Tag Archives: Fiona Shaw

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (2010) Review

Time: 146 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Contains violence
Cast:
Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter
Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley
Emma Watson as Hermione Granger
Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange
Robbie Coltrane as Rubeus Hagrid
Warwick Davis as Griphook
Tom Felton as Draco Malfoy
Ralph Fiennes as Lord Voldemort
Michael Gambon as Albus Dumbledore
Brendan Gleeson as Alastor ‘Mad-Eye’ Moody
Richard Griffiths as Vernon Dursley
John Hurt as Garrick Ollivander
Rhys Ifans as Xenophilius Lovegood
Jason Isaacs as Lucius Malfoy
Bill Nighy as Rufus Scrimgeour
Alan Rickman as Severus Snape
Fiona Shaw as Petunia Dursley
Timothy Spall as Peter Pettigrew
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge
David Thewlis as Remus Lupin
Julie Walters as Molly Weasley
Bonnie Wright as Ginny Weasley
Director: David Yates

Without the guidance and protection of their professors, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) begin a mission to destroy the Horcruxes, the sources of Voldemort’s immortality. Though they must rely on one another more than ever, dark forces threaten to tear them apart. Voldemort’s Death Eaters have seized control of the Ministry of Magic and Hogwarts, and they are searching for Harry — even as he and his friends prepare for the ultimate showdown.

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I’m aware that Deathly Hallows Part 1 gets a bit of a bad rap but I’m not really sure why. Maybe it’s because it’s a part 1 of a story, and is really seen as just setup for the second half. However this might be one of the best films in the long running series. Director David Yates once again does a great job, he takes advantage of having the story in two parts, utilising it well, adding some character development to the main characters. It does drag a bit especially in the second act but most of it really works.

The movie is quite dark, definitely the darkest of the movie series (though it doesn’t have as many depressing moments like in Half-Blood Prince) and you really feel the stakes throughout. There are little spots of brightness, just enough so that the movie isn’t overwhelmingly dark but not too much that you forget what’s at stake in the wizarding world. Splitting the books up into two really was a wise decision, it’s not the longest book in the series but it is a very big story and a whole lot happens, and so the more screentime given to the story, the better. It also allows David Yates and everyone else working on the movie to take their time with telling the story, you couldn’t do the entire Deathly Hallows book in one 4 hour long movie, and if one was to do that it wouldn’t be as good as what they have done here. Splitting the movie into two parts also gives more time to these characters and we get to know them a lot more and see them go through a lot of change. Deathly Hallows Part 1 really does feel like a Part 1 of a story and a setup for a big climax, however it’s not like other YA movies that have their last book split into two parts, it doesn’t feel like it’s padding out time. Yes, the second act does drag a little bit, especially when they are in the forest and not really doing anything, but it doesn’t drag too much, and as I said these moments are often used for character moments. The third act is done really well, very dark and tense and ending it on a pretty good note that sets it up for the last instalment in the franchise. Again, book changes are apparent, most of them don’t bother me. The movie does a good job at simplifying some of the things that happen and cutting out some of the unnecessary bits. With that said, Deathly Hallows Part 1 does have the singularly most obnoxious book to movie change, it’s to do with how Wormtail (Timothy Spall) is dealt with at the end, if you’ve read the books you know exactly what I’m talking about. Had they changed it to how the book did it, it would’ve taken up a minute at most and would’ve been a very dark and impactful scene. However they instead used that moment as a joke. It’s not movie-breaking but it’s nonetheless really irksome. Also a tad glaring is a bit involving a mirror, in the books its established in Order of the Phoenix, but here in the movie it just comes out of nowhere with no explanation for what it is and how it got there.

