“Harry Potter” has already become a household name by now, and I suppose I understand why these books and movies are so insanely popular. It’s about these kids who are secretly wizards and they go to a secret wizard school called Hogwarts. There, the students learn how to perform many fun magical stuff. But if you are Harry Potter, you will also discover that your parents were murdered by the biggest baddie in the wizard world – Lord Voldemort. Now, Voldemort is coming back to take revenge (or whatever he’s trying to do) and it’s up to Harry Potter to save his friends and the whole of Hogwarts from total destruction. Of course there are other things that happen, but Voldemort’s return is the main crux of this massive saga.
Starting off on a positive note, I was surprised at how much I liked “Philosopher’s Stone”, the first installment in this gigantic film series. Even though I wasn’t clear about what’s going on in that dimly lit starting scene, the film succeeds in creating a character whom you care about. When Harry is mistreated by his guardians, you pity him. When he gets what he wants, you feel happy for him. The emotional connection of this title character with the audience is built up nicely in this first film, in fact it was the only thing that kept me interested five more times.
My interest in the story was dented when I started watching the second film, “Chamber of Secrets”. Although “Chamber of Secrets” did a very good job of creating a mysterious and eerie atmosphere, it just felt like a repeat of whatever “Philosopher’s Stone” did story-wise. The film started to become a dull as the plot dragged on, and it didn’t feel as fresh and exciting as the first film. Also, the climax in “Chamber of Secrets” had too many plot devices that (literally) flew in just to create an action packed scenario.
The third Harry Potter film is “Prisoner of Azkaban”, and it is quite good. In fact, I found it to be superior to “Philosopher’s Stone” in certain aspects. Towards the end, it had some interesting monsters and a time travel plot which I found to be highly intriguing. There was also a plot twist in the climax, although I’m not sure if I really want to call it a plot twist. Something happens that was really smart and extremely well executed. Going back to how the Harry Potter character propels this film series, the climax of “Prisoner of Azkaban” fleshed out his character in ways that amazed me.
And then comes “Goblet of Fire”, and the main story involves this Triwizard Tournament thing that Harry Potter has to compete in. He has to go through 3 rounds of magical games to win the tournament. However, there’s also a wizard ball (of all things) that the kids have to attend. So each of them has to find a date, and when kids have to find a date, it creates all sorts of problems. The wizard dance was just too childish to me, and left me bored for the most part. Harry Potter battles the villain at the end of the film, which at this point is already getting tiresome in itself. (Fun Fact: Robert Pattinson, aka vampire Edward Cullen of “Twilight”, plays a small yet crucial role here… and he’s pretty good!)
“Order of the Phoenix” has a significantly darker feel than the previous installments, which I appreciated because the series was in need of a makeover. I have to say that there’s a massive shoot-out in “Order of the Phoenix”, and when I say shoot-out, I mean with wands (not guns). The idea of shooting each other using a wand in your hand is quite ridiculous and laughable if you asked me, especially when you have to recite the name of the spell before you can fire. But when you are a fan of movies where people swing glowing sticks to kill each other, I suppose the form of combat here isn’t so weird after all.
“Half-Blood Prince” is very puzzling in terms of its story construction, but it is certainly visually polished. The film circles around some interesting plot points but don’t really make a landing. The story seemed to be leading to something huge, and the whole time I was waiting for something epic to happen, which never did. The conclusion of this film was meaningless to me, and felt very cold compared to the conclusions of the previous films. Overall, “Half-Blood Prince” is more of a trailer for the next Harry Potter feature rather than an actual film by itself. However, it does have some romance and comedy cleverly mixed within that is done better than in “Goblet of Fire”.
There is one more Harry Potter novel to adapt for the big screen, and it’s going to be split into two features (which I think is ridiculous). I’m curious to see how this series ends because as the trailer for “Deathly Hallows” points out, this is “the motion picture event of the generation”. Harry Potter got the kids reading thick novels and made them excited to go to the cinemas. I am not that person who will rush out to catch the first screening of Harry Potter, but I wish “Deathly Hallows” all the best.