As the HARRY POTTER franchise come to a close, here are mini-reviews of all 8 films

It has been ten years since Hollywood was introduced to the world of Harry Potter in 2001, which was adapted from the series of books written by J.K. Rowling. With “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part 2” wrapping up the “Harry Potter” film franchise, I decide to write mini-reviews of all eight films that culminates with a review of the last film, which came out Friday. Beware for those who have not seen these series of films because there are certain sections in this article that contain spoilers.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)

As the first installment of the “Harry Potter” franchise, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” does a nice and tolerable introduction to the world of Harry Potter thanks to director Chris Columbus. An orphan who lives with his impatient aunt and uncle discovers he is a wizard and he is invited to attend the Hogwarts School of Wizardry where he meets other kids who are just like him. Legendary movie composer John Williams does it again as he conducts another memorable cinematic score. The production design by Stuart Craig is outstanding including creating the interiors of Hogwarts. Daniel Radcliffe does manage to bring Potter to life from the glasses and the haircut to the scar on his forehead. However, there were a couple of scenes that could have been deleted because the movie becomes a little too faithful to the book, which can be seen as a downfall. The special effects and CGI looks a little unrealistic and more like graphics from a video game.

Harry Potter and the Chambers of Secret (2002)

Director Chris Columbus returns to the director’s chair for the second installment of the “Harry Potter” franchise, “Harry Potter and the Chambers of Secret”. This time around, the tone of the film is little darker than its predecessor with the threat of death surrounding Hogwarts. The special effects are a great improvement from the last film the effects going hand-in-hand with some good action sequences including a thrilling Quidditch match and a car chase by some realistic looking spiders. This film also happens to feature one of the last performances by the late Richard Harris as Dumbledore. There are some new cast members added to the franchise including Kenneth Branagh as the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher Gilderoy Lockhart and Jason Issacs as Lucius Malfoy, Draco’s father. Despite being entertained for the entire 160-minutes, there were a couple of pacing issues in which a few scenes could have been trimmed. The introduction of the character of Dobby the House Elf gets annoying at times that it almost borders close to Jar-Jar Binks territory, but it becomes somewhat tolerable.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

With Chris Columbus leaving the director’s chair and only serving as remaining as a producer, it is director Alfonso Cuaron (“Children of Men”) who is at the helm of “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”. This film of the one of the best films of the “Harry Potter” franchise that not only ventures the story into dark territory, but it also has some more humor that seemed to be lacking in the last two films. It is in this film where Harry shows that he has great potential as a powerful wizard when he is defending himself against Dementors, the guards of Azkaban who have a knack for hassling Harry throughout the film. The cast remains the same, except for Michael Gambon inheriting the role of Dumbledore from Richard Harris. This Dumbledore is an improvement with a sense of humor and lively attitude compared to Harris’ Dumbledore. There some new additions to the cast that includes Emma Thompson as Professor Trelawney, David Thewilis as Professor Lupin and Gary Oldman as Sirius Black, the escaped prisoner of Azkaban and Harry’s godfather. The cinematography is tremendously free and non-restricted with Cuaron using some long takes in several scenes that makes the story feel more realistic. The visual effects for this film were not just here to showcase some scary monster like the last two films, but it served a purpose to the story it was telling. John Williams’ score from the other films recur in some moments, but he also manages to create another memorable score for the second time in this franchise. 

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)

As the first British person to direct this British-based franchise, Mike Newell (“Donnie Brasco”) makes an invigorating and dark entry to the series with “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”. This time around, Harry finds himself entered in the deadly Tri-Wizard Tournament where each task he faces puts him in danger. This film has a lot of action that involves the tournament that include dragons, mermaids and not-so-lifeless maze, which are spectacular sequences. With Steve Kloves as screenwriter, this film becomes less about the action and more about the kids of Hogwarts growing up and beginning to become interested in the opposite sex. Harry is more comfortable facing a dangerous dragon then asking a girl out to the Yule Ball for fear of rejection. Irish actor Brendan Gleeson (“In Bruges”) is a great new addition to the franchise as Professor Alastor “Mad-Eye” Moody. He is not the only new cast member as Ralph Fiennes is perfect in the role of Lord Voldermort, even if he only makes his dark and ominous presence near the end of the movie. The ending of the film does leave viewers with somber tone as the movie comes to a close with Dumbledore delivering a eulogy to the students of Hogwarts after Voldermort kills one of their classmates, Cedric Diggory (pre-“Twilight” Robert Pattinson).