The acting once again was great. The dynamic between Harry, Ron and Hermione (Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson) was great and they give some of the best performances of their characters in the series. Since the movie is just them focussing on hunting down the Horcruxes we get to see them very prominently throughout the movie; we see them come together and get into conflicts as they struggle to complete this seemingly impossible task. A lot of the side characters are pushed to the background (because of how many they are and the fact that most of the movie is just focussed on the main 3) but they all do great, whether that be Jason Isaacs as Lucius Malfoy, Alan Rickman as Severus Snape, David Thewlis as Remus Lupin, Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange or Tom Felton as Draco Malfoy. One casting decision which wasn’t that great was Rhys Ifans as Xenophilius Lovegood. Ifans is a good actor but he feels a little too over the top, even if he’s only in a couple scenes. Also while it’s a decent casting decision, Bill Nighy as Rufus Scrimgeour (the new Minister of Magic) is really only in a couple scenes here (having about the same screentime as in the book). He was introduced in the Half-Blood Prince book and they should have done the same as with the movie (this is more of a criticism with Half Blood Prince than Deathly Hallows Part 1.

Direction by David Yates really works once again for the Harry Potter movies. The cinematography is a little brighter than in Half-Blood Prince so you can actually easily see anything, however is dark enough that it fits with the tone of the story. The production design, CGI and other technical aspects are greatly handled as well. There is a storytelling scene close to the third act that is done really well with the visual style and animation. One scene that had some issues with its direction was a chase scene in the forest scene, it was really shaky and it was hard to see what was going on. I know I brought it up in other Harry Potter reviews but it is absolutely jarring how different the time period is, because some of the locations are rather modern looking at times. Not a huge problem but definitely something that stands out. The score for the movie is done by Alexandre Desplat this time and it was truly fantastic, adding a lot to the movie.

I actually really liked Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, it’s a lot better than I remember it being. It is quite bleak at times, and drags in some moments but ultimately it does achieve what it sets out to do, and makes for one of the best movies in the Harry Potter series. The story being in two parts may not be something that a lot of people like, but I think that overall ended up improving the films.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007) Review

Time: 138 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence and fantasy horror.
Cast:
Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter
Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley
Emma Watson as Hermione Granger
Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange
Robbie Coltrane as Rubeus Hagrid
Ralph Fiennes as Lord Voldemort
Michael Gambon as Albus Dumbledore
Brendan Gleeson as Mad-Eye Moody
Richard Griffiths as Vernon Dursley
Jason Isaacs as Lucius Malfoy
Gary Oldman as Sirius Black
Alan Rickman as Severus Snape
Fiona Shaw as Petunia Dursley
Maggie Smith as Minerva McGonagall
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge
David Thewlis as Remus Lupin
Emma Thompson as Sybill Trelawney
Julie Walters as Molly Weasley
Director: David Yates

Now in his fifth year at Hogwarts, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) learns that many in the wizarding community do not know the truth of his encounter with Lord Voldemort. Cornelius Fudge, minister of Magic, appoints his toady, Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton), as Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, for he fears that professor Dumbledore will take his job. But her teaching is deficient and her methods, cruel, so Harry prepares a group of students to defend the school against a rising tide of evil.

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After Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the next film in the series would have yet another different director, that being David Yates, who would of course go on to direct all the future Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts movies. Order of the Phoenix does suffer by having a lot of cuts to the story and not having enough of the story from the book, but the movie is nonetheless very solid and rather underrated (at least to me). It’s has some truly great moments, and it does successfully pull off adapting the longest book into one of the shortest movies.

