as intriguing as this that isn’t an issue. With a fantastic John Williams score (as if there was any other type of John Williams score) and a superb last couple of set pieces, this is a very good family fantasy movie.
The Chamber of Secrets
With the second Harry Potter film we see, really much of the same, the magic lessons, the quidditch and the game of spot the famous British actor in the supporting cast. Really the only difference is that the plot is carried out in a different way. It lacks much of the charm of the first one, bringing the poor direction to light. Overall this is a fairly run of the mill fantasy film which just lacks a certain zing.
Prisoner of Azkaban
In the third instalment of this series we see the directorial duties change hands from the not especially gifted Chris Columbus to the really rather fantastic Alfonso Cuaron, and as such this is visually a far better film than the other two, and it also learns from their mistakes. By now people are less enthralled by the idea of learning spells at school, and as such this takes up much less screen time. But really the main difference between this and its predecessors is how dark Prisoner is. Not just in terms of actual lightning but in terms of overall themes. This is a dark movie, it’s also a fantastic watch.
Goblet of Fire
Probably the most action-packed film of the series, Goblet of Fire is full to the brim with stunning set pieces involving dragons, mermaids and a genuinely terrifying maze. What lack in plot may arise, is made up for in thrills and adventure. However no amount of action and childhood trauma inducing greenery can save the fact that Michael Gambon is not a good Dumbledore. And I say this as no particular fan of the books (I have read 4.5 of them), where in the Prisoner of Azkaban he had a relatively small role so it wasn’t much of an issue, in Goblet of Fire Dumbledore steps into the forefront, and it is not pleasant. Gambon aside though this a really good action packed addition to the series.
The Order of the Phoenix
Here we see the series take a turn even darker, and much of this film takes place in dark corridors and other dark places. Stylistically this is Harry’s finest hour yet, with things like the Ministry being really fantastically designed. There are large faults in this movie, for one the number of characters really takes a leap in this film, and very few of them are granted any amount of development. But oddly enough this film is made by one performance of such characters, namely Imelda Staunton as the fantastically evil Dolores Umbridge. Really here, Imelda steals the film and good job too, as while there are tense and thrilling moments for the most part this film is baggy. Overall though this stands up with the best of the series despite its length.
The Half-blood Prince
Very similar in tone to The Order of the Phoenix, Half-blood Prince really suffers from a lack in a show-stealing performances. There is no Umbridge here, and while Tom Felton puts in a brilliant shift as the ever more conflicted Draco Malfoy, there is just not enough of him to save this film from feeling a bit tedious in points.
The Deathly Hallows Part 1
The film that started an army of final films being split into two parts. But to be honest, other than the obvious financial reward, it’s hard to see why. Where the Half-blood Prince was way too long, this just takes the piss. Clocking in at two and a half hours with the majority of the movie tracking our three heroes as they argue in a wood, it really drags. But if you manage to hold on until the end you are rewarded with a very strong scene involving a dragon.
The Deathly Hallows Part 2
Going into this, most fans were thinking “this had better be bloody good” and you know what, it pretty much is. It’s not the best of the series but it is a satisfyingly epic ending to the franchise. Considering that much more actually happens in this half of the last book, it is surprising to note that this is actually fifteen minutes shorter than the first part. Where Part 1 was plodding at best, this rattles along at quite a pace, and builds up very nicely for the final battle. Overall this film signified a collective sigh of relief amongst Potter fans as the finale to what has been a very successful franchise was dealt with really rather well.