Top 5 & 5: Best and Worst of the Harry Potter Movies

18 07 2011

With the Harry Potter film series finally coming to an end, it seems right to look back at this decade-long adaptation of J.K. Rowling’s work and what was done right and what was done wrong. So, here are my top-5 best and top-5 worst things of the Harry Potter film series.

Best #5: The Consistency

Every major (aka big budget) film series, aside from perhaps “The Lord of the Rings”, has at least one stinker. Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Alien, Terminator, The Godfather, etc. all have a black sheep of the family. It is almost inevitable that something will eventually miss and with the size and scale of the Harry Potter franchise it would make sense for them to suffer the same fate. Yet eight movies later, between four different directors, and I don’t think there is a single Harry Potter movie you could call legitimately bad. There are definite standouts among the series but even the less well received movies were still at the very least good, despite their flaws. Each movie, like the books, has their place in the story and if you want to relive the whole experience there shouldn’t be anything stopping you from enjoying every one which can’t be said for a lot of other series.


Worst #5: Quidditch?

Quidditch is a big part of the Harry Potter universe, so it caught me by surprise when it was left out almost entirely of “The Prisoner of Azkaban”. Now, I love that movie and in fact it may be my favorite of the series but that was a huge part of the book. It was Wood’s last year at Hogwarts and he had never won the Cup and it was also a big moment for Harry as well. In addition it caused one of my favorite parts of the book to be left out (the distraught nature of Harry, Ron, and Wood over McGonagall stripping his Firebolt), and a new part to be added it (the horrible freeze-frame ending of Harry riding the Firebolt for the first time). Now like I said, I loved this film, but that was a glaring omission that I would have loved seen come to life.


Best #4: Developing the Child Actors.

I do not envy the pressure that the Director and Casting Director had to go through when casting Harry, Ron, and Hermoine. They had to get three extremely young actors to not only be the face of what may be the biggest book series in the world (at least at that time), but they also needed people who could act. If we’re honest, the kids did just an adequate job in the first couple movie, those were carried by the supporting actors/actresses and the storytelling. Yet, believe it or not, they bloomed into actors capable of holding their own in huge pictures aside legends of the craft. Rupert Grint was always a side-kick so he’s a little more of a question mark but Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe really came into their own in these last two pictures in particular. The fact that the staff there were able to pick these future talents at such an early age and then helped them develop into what they are today is exceptional and without that the later, darker, films would have definitely fallen flat.


Worst #4: That It Wasn’t A TV Show

We’re living in an age of big-budget television. HBO and AMC have been producing some of the highest-quality television programs perhaps ever and have been giving out the budgets to make them happen. We all have little scenes or lines that didn’t make the film’s cut, or minor characters we liked that didn’t get developed just because the film-makers couldn’t fit it all in. If Harry Potter was a TV show and gave a season per book, almost every scene could have been included. Heck, perhaps more could have been added. The budget may have gotten a little tight in the later seasons but Harry Potter was never really about anything that you would need expensive effects for, it was about the characters and the world which, once established could have been the base for everything else.


Best #3: The Artistic Design

If there is one area the films succeed beyond any other it is in creating the world. This is established from the great sets and costumes which gave life to what is a fantasy series despite being so close to the real world as well. The great sense of culture and uniqueness of it all gave every audience member something wonderful to look at and truly immersed the viewer more than the actors or dialogue could have.


Worst #3: The Flying Wizards

Flying with magic was something of a throwaway in the final book. They mentioned how Voldemort could do it and it was never really expanded upon it beyond the mention of this new crazy power he had. This is how he separated himself. He was Voldemort, he didn’t need some lousy broom to fly him around he could do it himself. Heck Dumbledore couldn’t even do it as far as we know as Hagrid mentioned that sometimes he used the Thestrals. Now in the movies though, everyone can fly. The cool magical abilities of Brooms and flying creatures lessens because apparently its some spell you can just learn fairly easily now. Why do they even play Quidditch on brooms if this is the case. This is a minor thing but something that really bugged me in the later movies none-the-less.


Best #2: The Supporting Cast

“Harry Potter” is filled with many great characters and a great amount of credit has to be given to those who brought together the incredible supporting cast. Almost every big British actor and actress appear at some time or another. Robbie Coltrane, Ralph Fienes, Imelda Staunton, Alan Rickman, and Jim Broadbent all brought great performances among others and without such a wonderful cast many of the exceptional characters Rowling created would have been left disappointing.


Worst #2: Not Changing Enough

Lets be honest for a minute, the Harry Potter series has a ridiculous amount of plot holes. This is a world where time-travel, invisibility, liquid luck, shape-shifting, and truth serum exist quite commonly. The films would have been an excellent way to alter some of these plot holes. Make these amazing things that could so easily help our heroes in many situations rarer or alter their source or something to make them more logical. The time-turner for example is really neat in the small setting of “The Prisoner of Azkaban” but it becomes ridiculous in the larger scope of things. The directors should have taken a larger role in not just adapting the books to screen but making a movie based on the book, which is a distinct difference. A very easy example would be from the first book where one of the major guards to what is perhaps the most valuable object in the world is a plant that any 11 year old who payed attention in Herbology could have gotten around. It doesn’t make sense. So cut that scene and keep in the potion one or even change it to a brand new situation where Hermoine’s cleverness and eager-reading habits help the group in a more sensible and believable way. “Harry Potter” is filled with these moments and a small reworking of what happens could have been a great way to fix some parts and give the audience something new.


Best #1: The Spirit of the Books

The best thing that every director did was keeping the major themes and tone alive in each movie. Every movie felt like they should and that is in large part to the directors understanding what was happening and why. “The Philospher’s Stone” was adventurous, “The Chamber of Secrets” dark and creepy, and so on. Stuff was left out which was regrettable and certain things were not as many imagined, but nevertheless the core aspects of each book remained intact making each movie feel like the book which is why they succeeded so well.


Worst #1: It Was Done So Well.

The worst aspect of the Harry Potter film franchise is that it is was done with such care and in such quality. Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson will (for the foreseeable future) always be viewed as Harry, Ron, and Hermoine; the movie Hogwarts will be in our heads when reading the books and the costumes and individual sets the same. Why is this bad you ask… because although the movies weren’t perfect they were close enough that even in this time of reboots there won’t be another adaptation tried in a long time. Combine this with the fact that J.K. Rowling has no immediate plans to make any more books and that’s it. After almost fifteen years, seven books, and eight movies Harry Potter has finally come to an end. Its just a little sad for the millions who have grown up with these books, so what now. Well, I guess all there really isn’t anything else to do than bring out my copy of “The Philosopher’s Stone” and relive it all again.




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