Tonally, this film does feel brighter than the past two movies but it does signify that some things are in the process of changing in the world. Now I hadn’t read Order in the Phoenix for a long time but it’s well known that it’s the longest book in the series, and so there’s no doubt a ton of things that were cut, and you can really feel it watching the movie. It does have one of the problems that Goblet of Fire has, that being that some story points, character depth and development is seemingly not in the movie, and it would’ve really improved this film. There are also some parts which are only shown briefly which it would’ve been nice to go into a little more. The biggest example is that Harry training Dumbledore’s Army is like shown in 2 montages, they are effective in the movie and get the point across, but nonetheless it would’ve been nice to explore it a little more. With that said, the movie does have some effective scenes, an example being the scenes between Harry and Sirius Black (Gary Oldman), which are among the best scenes of the film. Compared to most of the Harry Potter movies, it’s not as long, so another 10 minutes (or maybe a little more) might’ve added to the story a bit. Order of the Phoenix would’ve always had this problem as a movie though, with it being the longest story in the book series, really the only way to encapsulate the stories from the books is to make it a tv series, so credit to the directors is due for trying their best. Thankfully though, unlike Goblet of Fire, the movie doesn’t extend or add a bunch of pointless things to the movie (or at the very least I didn’t notice it). The opening moments of Order of the Phoenix is a little clunky, with it being quite possibly having the worst opening scenes of the movies. The Dursleys are more the top than usual, the dementors had a jarring downgrade in design, it introduces characters that don’t get any development whatsoever, and is just really rushed. After the first 15-20 minutes, things improve from there though. The movie is just under 2 hours and 20 minutes long, making it the second shortest of the Harry Potter movies and while I did wish it was a little longer so that we could’ve gotten more of the plot and characters, it never felt overlong and the pace was always consistent (even if it did at times rush through some things).

Acting is quite good all around. Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) are great and all get to do stuff in the movie. Daniel Radcliffe as Harry is particularly great, delivering his strongest performance in the series up to this point, Harry goes through some character development so Radcliffe gets a lot to do here. The returning cast are great as well. Gary Oldman is once again fantastic as Sirius Black, he and Radcliffe share some great scenes together. Though some characters like Mad Eye Moody (Brendan Gleeson) are a little underutilised, they are still good in their roles. Michael Gambon with Order of the Phoenix starts to really fully settle into the role of Dumbledore, still different from Richard Harris’s but works nonetheless. Ralph Fiennes as usual is great as Voldemort, he’s not in the movie a lot (mostly just in the third act) but he’s a constant screen presence from start to finish, even when he’s not on screen. There are some good additions to the movie, I liked the casting choices, but some got to do more than others. Out of all the scene stealers in this movie, the most prominent one is Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge, the character was even more hated than Voldemort and Staunton absolutely kills this role, bringing this loathed character to the big screen. She’s essentially the main villain for most of the movie, she is such a big screen presence and invokes such a response from audiences. Pretty much everything about her character in this movie they nailed. Also a new great addition was Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange, who throws herself completely into her insane role. You mostly just see her in the third act, but she makes a great impression.

Director David Yates takes over as the next Harry Potter director, and he was a good pick. So much so that he was given pretty much the rest of the Harry Potter movies and the entirety of the Fantastic Beasts series to direct. The movie does have a good look to it, the production design, the visuals and the whole look of the world is really good. You do get to see quite a lot more magic in this story and it was done really well. This is the first Harry Potter movie where we really get to see Wizard Duels in all of their glory, and it was shown very well. The third act particularly has a ton of magic and battles (Dumbledore vs Voldemort was especially a highlight) and it’s really great to see. One minor thing that stands out is the look of the Dementors early in the movie, who look like skeletons with a bit of cloth and aren’t as effective as the Dementors in Prisoner of Azkaban and look rather goofy instead. Granted they are on screen for less than a minute. The score by Nicholas Hooper is also pretty good.

Order of the Phoenix starts off quite clunky but it really does improve over time and is overall a solid Harry Potter movie. It’s biggest issue is that it is missing some things from the book that would’ve improved the plot had they been included them. With that said, it’s also got a lot of great things, with wizard duels, not feeling overlong and having some really great scenes. I also feel like with Order of the Phoenix, the series got the right setup, tone and portrayal of the world right, which is probably why Warner Bros decided to stick with David Yates to direct all the Harry Potter/Wizarding World movies.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) Review

