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Pottering Away: Reflections on the Harry Potter franchise…

It’s quite strange, considering a movie series as opposed to its independent constituent elements. It seems like in taking in the broad tapestry of adventure allows the viewer a completely different appreciation for the story being told, especially when measured against considering each individual film on its own terms. With the Harry Potter series finally ending, I had an excuse to go back and dig through the old DVDs, watching each and every instalment in the series as a means of saying one final goodbye. However, despite the fact that some of the films may have been less impressive than others, or the fact that the plots didn’t always flow consistently from one film to the next, I still think that the eight films taken in their totality represent a rather wonderful accomplishment for all involved.

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Non-Review Review: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s (Sorcerer’s) Stone

So, here we are, back at the beginning. The first movie in the eight-movie cycle about the boy wizard with the distinctive glasses. Harry Potter – “the boy who lived”, as he is described – and his eventful six-year stay at Hogwarts, with one final story to wrap it all up. To be honest, the first movie does benefit a lot from the movies that followed, giving the film a lot of retroactive weight as you can see the plot threads thrown out and suggested to be developed later – the countless little set-ups deployed by Rowling to pay off down the line. Which is handy, I suppose, because otherwise the instalment feels just a little bit too slow and convoluted for its own good.

The series has a bit of difficulty getting off the ground...

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Non-Review Review: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince represents a fairly significant improvement in quality from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. It seems the movie franchise is finally getting a handle on this sort of serialised story-telling, as the movie serves more as a collection of sub-plots leading into Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows than it does as a story in its own right. However, there’s a sense that the series is getting a bit better at balancing all the competing demands for screentime, and it even manages to explain the title mystery, albeit in a slightly off-hand manner (almost as an after-thought).

Storm clouds are gathering over Hogwarts...

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Non-Review Review: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Truth be told, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix has a lot of problems. It’s structurally the weakest of the films, existing as a bridge between what came before and what follows – but ultimately feels like treading water. One gets the sense that the ruthless editing that made Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire work so well was sorely missing here. It literally feels more like a collection of subplots rather than a movie in its own right. And then there’s the ending, which is ridiculously weak, but also somewhat undermines the threat the last film spent so long building up.

It's not a knock-out success...

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Non-Review Review: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

“Everything’s going to change now, isn’t it?”

– Hermoine, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Truth be told, before I saw Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was easily my favourite instalment of the series. It’s the perfect balance between the lighter start of the series and the much darker end of it, straddling the two distinct tones with ease, and managing to walk the line between it’s under-plotted predecessors and over-plotted successors. It’s still not quite perfect, but it genuinely feels like things are changing and world is lot more vast than the earlier films had led us to believe.

The series is finally firing on all cylinders...

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Non-Review Review: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry Potter and the Prison of Azkaban represents probably the best transition from printed page to big screen in the franchise, boasting the most confident and comfortable direction of the big screen series. Director Alfonso Coarón, perhaps best known for his work on Children of Men crafts perhaps the most magical of the Harry Potter adventures, effortlessly crafting a world that seems strangely familiar and yet curiously foreign, simultaneously bright and coloured, but populated with dark brooding shadows. Even after the series has ended, the third instalment remains perhaps the most stylish.

Enchanting...

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Non-Review Review: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets works much better as an episodic collection of scenes than a single story. It’s prone to fluctuate between rather brilliant moments and a few misfires here and there. It definitely feels extremely childish, as if the studio was attempting to construct a G-rated Raiders of the Lost Ark, with the John Williams soundtrack adding to the effect, the set design of the eponymous chamber looking like some forgotten archeological tomb, and even Julian Glover being afforded a small cameo (okay, he was in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, but the point stands). It’s strange to look back at the second instalment, after all that has unfolded since, and look at how much more juvenile and simplistic it all seems in retrospect.

Malfoy drives stick...

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Non-Review Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II is probably the strongest entry in the film series, and offers a fitting code to the saga of the famous boy wizard. Sleaker, leaner and meaner than most of its predecessors, I can actually understand – artistically – why Warners opted to split the final book into two distinct chapters. In many ways, the previous instalment (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I) felt like another year with the Hogwarts crowd, while the finale here represents an epilogue to the entire series. Threads hinted at and developed since the first film are all tied up here, and – isolated from a lot of the soap opera of early episodes – the last in the series provides some stunning closure.

The wiz kid returns...

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Non-Review Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I

Even in this era of franchises and spin-offs and sequels and remakes to see a movie treated as a form of serialised fiction. I’m not even talking about a sequel hook inserted just before (or even during) the trailers, but I’m talking about literally taking one whole movie and dividing it and then releasing separately. It’s an approach that worked for The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, and for The Lord of the Rings, but each Harry Potter film until now has felt like its own story, containing threads building towards a larger finale. Each instalment has been structured with a beginning, middle and end. With Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I, we simply get a first act and what feels like the majority of the second. As such, it feels almost strange to review it without the companion film.

Harry's a wiz by this stage of the game...

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