Potterville: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II

deathly hallows 2 poster

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II might be the first movie that is really just a two hour climax. Not only does it have to tie up everything from its immediate predecessor, but it serves as the capper to ten years of ridiculously successful film-making. The amazing thing is that it succeeds in the best terms possible. It’s ties up the stories that have been weaving over seven movies, but more importantly it never misses a chance to go for the emotional payoff. It gives the major characters the ending they deserve. If Sorcerer’s Stone set in motion all of the pieces that would make Harry Potter a success on the big screen, Deathly Hallows Part II ensures that the entire series will be remembered for years by sticking the landing. Continue reading

Potterville: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1

deathly hallows part 1

So here we are, in the last big push before the entire series is over. Of course, Deathly Hallows is split over two movies, and we’re covering the first one here. I’ve always been of two minds about the split. On one hand, at no point have I ever assumed that it was for some altruistic reason to be more true to the book. It was, pure and simple, a way to wring one more movie ticket from all of the fans who had stuck with it for so long. There was so much content cut out of previous books so that a story could fit in a single movie, but suddenly we need over four hours to adapt the final installment? How convenient. Continue reading

Potterville: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

movie poster

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is the first Potter movie that has enough confidence to let the visuals do the talking. I’m not sure if there’s actually any less dialog in this installment, but it feels like it. It’s a movie where the main plot lurks in the shadows until it suddenly comes to a head at the end. Most of the dialog concerns itself with the various dramas from the edge of adulthood, unrequited love and heartbreak. Not the fluffy kind of teenage flings that fizzle in weeks, but the deep affection that comes from seeing someone at their worst and sticking with it. More than any of the other movies, the challenges of adolescence is at the front of this movie. Continue reading

Potterville: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

order of the phoenix

Figure this one out: Order of the Phoenix is the longest book in the series, and yet it’s the second shortest of the movies, just above the last one, which was really half a movie in the first place. One might wonder how it was able to cram over 800 pages in just over two hours, but the dirty little secret of the fifth and sixth Harry Potter books is that not a lot happens. Book six is more concerned with setting up the final chapter than anything else, and book five is mainly one of atmosphere. There isn’t a mysterious caper at the center. It’s largely an internal story, where we find Harry at his moodiest and most turbulent. More than any of the other stories, it’s about the transition to adulthood. Continue reading

Potterville: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Goblet of Fire movie poster

It took me a long time to appreciate Goblet of Fire as a movie. It definitely has the hardest job of any of the films, because it has to adapt one of the longest books in the series. Not only that, but it’s not a book that will let you remove parts easily. It’s the climax in the classic sense, the turning point of the entire arc of Harry Potter. So it’s a tough adaptation, and they do a good job. But it’s the first time where we see some narrative seams showing. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is the weakest Harry Potter movie that I’ve reviewed so far, and it might end up at the bottom of the pile when all is said and done. Continue reading

Potterville: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Prisoner of Azkaban movie poster

There’s a scene early in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban where a housekeeper for The Leaky Cauldron knocks on a door to see if she can clean the room. The door opens up and an enormous roar launches out of the door, accompanied by the breath of some unseen monster. The door slams shut, and the housekeeper drily says “I’ll come back later.” It’s not important at all, and it’s not even a particularly clever joke. But the way it’s staged and timed is so funny to me, and it’s even more delightful because it’s not in the book at all. It’s just a funny little detail that was thrown in. Prisoner of Azkaban is filled with little bits like that. It relishes the little absurdities of life in the wizarding world, like the guy who is stirring his drink by twirling his finger to make the spoon turn. Surely it would be easier to just stir the spoon by holding it? Continue reading

Potterville: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Chamber of Secrets might be the weakest of the Harry Potter novels. It’s not a bad book, but I’ve never thought it can stand toe-to-toe with the joy and discovery of its immediate predecessor, nor the personal stakes and dread of Prisoner of Azkaban. Its main value is that it sets up a lot of background that becomes extremely important in the endgame, but it’s never gripped me like the other books have. Knowing that, I was a little surprised to discover that when I sat down to watch the 2002 film of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, I ended up liking it even more than Sorcerer’s Stone. It might be the only Harry Potter movie that’s actually better than the book it’s based on. Continue reading

Potterville: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Still the best Harry Potter poster

“You’re a wizard, Harry.”

With those four words, Hagrid states the most resonant theme of the first Harry Potter film. Harry lives under the stairs, for crying out loud. Dust rains down on him whenever Dudley thunders up and down the steps. He’s made to do all of the household chores. He’s basically a slave. And then he hears those wonderful words from Hagrid, and suddenly he learns who he really is. All his life he’s been made to feel like he’s a burden, someone to be tolerated and kept down. But that single line from Hagrid opens up everything. All of the terrible things he’s heard simply aren’t true. He has value, and he is indeed special. Continue reading

Potterville – Prologue: Letters in the Fireplace

Dumbledore's Army

Serious business, ya’ll.

The Harry Potter books are my “comfort” novels. When I feel like curling up with a book but I don’t want one that will require much of me, I read Harry Potter. I’ve read the entire series through at least four times, because I love returning to that world. If that makes me a preteen at heart, I’m comfortable with that. But I have a more complicated relationship with the movies. Continue reading