Time: 142 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Scary scenes and mild language.
Cast:
Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter
Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley
Emma Watson as Hermione Granger
Robbie Coltrane as Rubeus Hagrid
Michael Gambon as Albus Dumbledore
Richard Griffiths as Vernon Dursley
Gary Oldman as Sirius Black
Alan Rickman as Severus Snape
Fiona Shaw as Petunia Dursley
Maggie Smith as Minerva McGonagall
Timothy Spall as Peter Pettigrew
David Thewlis as Remus Lupin
Emma Thompson as Sybill Trelawney
Director: Alfonso Cuarón

Harry Potter’s (Daniel Radcliffe) third year at Hogwarts starts off badly when he learns deranged killer Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) has escaped from Azkaban prison and is bent on murdering the teenage wizard. While Hermione’s (Emma Watson) cat torments Ron’s (Rupert Grint) sickly rat, causing a rift among the trio, a swarm of nasty Dementors is sent to protect the school from Black. A mysterious new teacher helps Harry learn to defend himself, but what is his secret tie to Sirius Black?

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Interestingly, Prisoner of Azkaban for most of the general audience is the best Harry Potter movie. I knew though that a lot of die hard Harry Potter fans had some mixed feelings about the movie. As I hadn’t watched the movie recently and in a while, I was curious to see what my opinion of the movie would be. I’m glad to say that I lean on the side that considers Prisoner of Azkaban to be one of the best Harry Potter movies, with Alfonso Cuarón’s direction playing a big part in this.

If I had to guess one of the main reasons why this movie stuck particularly with the general audience more than the other Harry Potter movies, it might have to do with the fact that the story is much more personal for Harry and didn’t clearly feel like it was setting up for later movies. It’s like the only Harry Potter film to not have Voldemort to deal directly with the plot (outside of maybe Half Blood Prince). There are some differences from the books, most of them didn’t bother me too much and worked okay enough for a movie (such as Harry learning the spell Expecto Patronium really quickly) as opposed to the book where it took a long time. Some of the differences, particularly with how the spells work, are a little distracting. For example, Expecto Patronium here is not quite like it was in the book, and Expelliarmus here seemed to be used as both a disarming spell and a stunning spell. There are also some bits from the book that would’ve been nice to see in the movie. The humour in this movie worked really well, while the previous movies had some hit or miss humour, all of it works here. Prisoner of Azkaban is shorter than the previous two Harry Potter movies at 2 hours and 20 minutes long and is really paced well, even better paced than Philosopher’s Stone. You never feel bored, and you can’t pick out really a scene that could’ve or should’ve been removed for time or for the benefit of the story. Almost everything in here is needed.

There isn’t really any problems with the younger cast acting from this point forward with the films. Once again the friendship between Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) is even stronger. Radcliffe particularly gets a lot to do, especially in the second half. I mentioned in my Chamber of Secrets review that Ron Weasley comes across as being a little useless and underused at times, and the same goes for Prisoner of Azkaban, particularly in the third act (then again it was in the novel as well). The rest of the returning is once again good as well, particularly Alan Rickman as Severus Snape and Maggie Smith and Minerva McGonagall. Most of the new additions really worked. David Thewlis as Remus Lupin, the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher (the best in Harry’s period at Hogwarts), was a perfect casting decision, I can’t see anyone else in the role (I’m so glad Thewlis got this role instead of Professor Quirrell in Philosopher’s Stone). Gary Oldman works really well as Sirius Black, once again he transforms completely into his role. Conveying a lot of craziness, yet also completely convincing as the true character that’s revealed later on, Oldman is absolutely fantastic as usual. Timothy Spall was also perfect for his role that’s revealed later in the movie. One new cast addition was for the role of Albus Dumbledore, as Richard Harris died between the second and third films. Michael Gambon takes on the role now and while I’m aware there are mixed feelings about him, I think he’s fine here. He’s not quite fitted into the role of Dumbledore yet but he works fine, even if he does feel like he’s trying to act like Richard Harris. At least he fares better here than he does in Goblet of Fire. Other additions like Emma Thompson as Professor Trelawny were good as well.