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)

With Mike Newell leaving the director’s post, British director David Yates would be the last director of the franchise as he would direct the rest of the films with his first one being “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”. The gang is back together again at Hogwarts as they begin to form of an army of their own with other students in order to prepare to fight Voldermort and his Death Eaters. Among the older actors, Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman, Gary Oldman and Ralph Fiennes do have brief but great moments where they shine. With the majority of the cast returning, there are more new cast members including Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange and Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge. With Voldermort showing up in brief moments, Umbridge takes the mantle as the main villain as tyrannical monster who has loves tea, the color pink and kittens. There some cool creature moments thanks to the special effects that include scary looking horse skeletons with wings called Thestrals. Even though the movie has a short running time compared to the last four films, there are a couple of dull moments with the majority of the action happening in the finale. There were some characters that were featured prominently in the other films that are barely in this movie.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)

“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” is the weakest entry of the “Harry Potter” franchise as it does not feature an appearance by Voldermort and it barely has any action sequences in it. This film does have its moments, but it plays more this time around as a funny high school romantic comedy with Harry, Ron and Hermione all having romantic interests and getting involved in semi-love triangles with other students at Hogwarts. Eventually, Ron and Hermione finally hooking up and Harry begin to fall in love with Ron’s sister, Ginny (Bonnie Wright). It is in this movie that Draco (Tom Felton) finally embraces his inner villain by causing a lot of malevolence mischief. This movie is the best looking “Harry Potter” film in the franchise thanks to the stunning cinematography by Bruno Delbonnel (“Amelie”). The downfall for this film is that the movie is extremely boring. It is barely a memorable movie because there is nothing that happens in this movie that can be remembered when you watch it the first time. It is also that help that the movie ends on a downer with everyone at the end of the movie mourning the death of Dumbledore (Michael Gambon), who was killed by Severus Snape (Alan Rickman), and the decision made by Harry, Ron and Hermione that they will be returning to Hogwarts .

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part 1 (2010)

The beginning of the end of the “Harry Potter” franchise is here with “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part 1” arriving in theaters last fall. This movie becomes less about dragons and Quidditch and more about the characters with Harry, Ron and Hermione on the road in search of the “Hocruxes” that needs to be destroyed in order to defeat Voldermort (Ralph Fiennes). There are more memorable scenes to be found in this then there was in “Half-Blood Prince”. The special effects are still great, especially in the scenes that mark the return of Dobby, who actually does some butt-kicking of his own in this film. Director David Yates has proves that he is the perfect director for this franchise, even though “Half-Blood Prince” was a bit weak link in the series. The break-in at the Ministry of Magic is a fantastic sequence that is suspenseful and funny with a spot-on imitation of Radcliffe by David O’ Hara. There is another fantastic and memorable scene is the mythology of the Deathly Hollows being wonderfully told through the art of animation. The script, which was written by Steve Kloves, is cleverly peppered with a bit of history that mentions several events that occurred in the last six films. The movie does not only leave viewers with heck of a cliffhanger, but it is the perfect tease for what is to come in the next film.  

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part 2 (2011)

They certainly saved the best for last as “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part 2”, which is out in theaters on Friday, is the epic finale to the franchise that will satisfy Harry Potter fans and no doubt the best movie of the “Harry Potter” franchise. If action is want you want, then action is what you get with this movie. There are fire-breathing dragons, tons of wizard battles taking place within the walls of Hogwarts and the final showdown between Harry Potter and Lord Voldermort. The film also features a high body count for a PG-13 movie with many people and some familiar faces sacrificing themselves for the cause of good. The cinematography from Eduardo Serra is beautifully shot despite its dark and ominous atmosphere. The performances are great all around, especially Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson as they deliver their strongest performances of the series. The adult cast is also great, but Ralph Fiennes and Alan Rickman standout among the rest. The 3D is not as great or eye-popping as “Transformers: Dark of the Moon”, but it does allow certain details and the spectacular visual effects to pop up on the silver screen. The story also reveals certain plot points that unveil the true intentions of Dumbledore on why he is protecting Potter and major details involving a young Severus Snape as boy, who fell in love with Harry’s mother. Alexandre Desplat’s score is the best of the franchise that occasionally echoes John Williams’ original themes from some of the earlier films.

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