By James Mackney
With the release of J K Rowling’s new novel, published under the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith, I thought it would be an appropriate to head back and look at the filmic works of the her ever successful Harry Potter series.
To date the Harry Potter films have collectively grossed a total of $7,723,431,572, a staggering achievement. Does this mean they are all works of cinematic brilliance? Of course not and I would be inclined to say that the majority of the eight films released are quite average but they of course had the bonus of one of the most dedicated fan bases in history.
Now time to rank them (worst to best)…
8. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Cruising into last place is the second Harry Potter film. It was also the last film directed by Christopher Columbus. The director took the reigns in 2002, merely a year on from the first and it showed. Even though the book is rich in the intricacies of what makes people tick and the lengths to which they go to maintain their power, the film lacked any of this and it was a by numbers retelling of a story that deserved better. Also, it was a film with such bad dialogue that even I aged 11 could tell how B-movie it was.
7. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
The film that made Robert Pattinson famous! *cough*. The film was the only one to be directed by Mike Newell and it isn’t as bad as it could have been. Newell was given the unenviable task of needing to cull a lot of story from the first of big Harry Potter books, literally, it clocked in at 635 pages over an uncompromising 37 chapters. This is ultimately why the film falls down, it has the structure but none of the depth and the death of a Triwizard competitor does not have the necessary gravitas because of this. Oh and the less said about how Dumbledore reacts to Harry’s name being called out of the Goblet of Fire the better…
6. Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone
The first film and so naturally the hardest one to judge. The target audience was young and Christopher Columbus handles the direction with the care of a seasoned pro and it hits all the necessary notes (stringently in the right order). Overall, a good achievement for a heavily anticipated film that had the weight of the world on its shoulders.
5. Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows Part 1
It’s good. Very good in places. However ‘…Part 1’ falls down by being so boring. Yes, I loved the text it is adapted from but that is taking it as a whole. There is nothing here to draw the audience in unless they have invested in the preceding films and it is ultimately 3 hours of build up with needed plot developments and one of the saddest scenes in the films (and book) which was handled with precision, RIP Dobby. Good but cannot standalone against the others.
4. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
This book contained huge developments for the series with a lead character being killed off. The film handles this well and it was the second film to be directed by David Yates whose cinematic style owes more to Alfonso Cuarón than of Christopher Columbus which after the directorial misstep by Mike Newell was welcome. The story saw Harry growing up and as the film pushed itself towards a conclusion the films thankfully did the same.
3. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
The worst book? This is an unfortunate but frequent claim thrown it. Harry is recovering from the death of Cedric Diggory (Yay, no more Pattinson!) and is clearly suffering from PTSD. However the film does not focus on this alone and allows the story to be given a much needed boost and in turn created one of the vilest villains in Dolores Umbridge vividly on screen, played brilliantly by Imelda Staunton. This may be controversially high but the film really does stand up in the grand scheme of the series.
2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2
The final film, the better half of the duo and a film where Yates’ visual style is cemented. The two films were of course building up to Battle of Hogwarts signifying the end of the second Wizarding War. The ending was handled very well with the battle having the required sense of scale and threat. The decision to move the final scene with Harry and Voldemort to the courtyard will always rankle with me however this is a minor gripe. The film is so solid you can’t but help but admire it.
1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
The only film to be directed by Alfonso Cuarón and I can only but dream what would’ve become of the series if he was given the full reign from here on in. Being given arguably the tightest book helped Cuarón but in turn he moved away from the kitsch family films of Columbus and embraced the darker (literally the colour palette includes grey and dark blue for the first time) side of the stories and allowed the young cast to flex their growing (but stilted) acting chops. This in turn helped Cuarón create a film that felt for the first time that it was the embodiment of what the fans genuinely wanted. The CGI, which had always been good, was once again on tiptop form with the creation of Buckbeak and the performances of both Gary Oldman and Timothy Spall gave the series its first standout moments. It was also the first time that Michael Gambon played the role of Dumbledore who assumed the role much better than Richard Harris had done.
And there we go.
Oh, and btw, the new Galbraith book is very good for those familiar with Rowling’s writing style and reading it feels like sinking into a warm bath.