Alfonso Cuarón’s direction is jarringly different from Chris Columbus’s, however considering the massive tonal differences that the later stories would have and seeing how they have changed, I can say that the changes was worth it and I’m glad that it happened in this movie before it was too late in the series. His direction of the movie is probably why so many people love this movie so much over the others, and for good reason. The way everything looks, his storytelling, pretty much everything works excellently. His attention to detail was great, particularly with Hermione and her use of the time turner. The cinematography by Michael Seresin was fantastic, it really looks great. When it comes to visuals, this is probably the first of the Harry Potter’s to have effects that actually still do hold up really well. Certain magical things like the Marauder’s Map particularly looked really nice on screen. Of course there are some moments where you can tell would need a green screen or something to be completely created in CGI and then you can really identify the green screen and tell that the CGI/magical object isn’t actually there, but nothing more than that. The look of the Dementors are great, shadowy, dark and really effective, I’m not sure why their design changed in Order of the Phoenix. This film has some truly magical and wonderful sequences, such as the flight(s) of the hippogriff Buckbeak and Harry facing off against the dementors. There are some weird looking sequences though, like the Knight Bus moment, where they seemed to up the insanity for a little bit, I guess that’s what they were going for but it did feel out of place. The production design was once again really great. I will say however that with this movie following the previous two, I can’t tell what year this takes place in. In fact one of the biggest problems with the Harry Potter movies is the time period is never locked down. It’s a slight distraction but doesn’t negatively affect the movies too much. Also whereas the first two movies had the main character wearing robes pretty much all the time, here they start wearing more casual clothes and this would become more prevalent over time as the movies would continue, I think it works for the movie but again it can be a jarring difference. Every director also keeps changing what Hogwarts looks like and again, jarring but you get over it. The score by John Williams is also great, in fact some of the best themes in the Harry Potter movies were introduced/featured in Prisoner of Azkaban.

Before re-watching Prisoner of Azkaban recently, I wasn’t sure where I would rank it among the Harry Potter movies, but now I think it’s at the very least among the best in the movies. The great pacing, the storytelling, the acting but most of all Alfonso Cuarón’s excellent direction, makes this a really great film. I can definitely see now why so many people consider it to be the best film in the entire series.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002) Review

Time: 161 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Frightening fantasy scenes and violence.
Cast:
Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter
Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley
Emma Watson as Hermione Granger
Kenneth Branagh as Gilderoy Lockhart
John Cleese as Nearly Headless Nick
Robbie Coltrane as Rubeus Hagrid
Richard Griffiths as Vernon Dursley
Richard Harris as Albus Dumbledore
Jason Isaacs as Lucius Malfoy
Alan Rickman as Severus Snape
Fiona Shaw as Petunia Dursley
Maggie Smith as Minerva McGonagall
Julie Walters as Molly Weasley
Director: Chris Columbus

It’s Year 2 at Hogwarts, and Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) are back learning, but their year doesn’t go past quietly. Members of the school are turning up petrified and bloody writing are appearing on the walls, revealing to everyone, that someone has opened the chamber of secrets. The attacks continue, bringing the possibility of the closure of Hogwarts. Harry and his friends are now forced to secretly uncover the truth about the chamber before the school closes or any lives are taken.

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Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was a huge hit for audiences, for both Harry Potter readers and those who weren’t. The next year, Chris Columbus would release the next film in the series, Chamber of Secrets, which is also pretty good, a film which I would consider to be slightly better than the Philosopher’s Stone, despite it feeling a little too long and drawn out at many points in the film.

