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Wild About Harry

Thursday 14 July 2011, 17:51

Mark Kermode Mark Kermode

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It's ten years since the Harry Potter films started and now we have reached the very last movie Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2. Here I review this final installment and lament the passing of a brilliant British franchise.

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    Comment number 1.

    Whilst no great fan of the HP books or films the films themselves have got progressively better and better from 4 onwards, a remarkable achievement when most sequels fail at number 3 at best and then spiral down to dross and blatant attempts to milk out money. The glory of HP is that with the books it has enormously contributed to a mass uptake of kids (and the not so young) rediscovering the joy of reading and staying with it to expand to other authors. And for the films they have made a tremendous impact in restoring the british film industry and creating our own superior high tech special effects expertise that will stand us in good stead for all manner of filmmaking for years to come.

    As a total non sequitur I suggested on a bbc questionnaire on your site that it would be great to have the option to suggest future subjects for Dr K's blog and I've noticed other contributors have sneaked some of these in. So could I suggest " two degrees of degradation" as a subject, that being where a director goes from making a great film to a total dud, especially where the subsequent film in pretentious and indulgent. Examples that spring to minds are M Night Shyalaman's transition from the village to lady in the water, or Cimino's flight from Deer Hunter to Heaven's gate. There must be load's out there so would Dr K wish to take up this as a future subject? Many thanks. Pete (Edinburgh)

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    Comment number 2.

    So what that the Harry Potter movies do so well around the world, Doc? I thought all a movie doing well at the box office means is "...it made money"...

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    Comment number 3.

    There are many things wrong with HP7 the book. And doubtless there will be things wrong with the film (alas, I'm not seeing it until Sunday!)
    But - as has been pointed out - in a world where people not only go to see Transformers but actually think it's a good film, then the HP series is on a whole different planet, quality-wise. And it's mainly because the films are built on the solid foundation of a fairly well-constructed series of books.
    For comparison - why is PotC4 not a total disaster compared to the previous 2? Because they took an existing book to build on. Sure they then ripped it apart, but at least there was a structure for it that made it feel vaguely coherent.

    As a collective whole, the makers of the HP series did an excellent job. Although Dr K decries Columbus' attempts. he had to do a very difficult job of establishing a world for new viewers who hadn't read the books - and he also had to deal with the most "childish" of the books; the first book in particular is so anodyne that I'm still amazed it works at all as a film (and it almost doesn't.) And if he hadn't done the groundwork, then it would have gone wrong later on. Not to mention finding some child actors who turned out to be moderately good in the long run. No, these movies aren't "great" in any way. But in the commodified blockbuster world we live in, they were a refreshing breeze. I too will miss them once they are gone.

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    Comment number 4.

    Everyone is all exited and sad that this is the final Potter film but not me - This franchise has plodded on for a decade and has finally limped over the finish line - The first two were not good at all - The third never felt quite right - The 4th & 5th were a bore - The 6th was a fill in until the 7th - The 7th was spilt into 2 - On and on it plods - 7 books turned into 8 films - There is nothing distinctive about these films it's more like a giant mass - They will be forgotten very soon as none of these films are loved as individual films - Nobody asks what your favorite Potter film is Like they did with Star Wars (That does not mean I'm a Star Wars Fan) -

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    Comment number 5.

    I think the HP movies are definately overrated in some ways. Many people rave on about them and I have to say that it's always a bit surprising to me as I'd give the best of them 7.8/10 or so at the most? I think people are so charmed by them that it clouds their judgement a bit and hence go around saying they're exceptional films, quality wise. Anyway, I certainly appreciate Rowling's imagination. And it's certainly entertaining. And I like the fact that so many people enjoy them as much as they do. That's really nice.

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    Comment number 6.

    Now that we're at the end of the road, Dr. K, it's time to give it up and admit that Harry Potter wouldn't have reached the heights it has reached without Chris Columbus. Directing is largely a matter of making the right choices and this man chose the right actors, the right production design and then he went and chose the right DIRECTOR. Columbus wasn't kicked off of the project, he stayed on as producer and therefore his hands were in that choice.
    If Columbus was a "bean-counter," then this amounted to a very fine hill of beans.

