Don’t get me wrong, this was still an enjoyable flick, but it kind of felt like the awkward 14 year old of the series. There’s a whole lot more going on at school (Tri-wizard tournament, a school dance) and outside of it (the Quidditch Cup fiasco), to go along with a heap of new characters (Cedric, Moody, Karkaroff, Crouch, Krum, Fleur, etc.). Amidst it all, the film is trying to transition to darker, more epic scale material, no longer just dealing with shenanigans at school. It just felt like it couldn’t quite handle it all at once, breezing through plot points trying to fit it all in.
A fun sequel to the magical first installment, to be sure. The flying car; the slugs, the spiders, the snake; loser Lockhart, creepy Myrtle, frustrating Dobby… and an engaging mystery plot, to boot. The whole duelling bit was painful though… it was more like just politely taking turns to wave their wands and knock the other person back than any form of mutual combat. The ending, too… painfully cheesy. How does the whole school (minus Malfoy) all of a sudden love Hagrid so much so as to give him a standing ovation when he returns. Nothing against Hagrid, I like him, but the sentiment felt a little forced.
Certainly the funniest of the lot, with its teen romance hijinks (Ron’s escapades with Romilda and Lavender are certainly a highlight), but also the darkest, with Snape’s dark turn, Malfoy’s sinister plan and inner torture, Voldemort’s backstory, and the crushing blow at the end. I just felt like the teen romance should have been dialed back a bit to let the dark bits develop more.
Everyone’s adorable, so that helps. Truly a magical beginning–the film does well in introducing the world and giving it that feeling of wonder–thanks largely to that iconic theme, the grand sets, the moody lighting, the mature camerawork.
This was by far my least favourite when it first came out–but I think I was just disappointed by how it chalked up the shortest run-time for what was the longest book. And while I still cringed at Harry’s awkward hair and the awfully blue climactic scene in the Department of Mysteries, the third time around or so I could appreciate this film a lot more. I loved the development of Harry’s torturous connection with Voldemort and of course the irresistible rebellion plot. Dumbledore and Voldemort’s final duel was actually cool, too, unlike the painful examples from Chamber of Secrets.
The most cinematically spectacular of the series, for sure: The chaotic action scenes at Hogwarts with Harry, Ron, and Hermione making their way through it all with the mournful music in the background were beautiful. Snape’s memory montage-epic, even though it raised some questions I couldn’t quite answer. I loved the way it tied in clips from the earlier movies, and so seamlessly edited its varying voiceovers and visuals. And of course, its aftermath–a punch to the gut. A finale that didn’t disappoint.
Such a striking turn from the second film; though its plot bore similarities in structure to the previous two, its direction was a lot better. The film looked gorgeous, finally departing from the cozy but stuffy golden-tinged indoors of the first two films and incorporating in some beautiful scenery. It also flowed much better; the Whomping Willow transitional scene bits were a nice touch, and the conversations flowed more naturally too–a testament also to the maturing main three. The time-travel in the final act was also awesome; loved the way the film incorporated the clips from the “past” in the movie into the next scenes–Back to the Future style. Smooth and mature, the second best of the series!
THEY FINALLY SLOWED DOWN. I know that the books had a lot of content to incorporate, and it was tough to fit even just the necessary bits all in there without it feeling rushed, and that it obviously wouldn’t have worked to divide each book into two movie, but splitting the final book into two movies was the best thing that happened to the series. It allowed part 2 to really revel in cinematic glory, and it allowed part 1 to finally slow down the pace and let things simmer and build more gradually. There’s actual lingering character drama here, and slow-burning tension–nuanced feelings of frustration, hopelessness, jealousy. There are still exciting plot points (the Ministry break-in is great), and the setting is as beautiful and riveting as ever (the Voldemort takeover of the Ministry is chilling), but for once the story is allowed on occasion to take a backseat to the characters-making for the most mature, and best developed film of the series.