In my last Harry Potter review, I mentioned how surprised I was at the length of the Philosopher’s Stone, at 2 hours and a half long. I’m even more shocked at the runtime for Chamber of Secrets, at 2 hours and 40 minutes long. I will say though, you can definitely feel the running time this time, some scenes can drag and some scenes can be rushed, and it definitely feels like a long movie this time round. Chamber of Secrets is not complicated but it’s not as simple as Philosopher’s Stone, with much more going on at the same time, and as nice as it was to see a lot of these scenes in the movie, maybe some of them should’ve been cut. The third act however was paced and handled suitably well for the most part. A good thing about this movie is that you can tell that Chamber of Secrets was done by the same director but there is a suitably darker tone that is necessary for the story. This is about a giant creature that petrifies (and sometimes) kills children after all. This also means a lot less of the camp and cheesiness that was present in the first movie (however the ending of the movie can be very cheesy). The movie also sets up and establishes things (unknowingly to audience members) that would come into play for future movies, and that’s something that the Harry Potter series does very well. There are some bits which, as a Harry Potter fan, slightly irked me, and I don’t usually have issues with differences to the books. For example, the disarming spell Expelliarmus is used as a stunning spell, while they aren’t anything really major, that can be very distracting.

The acting from the child actors is still not great but it has noticeably improved over the child acting in Philosopher’s Stone (and also despite the fact it’s just been a year, they all look much older). Also, the chemistry and friend dynamic between the 3 main leads (Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter, Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley and Emma Watson as Hermione Granger) is a lot better and more convincing. One issue I might bring up though is not an uncommon criticism, Ron is kind of a whiner and useless a lot of the time, particularly in this movie, Prisoner of Azkaban and Goblet of Fire. I know that some characters when adapted have to be simplified, but surely Ron could’ve come across as a little better than how he did here. Other returning actors, especially Alan Rickman as Severus Snape, Robbie Coltrane as Rubeus Hagrid and Richard Harris as Albus Dumbledore). We also have some new additions to the series. Kenneth Branagh was a perfect casting choice for Gilderoy Lockhart, he is really cartoonish, useless, over the top and annoying but it’s pretty much a perfect representation of the character (fun fact, Hugh Grant nearly played the role and he would’ve been great as well). Another great new casting choice was Jason Isaacs as Lucius Malfoy, Draco Malfoy’s (Tom Felton) father. He plays the role with such menace and is pretty memorable despite only being in a few scenes in Chamber of Secrets (that voice is pretty great and suits his character well. Also good was another new character Dobby, voiced by Toby Jones, perfect casting.

As I said before, you can tell that Chris Columbus directed Chamber of Secrets but it also has a darker tone to it, and this also extends to the direction. While there are lots of moments with brightness, the colour pallet also uses a lot of darker colours, the entire third act is dark and dark green. The production design is really great once again, the attention to detail was fantastic, especially the Chamber of Secrets. The visual effects are slightly better, it does have some weaker spots but there are a lot of things that still look pretty solid today. John William’s score is once again excellent, and his new additions to the Harry Potter soundtrack really pay off (the Fawkes theme being a standout).

I don’t know what the general reception that Chamber of Secrets has but I think I like it slightly more than Philosopher’s Stone (probably because of the darker story and tone). With that said, it does have some issues, with it feeling overlong and dragging at times. One of the weaker movies in the series but it’s still rather solid.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001) Review

Time: 152 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Contains supernatural theme
Cast:
Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter
Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley
Emma Watson as Hermione Granger
Tom Felton as Draco Malfoy
John Cleese as Nearly Headless Nick
Robbie Coltrane as Rubeus Hagrid
Warwick Davis as Filius Flitwick
Richard Griffiths as Vernon Dursley
Richard Harris as Albus Dumbledore
Ian Hart as Quirinus Quirrell
John Hurt as Mr. Ollivander
Alan Rickman as Severus Snape
Fiona Shaw as Petunia Dursley
Maggie Smith as Minerva McGonagall
Julie Walters as Molly Weasley
Director: Chris Columbus

Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) is an average bespectacled 11 year old boy who has lived with the Dursley family ever since his parents died in a car crash. For some reason the family has always mistreated him. On his 11th birthday a giant man named Rubeus Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) hands him a letter telling him that he has been accepted as a student at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry learns that his parents were wizards and were killed by an evil wizard Voldemort, a truth that was hidden from him all these years. He embarks for his new life as a student, gathering two good friends Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) along the way. They soon learn that something very valuable is hidden somewhere inside the school and Voldemort is very anxious to lay his hands on it.

