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By AARON SKETCHLEY (aaronsketch@HOTdelete_thisMAIL.com) Ver 1.8 2022.05.26

Harry Potter Film Reviews

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows–Part 1 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows–Part 2

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

stars

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Review by: Aaron Sketchley
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Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

stars

Release date:
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Review by: Aaron Sketchley
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Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

3 stars

Release date: 2001
Written by: Steve Kloves
Directed by: Chris Columbus
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2022.012
Harry Potter is an orphan who lives with his aunt Petunia and uncle Vernon. They don't like him much, and their treatment of him borders on abusive—for starters, his bedroom is the unfinished storage space under the stairs. Just before his eleventh birthday, Harry begins receiving multiple copies of the same letter, all delivered by owl. However, his uncle refuses to let Harry open any of them. Hagrid, the groundskeeper at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, personally delivers the letter on the eve of Harry's birthday. Harry finds out that he is the child of wizards, and has been accepted into Hogwarts for the new school year. Hagrid takes Harry to a magically concealed part of London to buy his school supplies, and gives Harry a pet owl. Later, Harry boards the Hogwarts Express that'll take him to the school, and meets Ron Weasley and Hermoine Granger. At the school, he studies magic, and discovers that he has a natural talent for broomstick flying. However, he also learns that his parents were killed by the dark wizard Lord Voldemort. While Voldemort had died when Harry was a baby, Harry also discovers that Voldemort's followers are actively trying to resurrect their leader, and the key to that can be found in Hogwarts!

The first movie in this wonderful series is mostly about Harry's journey into a new world, setting up that world, and Harry making a new family out of the people he meets and friends he makes. While there is an overarching plot, it generally keeps to itself, and the adventures that Harry, Ron, and Hermoine get mixed up in almost appear episodic. It's to the betterment of the film that the production team opted to let the plot noodle along while they focus on the characters, and the mysteries inherent to the Hogwarts castle—which ought to be considered a character in itself, with all its unique characteristics and hidden secrets!

One of the joys of this film is that it gets better on repeat viewings. Not only has it reproduced the world of the novels with all its splendid details, there are clues, signs and other neat rewards for those that have finished the film series and are watching it again from the beginning. It's almost like one sees the film like a child on the first viewing, and—after watching the entire series—we see things from the perspective of adults, with things taking on new or deep significance from our experience and knowledge. The highlight of the film is its masterful recapturing of the innocence of youth, and the youthful wonder when we are introduced to entirely new worlds. This is a gem of a film, as one can't help imagining what it'd be like to be living inside it, and using the magical powers of its protagonists and antagonists.

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Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

2.5 stars

Release date: 2002
Written by: Steve Kloves
Directed by: Chris Columbus
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2022.02.01
Harry Potter is at the Dursleys, his aunt and uncle, during summer break. He meets Dobby, a house-elf, who warns Harry that it is too dangerous for him to return to Hogwarts. Determined to keep Harry from returning to the school, the Dursleys put bars on his bedroom window and lock him up. He escapes when his friend Ron Weasley and Ron's older twin brothers Fred and George rescue him with their father's flying car. At Hogwarts, Harry hears strange voices while he is serving detention. He finds the cat of Hogwarts's caretaker petrified beside a message written in blood informing that the Chamber of Secrets has been opened. As only the heir of Salazar Slytherin—one of the four founders of the school—can open it, Harry, Ron, and Hermione suspect rival classmate Malfoy, and concoct a plan to question him after disguising themselves using forbidden polyjuice potion. However, when Harry communicates with a snake during a class, all the students in the school begin suspecting that he is Slytherin's heir and that he opened the chamber. To make matters worse, Dobby is still actively trying to make Harry leave the school, and fellow students are turning up petrified each and every time Harry hears the strange voices!

Where Philosopher's Stone was more interested in showing the magical side of magic and the building of Harry's new family, Chamber of Secrets is more interested in plot. As such, the film has a tendency to drag at times, as it approaches the plot the same way it was done in the first movie. Perhaps due to that or because this is the second outing, a bit of the lustre of the magical world is lost. The film also takes a sharp turn into the darker aspects of the Wizarding World. While it is refreshing that the dark things that go bump in the night are things to be feared—unlike how the first movie treated them—it may be too intense for younger viewers expecting more of the same. Nevertheless, the slow-burner plot does eventually pay off in spades, and the antagonists this time get their well-deserved comeuppances.

One of the joys of this film, and the series overall, is seeing the young boys and girls growing up. While some of the child actors may only have bit parts or what amounts to cameos in this film, minor characters that are highlighted in later films are present, and it is heartwarming to see the same actors in the same roles in these earlier films. While its less saccharine as the first film, family is still a constant theme, and it is heartwarming and powerful in the more limited doses in this film. Harry is also given a more heroic portrayal this time, as he is allowed to vocalize his opinions. Perhaps the most telling line in the film is Dumbledore's "It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities", which underscores Harry's true strength. If anything, this film highlights how great an actor Daniel Radcliffe has become in his portrayal of the titular character. This film can't be missed, as it sets up some key themes and concepts that are vital in the later films.

