A lot of people love Harry Potter. Both the books and the movies are widely enjoyed by the vast majority of, at least, the Western world. Considered by many to be among the best franchises in film history- akin to Star Wars, James Bond and Lord of The Rings- yet only receiving a total of 12 Oscar nominations and winning none. This leads me to beg the question- how many people consider the movies to be anything more than mere entertainment for the family rather than the cinematic masterpieces that they are? This is obviously an opinion piece- but here me out.
The Harry Potter film series is one, in my opinion, split in two halves- the first, more child friendly, four films and the second, much darker and more mature, four films. I prefer the latter half of the series and I think in those films the beautiful cinematography, incredible acting, emotionally enthralling plot and perfect directing all have their chance to really develop providing the audience with a vastly underrated cinematic experience.
- Cinematography. There were 6 different cinematographers on the whole film series with Slawomir Idziak, Bruno Delbonnel and Eduardo Serra working on the fifth, sixth and final two films respectively. Each one brought something new to the series- with each film looking gradually more moody and dark, reflecting the increasingly mature content of the series. The cinematographers had a challenge- how can you provide the audience with a new experience when using most of the exact same sets used 4, 5 or even 6 times before? The use of exquisite lighting and inventive camera angles (the extreme wide angles used in the final series being of particular note) helped rejuvenate the sets each and every time a new film was released. Did you ever feel like you watching the same rehashed sets and locations? I know I didn't- that takes skill. Bruno Delbonnel received the series' only Academy Award nomination for cinematography despite the work in the final two films being of equal standard. Having said that, the particular look that Delbonnel created for 6th film, The Half-Blood Prince, is spectacular:
I REST MY CASE.
Acting. The casting of the main trio of actors- Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint has received a lot of praise, and rightly so:
"The trio's selection was arguably one of the best show-business decisions over the past decade... they have shown admirable grace and steadiness in the face of teen superstardom" - Los Angeles Times writer Geoff Boucher.
The trio grew as actors significantly over the course of the films. Daniel Radcliffe, in particular, developed into a highly skilled actor bringing emotional weight and resonance to a story that could have quite easily been played off as silly- I mean, its premise is fundamentally over-the-top, yet the acting helps ground everything and allow us, as an audience, to really emotionally connect to the characters. Alan Rickman portrayed Severus Snape, a character with great importance to the story, with such incredible skill and emotional depth that I still maintain that his Academy Award snub for Best Supporting Actor for the final film in the series is one of the biggest crying shames of the past decade of the awards. Don't believe me? Watch both parts of this scene and try and argue otherwise:
OBVIOUS SPOILER ALERT WARNING. Side note: the editing is also beautiful in this scene.
- Plot. Yes, the films benefited from the hard work that J.K Rowling put into developing the plot and the latter half of the series also benefited from the weight of the story already told, but that shouldn't detract away from the impeccable storytelling on display here. I wonder how many people cried when Dobby died? He hadn't appeared in a film since The Chamber of Secrets yet the writing was so tight on the 7th film that his death still felt completely real and utterly gut-wrenching. The plot is so enthralling with so many story-lines to become engaged in and so much seemingly at stake that the audience truly feel invested in the films.
- Directing. Two names: Alfonso Cuarón and David Yates. The Directors of the 3rd film and the last 4 respectively - they brought vivid life to the story, directing with great passion and almost perfect execution. Alfonso began the film's gradual trend of increasing maturity creating the spectacular Prisoner of Azkaban (easily the best of the first 4 films.) His work on that film cannot be understated- it was because of it that Harry Potter began to taken seriously as a franchise. David Yates continued this trend beautifully orchestrating the large battle and fight sequences of the final films- the climatic fight scenes of Order of the Phoenix being particularly awe-inspiring. Again, links for your convenience:
Yes, the films made a hefty amount of money at the box office (over 8 billion dollars adjusted for inflation- that's a heck of a lot of pocket money for chocolate frogs!) and yes, they are beloved by many but next time you watch them- consider are they something more than just nice family films? Or don't, either way, you'll enjoy them.
I'm probably bias as Harry Potter basically WAS my childhood- but what you gonna do? - Luke Quine