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With Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald releasing towards the end of the year, I decided to have a look through all of the Harry Potter movies in the lead up to its release. The books were very popular and in the late 90s, Warner Bros were looking to adapt this acclaimed and beloved series (which was still going on) to the big screen. In 2001, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (no it’s not titled the Sorcerer’s Stone here in New Zealand) was released to much love from readers and non readers alike. I grew up with these movies with my family, so no matter some of the flaws that some of them have, I can’t help but love them. As for the Philosopher’s stone, it’s not one of the better movies in the series but I still like it, and watching it more recently, its actually impressive how well it started off the series for both those familiar with the Harry Potter books and those that weren’t.

Out of all the movies, Philosopher’s Stone is the most accurate to the book (you don’t get everything from the book in here though, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, there’s only so much you can put into one movie). However, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s automatically a better movie than the rest. Seeing it again recently, Philosopher’s Stone actually does some very impressive things that I didn’t notice before. What actually surprised me the most was the length of the movie, it was 2 hours and 30 minutes because it felt so much shorter. Director Chris Columbus really keeps the movie at a pretty good pace, it never feels like it lingers on things too much and it never feels rushed. Another great thing is when it comes to establishing the world of Harry Potter. When it comes to adapting fantasy or sci fi source material to the big screen, one of the biggest challenges is establishing the fictional world in a strong way to the audience, so that they are immersed and perfectly understand what kind of world they are in. With the Philosopher’s Stone, it’s done greatly, the story is simple but effective enough that you are willing to accept all the crazy magical things that this movie is establishing to you. The movie is very light hearted, especially in contrast with the rest of the series, however it really was the best way to start off the series. The book anyway has a mostly light tone, so the movie brought it to the big screen very well. Though I won’t lie this movie can feel really dated and a little too goofy and over the top at times (too many instances to list).

Almost all of the Harry Potter characters were perfectly cast. The main 3 actors with Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson (who play Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger respectively) do have some missteps but they all do good jobs. The child actors in the early films aren’t all the best and are a little rocky (especially with the line delivery), but they do improve over the years. The adult actors are all around well cast. Richard Harris as Albus Dumbledore (who does a good job as Dumbledore in his two film appearances for their respective stories), Robbie Coltrane as Hagrid, Alan Rickman as Severus Snape (absolutely perfect and much better than the book version of Snape), Maggie Smith as Minerva McGonagall, all do excellent jobs. Even some of the one scene actors do quite well, like John Hurt as Ollivander the wandmaker. The only casting choice/character who doesn’t work quite as well is Ian Hart as Professor Quirrell. While not bad or anything, he really wasn’t anything special, was a little over the top and it’s pretty clear the moment he’s on screen that he’s secretly shady (for lack of a better non spoilerish term).

Yes, as you’ll probably get from my thoughts on the later Harry Potter films, I do prefer the darker movies but for what Chris Columbus was going for in the first two Harry Potter movies, it works rather well. It’s also a perfect way to bring the audience, whether they are fans of the books or not, into the world. Chris Columbus does a great job at establishing the Harry Potter world. The production design is really great, especially in Hogwarts, it really does make you feel like you’re in a magical school. The visuals aren’t as impressive as those in the later movies but for its time it worked very well. Some visual effects haven’t aged well (especially the green screen), but you can accept it as it’s a movie from 2001. John Williams’s score as always is iconic and very memorable, adding a lot of ‘magic’ into a movie with already so much magic. It is a little on the nose in a couple scenes when Voldemort is brought up and the score drops to an over the top ominous sound, but otherwise it’s quite good.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is still good, and as I said a perfect adaptation of the book. Even if you think it’s on a significantly lower level compared to the rest of the movies, I think it’s worth acknowledging a lot of the impressive things it did with establishing the world and keeping the long running movie at a pretty fast pace. It’s not my favourite of the Harry Potter movies, it does feel quite dated but it nonetheless did a good job at starting off the series.