Ed. Note: Meet In the Lobby welcomes Matt Clough, our first UK contributor in some time (he likes to say “whilst”). Matt, an ardent Harry Potter viewer and critic, has rated each of the eight films in a unique way: By the Harry Potter character the film most closely represents. Check it out.
Last weekend saw the culmination (for now, at least) of quite possibly the biggest pop-culture phenomenon in modern history, and the box office take of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 is certainly befitting the franchise. As it stands, the first seven Harry Potter films are all on the list of the Top 30 all-time highest-grossing films, and Deathly Hallows Part 2 is a certainty to join them, having already broken all-time records for biggest midnight opening, biggest opening day, and biggest opening weekend.
The series has been the cinematic equivalent of a Dementor, sucking money out of pockets, rather than souls out of faces. You’ll have to forgive the repeated use of ‘magic’ vernacular and the rating by Potter character, but (at the risk of sounding like a 14-year old fangirl) that really is the best way to describe the series. Here’s a recap of exactly where it went right for Harry, and where he occasionally fell off his broom (sorry).
:: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (or, Philosopher’s Stone)
Director Chris Columbus pulled off what is considered one of the truest adaptations of the series (helped, in no small part, by the comparative brevity of the first book to later installments). Without the need to make every scene plot-driven, Columbus can devote time to fleshing out the magical world, which he does emphatically, bringing to life a fictional universe that had already enchanted millions on the page. With the weight of expectation on its shoulders, Sorcerer’s Stone delivers.
Character rating: Harry
:: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Columbus carries on in a similar vein as with Sorcerer’s Stone, again delivering a strong, faithful adaptation. However, Chamber of Secrets suffers slightly from having to be more narrative based (realistically, it was the last of the books that could comfortably fit into a film’s running time) and, at times, the film feels as though it’s going through the motions. The sense of magic that comes with seeing a beloved character on the big screen is on the wane.
Character rating: Neville
Occasionally brilliant, but also clumsy and plodding.
:: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
With the cracks in Columbus’s story-telling approach appearing, the producers turn to Alfonso Cuarón to direct. The result is arguably the best-looking film of the entire franchise, and the strongest entry focused mainly on Hogwarts (this being the last story set mainly in the castle and its immediate surroundings). Whilst the school has always been a critical part of the films, the plots of later installments outgrew Hogwarts; a necessary change, but nonetheless a loss of a key source of the series’ magical charm.
Character rating: Hermione
An efficient, pitch-perfect adaptation of the third story, with a warm human side, for the final true Hogwarts film.
:: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
This was another strong addition to the series, directed by Mike Newell. Although Newell came under some criticism for playing it safe with his adaptation, he can hardly be blamed given that the book remains one of the most popular — if not the most popular — of the series. With Newell at the helm, the acting definitely takes a turn for the decidedly overdramatic (Snape goes from menacing to essentially a slapstick pantomime villain), making Goblet of Fire stand out worse than a non-ginger Weasley.
Character rating: Dobby
Strong narrative and certainly appealing, but also quite annoying.
:: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Another film, another director. This time David Yates takes over (pictured left, with Michael Gambon), stepping off to a fairly inauspicious start. The major problem with Yates’s first attempt is that the focus on plot leaves little time for anything else, particularly action. The end sequence in the Ministry, in particular, is truncated and less spectacular than in the written form.
Character rating: Dudley Dursley
Bloated, relatively bland and largely forgettable.
:: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Yates’s second attempt is an improvement, with the seemingly purposeful overacting of Newell’s effort a thing of the past. However, Half-Blood Prince suffers from too much emphasis on the general plot, and a glossing-over of certain finer details. Many a fan’s ire was raised thanks to several additions in the film not present in the book, most notably the Weasley’s house burning to the ground — despite the fact it would appear in later stories.
Character rating: Vernon Dursely
More entertaining than its predecessor, but ‘like father, like son’ in many respects.
:: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
Splitting the final book of the series into two films was never going to be easy and, in many ways, the near unmitigated success of Part 2 validates the sacrifice made by the first part of Deathly Hallows; with the vast majority of the action coming in the second half, there’s not much left here other than the three heroes wandering around in a forest, which, whilst unavoidable for the plot, doesn’t make for a particularly riveting film.
Character rating: Draco
For all its foreboding and dark intent, that’s all it is; intent. It never delivers.
:: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
There’s not much that can be said here that hasn’t already been said. Part 2 ends the series in superb fashion, and is easily the best episode of the franchise, justifying the lackluster precursor. Yates successfully hits every satisfying note mapped out by Rowling in the book, the acting is the strongest it’s been and even the fairly ham-fisted prologue can’t detract from a brilliant finale.
Character rating: Ron
Overcomes adversity (i.e. being ginger) to be generally awesome… to the extent of getting it together with Hermione.