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    Comment number 7.

    I loved Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 when I saw it on Wednesday. Three times! It is sad to think that an 'end of an era' series has indeed come to an end. But then all good things must.

    I'm pleased to have the opportunity to enjoy the books and the movies and the DVDs to view whenever I feel in the mood.

    The movies have been a great British achievement for all involved. It will be a long time before another series so good comes around again. Especially as each of the movies has improved, rather than declined.

    Seeing it again tonight at local indie family cinema, IN 2D at last! Can't wait to see how the movie SHOULD be viewed. The retro-fitted 3D was so subtle to be almost non-existent. Only a few 'oooh, ahhh' shots really benefitted from it.

    I've enjoyed every minute of the movies and will treasure them, ALWAYS!

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    Comment number 8.

    Nothing to add - just testing that the log-in works.

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    Comment number 9.

    I think this is the end of the most overhyped series in the history of film. With all of your praise for the last 4 or 5 installments. I have to wonder if we were watching the same movies. I did like the third and seventh episodes, but even they are only noteworthy in their lack of memorable moments. I have retained more from many terrible films that I only viewed once (and decades ago) while remembering practically nothing from the entire Potter franchise. Only the Prisoner of Azkaban had any semblance of a clever story with its use of temporal loops, but even that I've seen before (and done better). There is no more depth here than in any of the Bay Transformer films (and the Potter series has been largely humorless). I agree with Matth Stil (comment #2) on what you say about this film being embraced around the world while choosing to chalk up Bay's success to advertising (Potter has had one of the biggest marketing campaigns even from its inception in book form).
    The entire series has had a 'written as we go along' feel to it. Every defeat of the villain (at the end of most of the films) was utterly meaningless. He just randomly pops up again in the next installment, so his final defeat here is going to not carry much eight. 'Redundant' would be my one word assessment of the entire series.
    None of the films (so far) merit calling them classics. These are certainly not Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Fantasia, Pinnochio... Jim Henson's offerings like The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth... The Iron Giant... Time Bandits... The Secret Of NIMH... ET... Dragonslayer... I can go on and on.... The Potter series, with all of their high budgeted bluster, do not stack up well against the true classics. The stories boil down to nothing more than whose wand is bigger, Harry's or Voldemort's.
    I know you're pulling for the home team in this case, which explains your extremely lenient sentiment towards the series. These ARE 'event' films, but so what? The 'macarena' was an event back in the 1990s. Having event status doesn't make it good.
    I will watch HPATDHb tomorrow for no other reason than having seen all of the others. Is that OCD? Maybe. In any case, I for one am glad the series is ending.

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    Comment number 10.

    I'm sorry but Chris Columbus was WAY better than Alfonso Cuarón. The first 2 films feel magical. Yes, they have their flaws and dodgy acting but you can kind of forgive it. In my opinion Prisoner of Azkaban was the best book but worst film. The set surrounding Hogwarts randomly changed for no reason. Some may like it better that way but i think the way it looks in the first 2 films was fine and this just ruins continuity. Also the Werewolf effects were rubbish, the CGI sucked, think how good they made a Werewolf look all the way back in 1981 with American Werewolf in London. But the most annoying thing for me was that they leave out the bit where we find out who made the Marauder's map. There's all this talking between Lupin and Harry at the end and im thinking 'surely he's going to mention it soon' but it doesn't happen. I don't think HP3 is a bad film just the worst of the series and i think Alfonso Cuarón was maybe a bit too much style over substance. Trying to make it his own rather than it being part of a series. Also it has some of the worst Daniel Radcliffe acting (the 'he was their friend' scene). Thank god he's improved. By the way my favourite films in the series are Chamber of Secrets and HP7A. I think it all started well, had a bit of a dip in quality, then got better with the last few films. I look forward to Deathly Hallows part 2. Sorry about the rant, just stop slagging off Chris Columbus. This man wrote Gremlins and gave us Home Alone for God's sake! Give him some credit!

