The highs and lows of Harry Potter’s outrageous fortunes

The highs and lows of Harry Potter’s outrageous fortunes

An evaluation of each of the films from the Harry Potter series

Having earned £6 billion worldwide, Harry Potter is the highest grossing film franchise of all time. And while the critical reception hasn’t always matched the commercial one (no Academy Awards yet), the films have been as successful as JK Rowling’s game-changing novels. The success of the films is, arguably, largely because they are very faithful to the books. That happens rarely when Hollywood is bankrolling blockbusters, but Rowling has been canny in retaining creative control – it was she who insisted that the stars should be home-grown, from one-time newcomers Radcliffe, Grint and Watson to the who’s who of British acting royalty supporting them. It could all have been so different, though. Those muggles in Los Angeles wanted Steven Spielberg to collapse the seven books into two or three animated films, with squeaky cherub Haley Joel Osment voicing Harry. With that in mind, let’s count the blessings (and the blips) of the Potter octet.

The Philosopher’s Stone
They put yank director Chris Columbus (he of the Home Alones) in charge, but the first film was a respectable series opener. That said, we can only wonder what kind of Potter we would have got with Rowling’s more inspired choice of director, Terry Gilliam. (B)

The Chamber of Secrets
Agreeably darker than its kid-friendly predecessor, but a by-the-numbers blockbuster that also suffered from the law of diminishing returns. Still, Toby Jones and Shirley Henderson delighted as Dobby the house-elf and Moaning Myrtle, spirit of Hogwarts’ girls’ loos. (C-)

The Prisoner of Azkaban
Leftfield choice of new director, Mexican Alfonso Cuarón (Y Tu Mamá También), gave us the most cinematic film and highpoint of the series, a horror movie complete with werewolf. And Michael Gambon slipped seamlessly into the late Richard Harris’ robes as Dumbledore. (A+)

The Goblet of Fire
The young cast was becoming noticeably older, particularly Radcliffe, who developed body hair and muscles. Meanwhile, the series’ first British director, Mike Newell, did a good job of streamlining the book he called a ‘housebrick’. Teen-romance reared its head with a naff prom dance and nasally-challenged Lord Voltemort finally made an appearance. (A)

The Order of the Phoenix
British telly director David Yates signed on and gave the rest of the series a more adult spin. Imelda Staunton was terrifying as the bureaucratic Dolores Umbridge and Harry kissed Cho Chang (Scot Katie Leung), prompting a priceless exchange with Ron and Hermione: ‘What was it like?’ ‘Wet ... she’d been crying.’ (A-)

The Half-Blood Prince
The storyline was difficult to fathom and the film ended up feeling like a link to the next one. But Jim Broadbent was great as the guilt-ridden Potions Prof, Horace Slughorn. And in a nicely judged knowing reference to the cast outgrowing their characters, Dumbledore said to Harry, ‘You need a shave, my friend.’ (B-)

The Deathly Hallows: Part 1
Harry and Hermoine had a titillating topless hug and there was a terrific broomstick battle in a thunderstorm, but the first half of the last film was unsurprisingly, unsatisfyingly inconclusive. Hats off to Yates, though, for paying homage to Gilliam’s Brazil in a scene at the Ministry of Magic. (C+)

The Deathly Hallows: Part 2
We can confidently expect a spectacular finale. Voldemort’s assault on Hogwarts apparently comprises the whole second half of the last film. And it’s in 3D! We can also expect a proper ending and, if Rowling has anything to with it, no sequels or prequels.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone Trailer

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Trailer

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban International Trailer

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Trailer

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix UK Trailer

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Trailer C

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I Trailer

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II Feature Trailer

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

  • 4 stars
  • 2011
  • UK / US
  • 2h 10min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: David Yates
  • Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson

The end has arrived for Harry and happily the last installment really satisfies with its breakneck pacing, breathtaking set-pieces and a genuinely heart-warming ending.