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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1

The final book of the Harry Potter series was split up into two movies released six months apart. David Yates, the director of the fifth and sixth movies, comes back to finish up the epic saga. Splitting up the movie into two parts was a great idea. The book is rich and dense with material, and the previous movies left so much out, there was no conceivable way to make a two-and-a-half hour movie that would wrap everything up in a satisfactory way. The two parts of Deathly Hallows are the most loyal to the book since Chamber of Secrets. It makes the film much more enjoyable if you’ve read the books.

Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson all do a great job again. The last few movies would have been terrible if they had to recast. This Potter flick didn’t have any 3D. There were only a few scenes that would have benefitted from looking extra dimensiony, so it doesn’t really affect anything. The special effects were amazing, one of the highlights being the scene with the decoy Harrys.

Harry, Ron, and Hermione decide that destroying Voldemort’s Horcruxes is cooler than going back to school. The three of them embark on a mission to identify and track down the mysterious objects that house fragments of Voldemort’s soul.

Voldemort has taken over the Ministry of Magic. Harry has become a fugitive along with his two best friends. Ron gets all moody and bitchy and storms out on Harry and Hermione. They celebrate by dancing awkwardly. Eventually Ron comes back (what a relief) and the three of them continue on their quest.

Hermione reads aloud the story of the Deathly Hallows, and they jump to an animated sequence of the Peverell brothers and how they cheated death. It is reminiscent of the Japanimated O-Ren Ishii sequence in Kill Bill Vol. 1. It’s unexpected and an interesting moment that was unlike anything else previously seen in the Potter movies.

It’s a great adaptation of the book. With the extended running time, there is no reason to rush or cut out important parts from the novel. It’s a bit disheartening when they show so many vital parts from the book, but don’t delve into Dumbledore’s backstory. That was a huge part of the book because it makes you question Dumbledore’s integrity. The film lags and drags for a bit when Harry and friends are hiding out in the wilderness, but the book was like that too. The escape from Malfoy Manor and Voldy getting the Elder Wand is a great way to end the film with a nice cliffhanger. It’s a good way to wrap up the movie and leaves you gearing up for the final chapter.

Critically Rated at 14/17

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Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (film)

David Yates steps in to direct, and he brings back the energy and joy of Prisoner of Azkaban. The fifth book was the longest, but the fifth movie was one of the shortest. Yates keeps the movie flowing and it is more energetic and fun than Goblet of Fire. Lots of things are left out of the movie, but they are alluded to. It captures the feel and tone of the fifth book, even though so much is left out. Even if you haven’t seen the other movies or read the books, this film is solid enough to stand alone.

This movie came out in July of 2007, the same month as the final book. It was a very good month for Potter fans. Not only did it also come out in IMAX, but the final twenty minutes were converted into 3D. Keep in mind that this was way before Avatar, and the whole movie was in 2D, but then when Harry and his friends jump on the Thestrals to save Sirius it becomes 3D. There were some great 3D moments as they explore the Department of Mysteries and get attacked by the Death Eaters, but nothing compares to Voldemort and Dumbledore’s fierce dual. Seriously some of the best use of 3D in film. It really added to the film, and because it was only 3D at the end, the 3D seemed more impressive. The dual is an amazing spectacle. Computer graphics can still make jaws drop if done correctly.

As per the trend, Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson continue to grow up and improve as actors. Gary Oldman has only a few scenes as Sirius, but establishes a real connection between Harry and Sirius. Keep in mind that Sirius only had one scene in Goblet of Fire, so it was vital for the audience to relate to Sirius so that when he dies you feel sorry for Harry. There is a great moment in the midst of the Ministry battle where Sirius calls Harry “James” by accident. It is a really brief but subtle allusion to Harry seeing Sirius as a father, but Sirius sees Harry as his friend. It sums up their relationship perfectly.

Two great female villains are introduced in this movie. Helena Bonham Carter portrays Bellatrix Lestrange, and makes her very deranged and psychotic. You can tell she went to the Alan Rickman School of Hamming It Up and graduated at the top of her class. Imelda Staunton steals the show with her portrayal of the loathsome and evil Dolores Umbridge. If you didn’t like Umbridge in the book, you will hate her in the movie. When she gets dragged off by the centaurs at the end, I still get giddy. It takes a lot of talent to not only have everyone hate your character, but to enjoy hating your character.

There was a lot of stuff left out of the movie. But it flows better and feels more like its paperback companion than Goblet of Fire. Yates did a great job and got the franchise back on track. A lot of people are critical of this movie, but in time I think it will be remembered as one of the best movies in the series.

Critically Rated at 15/17

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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (film)

Alfonso Cuarón directs the third movie in the franchise, taking over for Chris Columbus. The movie is much darker from the get-go, the Warner Bros. logo and opening titles are dark and gray, and we know that the Potter films are only going to get better.

Harry, Ron and Hermione are no longer kids, now they are teenagers. Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson are much more natural on screen in this one. The first two movies they were performing, now they are acting. Believe me, there is a difference. They know their characters now, and this screenplay gives them more material to work with. This movie is more character driven than the first two.

The adult cast continued to improve as well. Gary Oldman joined the cast as Sirius Black, Emma Thompson plays Trelawney, Michael Gambon takes over as Dumbledore, Timothy Spall is great as Peter Pettigrew, and David Thewlis plays Lupin. Not enough can be said about Alan Rickman as Snape, he can always be relied on to kick ass with just a few lines. Snape has a great moment where he instinctively protects Harry, Ron and Hermione from werewolf Lupin, it is insight to his true self.

The first two movies were great for laying out the foundation, but now a more accomplished director is able to build up the franchise.  Cuarón makes the word feel more natural and lived in. The students are still in robes, but they are disheveled and more casually strewn together. The wands are now much more unique and individualized, and they remain so for the rest of the films.  Hogwarts seems explorable and livable. The camera is much more dynamic. It sweeps around, it follows characters, and it gets hit with snow and rain. It feels like another character. This movie was a make or break point for the franchise; a bad director could have ruined everything. Cuarón improved upon everything Columbus did. I don’t have the facts to back this up, but I feel this movie got more people to read the books than any of the other films.

I wasn’t a fan of the time traveling aspect in the book. I feel it is a cheap to have time travel in a saga about magic, and I think J.K. Rowling realized the same and so time travel was never a plot device after Prisoner of Azkaban. That being said, I really enjoyed the time traveling aspect in the movie. They did it right.  Throughout the movie Hermione pops up suddenly, and later Harry gets hit by a rock, Hermione sees something strange, they are saved by mysterious howling, and Harry sees what looks like his father casting a patronus charm. Then later, they go back in time and you find out how Hermione was popping up suddenly, they find out that they threw the rock, that Hermione almost saw herself, that they were the ones howling and that Harry saw himself cast the patronus. And he even goes so far as to explain that he knew he could cast it this time, because he had already done it before.

A great movie, easily one of the best in the series. It is no longer a kid’s movie. Alfonso Cuarón is a great director and this film is proof. It is a part of a greater whole, but he made it very personal and very unique without ruining anything previously established. It sets up some story arcs for future installments, but it also stands out as its own film.

Critically Rated at 15/17

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