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    Comment number 11.

    Now surely that Stephen Fry joke only really worked because it is he himself who reads for the audiobooks?

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    Comment number 12.

    As a moderate fan of the books I was underwhelmed by the first two Chris Columbus helmed films. They seemed like mere illustrated versions of the books, not proper films in their own right. Their crowning achievements were their casting and the art direction and effects. Bringing the world of Potter to life is no mean feat, and full props to CC for wrangling that, but the pacing felt like a lifeless box ticking exercise as beat by beat the novels were illustrated. Columbus is a workmanlike director, and I don't mean this as code for "hack", but his cannon also includes Bicentennial Man, Rent, I Love You Beth Cooper, and Percy Jackson and The Lightning Thief. His gift is for directing comedies that usually end with a slice of maudlin sentimentality. Let's not forget how Gremlins 2 ruthlessly parodied the Columbus penned clunker "Phoebe's bad Christmas" scene from Gremlins, with her traumatic tale of Lincoln's Birthday.

    Cuaron's Prisoner, on the other hand was the first Potter that felt like a proper film, selectively rather than slavishly making its way through the source material, and has some nice filmic touches, such as the seasons shown by the Whomping Willow. The series along with its characters and actors has matured well ever since. Goblet just about pulls off stuffing the longest novel into its running time, and is the first to end with an "unfortunate incident" (the importance of the unfortunate character in each subsequent instalment getting greater). HP7A gave us Harry and Hermione dancing to Nick Cave, something I would never have imagined in this series, but a scene that spoke beautifully to the depth of their affection and friendship.

    I have reasonably high hopes for 7B, as 7A actually made it through the boring questy bit of the book (in the same way as the Lord of The Rings films made the boring trudging through bogs for 1 and a half books) much better.

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    Comment number 13.

    I've never seen one.

    Rented the first one & fell asleep during it it was so boring. (I vaguely remember a two headed dog mid slumber).

    Do I really want to invest my time in catching up?

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    Comment number 14.

    Agree with everything you said there mark. I ordered tickets to see the movie and could only find 3D coming up, luckily I found a 2D showing! I have listened to the first three books (read by stephen fry,brilliant!) and have seen all the movies. I watched part 1 again the other day,at night and was genuinely scared. I'm 16!

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    Comment number 15.

    The biggest problem I had with the films was that they pandered far too much to the fans of the books.

    Essentially, the first two films really ought to have been compacted into one movie. They followed virtually the same pattern - characters arrive at Hogwarts, there's a game of Quidditch, Harry finds something buried within the castle with a connection to Voldermort - And the character development over two films could easily fit into one.

    The third film is still the best in my opinion, but introduced far too many sparse ideas, most notably the time travel story towards the end.

    The fourth was easily the worst I've seen so far. Basically Harry Potter Does Sports Day. It was incredibly dull.

    Installments five and six, again, really could've been told in one movie. Remove all the pointless exposition and re-establishment of characters and it could be achieved.

    Of course, this could never have happened as it would've upset those fans of the books who wanted to see every minute detail translated to the big screen. However, those of us who couldn't care less about the source material but DO care about great film making, were left with a frustrating saga of movies, totalling a staggering 20 hours, which could easily have been a cinematic masterpiece of, say, 10 hours (three films perhaps).

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    Comment number 16.

    I can't believe the largely pompous and cynical views being posted here. Some people should simply stick to the sorts of films they like rather than perservering with a subject matter and "franchise" that is clearly not to their tastes; they are the equivalent of meeting a stranger at a party who indulges their high-brow opinions about this, that and nothing when all you are there for is to have fun. Go get a life!

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    Comment number 17.

