50 Things I Learnt From Watching the Harry Potter Films for the First Time (Part 1)

First, a confession. Up until a week ago I had never seen a single scene from a Harry Potter movie. I had never read the books. I didn’t know which house I was in. Imagine if the dementors had sucked away all your knowledge of Harry Potter and left you a meaningless and empty husk. That was me. But now I am reborn! I’m half way through the Harry Potter films and I’ve learnt a lot. Read all about it here…

Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone

  • I don’t want to make everything about Star Wars but… incredibly gifted protégé stays with his uncle and auntie following the death of his parents at the hands of a tyrant. I’ve heard that before…
  • I was hoping for loads of crossover between Game of Thrones and Harry Potter, so I was delighted when Dumbledore introduced Walder Frey as the Hogwarts caretaker. Hopefully he isn’t involved in any Hogwarts weddings any time soon.
  • Magic is impressive and all but at one point Hermoine ‘unlocks’ a door using her magic wand. A close up of the lock reveals that anyone could have lifted the lock with just their normal hands. You’re fooling nobody ‘moine.
  • Despite being over 15 years old, nothing about Philosophers Stone feels dated. The CGI is used effectively and the best visual moments are still impressive. The chess board scene is particularly compelling.
  • Overall, I enjoyed the first Harry Potter film. I found the character of Dumbledore to be slightly underdeveloped and it is a bit of a dick move when he pretends that Slytherin has won the house games only to snatch the victory away from them. I am assuming this is remedied in the later instalments though.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

  • I must admit I was pretty unimpressed when Chamber of Secrets opened with a crap Smeagol rip off called Dobby cavorting around Privet Drive. It got better though.
  • I find the whole set up of Hogwarts odd at this point. Slytherin are so clearly the ‘baddies’ so why do they have a Slytherin house at all? This question became particularly pertinent when McGonagall is discussing the history of Hogwarts and Salazar Slytherin’s attempt to make the school available for ‘pure bloods’ only.
  • It seems to me there is lots of cheating in Quidditch. Renders the whole game a bit pointless.
  • I really like how Harry embraces his legendary status instead of shunning it. Much more Neo than Frodo. I hope this continues. The reluctant hero trope is tiresome.
  • Hiring child actors for a long franchise is always a risk. Take Game of Thrones for example. Aside from Arya, you could argue that Sansa, Bran and Jon Snow were all miscast, and the show is still paying the price for it now. Harry Potter also rolled the dice with the main trio of Harry, Hermoine and Ron Weasley but all three risks paid off. It is impossible to imagine those iconic characters played by anyone else.
  • I have no idea why everyone at Hogwarts goes mad for Harry Potter when Oliver Wood is captain of the Quidditch team and such a LAD.
  • Kenneth Branagh is a great addition as Gilderoy Lockhart. I loved the fact that he has no redemption at any point, he just continues being a jackass until his memory is completely wiped.
  • I’m still not completely sold on Dumbledore. He looks and sounds wise and all but what has he actually done over the course of these two films? He loves pretending to tell people off only to actually praise them, that’s his absolute favourite thing. He also cancels all exams at the end of Chamber of Secrets. Feels a bit of a maverick thing to do… I mean… doesn’t it render all the work the teachers have done over the year redundant? Explain yourself man!

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

  • I was just pondering how I really disliked the start of Prisoner of Azkaban because the literal blowing up of an old lady and subsequent bus ride seemed too slapstick for my tastes and then, BOOM, was that Ian Brown?? Was Ian Brown of The Stone Roses just stirring a coffee in the leaky cauldron?? Awesome.
  • Ron Weasley has a shit hair cut in this one. Is that just his hair cut now? He looks he should be the drummer in some terrible post punk band.
  • In terms of haircuts, I can’t believe Draco Malfoy has ditched his wonderful swept back look in favour of curtains. Boy band Malfoy is definitely not my favourite Malfoy.
  • Speaking of Draco Malfoy, I found him to be quite a lovable antagonist in the first two films. He is an insufferable bell end in this one though. Too whiny.
  • No Ken Branagh in this one but it is difficult to imagine a better replacement than David Thewlis. Such a touch of class.
  • People have told me the films become darker as the series goes on and the dementors are certainly the most obsidian moment of the franchise so far. Genuinely chilling.
  • Prisoner of Azkaban was by far my favourite of the series so far. It’s dark, visually stunning and has plenty of twists and turns without ever forcing the issue. The time travel element is handled wonderfully and Gary Oldman and David Thewlis are an excellent addition to an already star studded cast.
  • Indeed, the first two Harry Potter films are enjoyable family fare but nothing indicated to me that they were deserving of such lavish praise. Prisoner of Azkaban however marks the first time that I can see why Harry Potter is such a ubiquitous and beloved franchise. I am excited to see where it goes from here.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

  • Ok so… I didn’t LOVE Goblet of Fire, at least not in the same way as the film that preceded it. I thought it was overly complicated and perhaps a little too ambitious at times. The Twiwizard tournament I found to be a confusing and distracting misstep. I get the feeling it is probably better explained in the books. Jarvis Cocker’s cameo was a treat mind.
  • That being said, the return of Voldemort is probably the best scene in the franchise so far. What a magnificent villain. Theatrical without being camp, sinister without being a cliché. Bravo Ralph Fiennes. His characters triumphant return deserves to be viewed as one of the more iconic moments in the Harry Potter universe.
  • I really enjoy the fact that the role of Dark Arts Professor is filled by a different legendary actor in each entry. Brendan Gleeson steps in here and is predictably wonderful. I hope that is something that carries on.
  • I am now at the halfway point and my analysis so far would be that the Harry Potter franchise is a lot better than I ever gave it credit for. I’m excited about the fact they get darker, the death of Cedric Diggory was a truly gruelling moment and I can’t wait to see where the characters go next. I’m not really enjoying Ron Weasley’s emo phase though. Sort it out Weasley. Oh and forget all that nonsense I said about Dumbledore earlier. I love him now.

My current top 5 characters in Harry Potter:

  1. Severus Snape
  2. Neville Longbottom
  3. Albous Dumbledore
  4. Sirius Black
  5. Harry Potter

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