    Thank you @hairyguitarist for your point of view as I agree with you 100% that film was very much a show off of graphics rather than "pandering" to Harry Potter fans. With the "pandering" that @Miracle Mile says is going on I say well... yeah! Of course they are going to pander to the fans of Harry Potter as that is who they are making the films for. Why would they base a set of films on a book and then make them to suit a completely different demographic from the original books?

    I also think it's disgusting that there are some cinema's that won't let you see a film in 2D especially such a big film as this. There is nothing that can be added to most films by transferring it into 3D. Granted for some films it does work but in the main part those films are made purely for the spectical of the graphics used in 3D for instance Avatar and Transformers. Whereas other films which have a plot to work around can be diminished by 3D as the directors can be trying to shoot the film more for the spectical than for the actual storyline that they are trying to convey.

    I did see this film last night in 2D with the first part before it and absolutely loved it. I have been a big fan of the series since it first arrived ten years ago. The one big problem I have with this film is the rating as it is trying to still show itself as being a child's film but it isn't anymore. These last two or three films are made for the people like myself who were children when the first film started and are now teenagers or in their twenties. Therefore I feel some of the content and visuals may be unsuitable for young children who, in many cases, are being brought along by their parents to see a popular children's film.
    :: spoiler :: In the scene when Harry has died and is in King's Cross, he looks underneath a bench and sees this creature with the face of Voldemort but with a small withered body covered in blood :: end spoiler ::
    This scene I think would be disturbing to some small children who may be going to see this film. As I work in a cinema at the Box Office I see the ages of some children going into 12A films and in some cases there are toddlers and even babies. I may seem like a over cautious person but I think that children that young could be very scared by this film and even sensitive 11 year old's could be disturbed. For this film I personally would want the original 12 rating rather than a 12A as this is no longer a child's film, this is a teenagers film therefore a 15 rating would be totally uncalled for.

    The first few films and books in this series are made for children but they have matured as their fans have matured. These films are no longer made for 7 year old's. I know most will disagree with me saying that I am being over sensitive but I believe our children are already desensitized enough and should be allowed to be children and be scared of things rather than expected to understand and handle adult content before they are even near their teenage years. I saw some scenes last night through the eyes of a six year old and I think they would be terrified.

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    Comment number 18.

    I liked that scene where Harry fights the dragon. You know, where he's on that turret at a certain point? Which HP movie was that again? I think it was the third one? That one also has that moment in the forest where this grey beast flies through the trees towards Harry and the other kids. That was a nice moment.

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    Comment number 19.

    While I am a big fan of LOTR, I do not at all understand the point of the Harry Potter story. Any meaning it was meant to have was only bolted on at the end to give it any credibility; Christian and religious sybolism; good versus evil, etc. I watched about 5 minutes of one of the films, and my immediate impression was there was too much happening on screen, too many characters, and it was generally a mess. JK Rowling doesn't seem to understand that less is more (the directors are only extrapolating from and embellishing the source material so it's not entirely their fault).

    LOTR is an allegory of WWI; Harry Potter was, and is, about little more than a boy on a broomstick. I'm glad it's over.

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    Comment number 20.

    Problem I have with Potterworld (movies and books) is that they become fused into a jumbled whole in my mind; I remember individual scenes but can’t quite remember which film/book they come from or the exact plot that any one film/book had.

    There is an exception: Deathly Hallows (AKA Deadly Tedium) pt 1. Regrettably I do remember much of that film; even if sections were so badly lit I couldn’t make out who was who.

    I’m not saying I haven’t enjoyed various parts of the HP movies; just that they don’t add up to a whole, either as individual movies or a series following a story arc.

    Hopefully DH pt 2 will stand out; not least because the baddie will get his just deserts and the whole series finally ends.

    But Yes; a big thumbs up to all the British talent involved in their making; may in encourage more Hollywood blockbusters to be made in the UK; we could certainly use their money right now. (Hmm, how do we attract Chinese blockbusters? That’s where the real money is.)

 

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Outspoken, opinionated and never lost for words, Mark is the UK's leading film critic.

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