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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

4 stars

Release date: 2004
Written by: Steve Kloves
Directed by: Alfonso Cuarón
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2022.02.13
Harry Potter is back home during the summer. He loses his temper when uncle Vernon's sister aunt Marge disparages Harry's deceased parents—causing her to inflate like a balloon and float away. Fed up with the Dursley's maltreatment, he flees with his belongings. The Knight Bus arrives and takes Harry to the Leaky Cauldron, where he meets and is pardoned by the Minister for Magic for using magic outside of Hogwarts. Harry is warned to not go outside while staying at the inn. He reunites with Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, and learns that Sirius Black has not only escaped Azkaban, but intends to kill Harry! En route to Hogwarts, the express train is stopped, and Dementors board searching for Sirius. One enters their compartment and causes Harry to pass out just as a Hogwarts teacher drives the creature away. At the school, the students are troubled to discover that Sirius has entered the castle after the painting that guards the Gryffindor rooms is shredded. Ron's older brothers Fred and George take pity on Harry and give him a magical map revealing the secret routes out of the castle so he can visit Hogsmeade village with his friends. The map also shows where everyone is inside Hogwarts. One night, Harry spots the name of the man Sirius killed 12 years prior moving on the map, and he sneaks out of his dorm to investigate.

The third film in the series marks a large change in the film series. Not only is there a rearrangement of the Hogwarts Castle and its grounds, there is a greater emphasis on the visual presentation of the film. In short, the scale has increased, and the visual effects are crisper and more dynamic. Michael Gambon steps into the Dumbledore role, as Richard Harris had sadly died shortly before the release of The Chamber of Secrets. Gambon brings a different energy to the role and the film series overall—less reflective and weighed by past experience, and more secretive and plotting with his own agenda.

The highlight of the film is the time travel. This is one of few, rare films that gets it just right—in the sense that events are not being rewritten the second time through, and we're seeing the exact same events unfolding from a different perspective. The film also feels shorter, presumably because there's more emphasis on the story and on building suspense, and it meanders less than the preceding two films. The trade off is that there is less time spent embellishing 'magic' in everyday life, and the day-to-day of being schooled in magic. This film is also rewarding for those who have read the novels or seen all the films in the series. There are plenty of Easter eggs for viewers who are in the know. Voldemort doesn't appear in this film, however his influence is inescapable. And while there are plenty of payoffs, this film is also busy laying the groundwork for developments in the subsequent films. Can't be missed!

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Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

3 stars

Release date: 2005
Written by: Steve Kloves
Directed by: Mike Newell
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2022.02.23
Harry Potter awakens from a nightmare where he sees Voldemort, Peter Pettigrew, and another unknown man murder an old man who bumbles into their clandestine meeting. Harry is at the Weasleys, and together with Hermione, they travel to and attend the Quidditch World Cup. Death Eaters attack the crowds after a match, and as they flee, Harry is knocked unconcious. At Hogwarts, Dumbledore announces that the school will host the Triwizard Tournament along with students from the Drumstrang Institute and Beauxbatons Academy. Only a single student from each school will be selected by the Goblet of Fire to participate in the tournament—and due to the risk to life and limb, students under the age of 17 are unable to participate. After the goblet spits out the champions for Hogwarts, Drumstrang, and Beaubatons, it also spits out Harry's name, which causes confusion among staff and students. Many students believe Harry cheated and Ron shuns him for a spell. In the midst of these events, Professor Moody, the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, is fast making an impression on the students from his unorthodox teaching methods. He is also rather liberal with the hints he gives Harry to prepare for the three trials in the tournament, suggesting that there is more going on than just a teacher concerned for the welfare of his student. Harry soon has to face his greatest challenge, though: asking a girl to accompany him to the Yule Ball!

The Goblet of Fire is pretty much all business right from the start. There are few flourishes or diversions into areas that round out the magical world or show the wonder and, well, magic of learning magic. Instead, the film focuses on 5 or 6 key events in the school year, and spends most of its time on them. In a weird way, the film feels longer than The Prisoner of Azkaban, but inversely covers less ground. Nevertheless, Dir. Newell works in his own touches, such as the running joke of Hogwarts's caretaker Argus Filch always misreading Dumbledore's cues.

This film also takes the series into quite dark territory, starting with the murder of an innocent bystander just moments after the opening credits finish. The most gruesome sequence—as well as the climax and highlight of the film—takes place near the end in a graveyard with an impossible turn of events. One wonders how Harry even survives until they recall that his opponent had just been revived and wasn't operating anywhere near their full strength. Overall, The Goblet of Fire concerns itself with asking more questions and setting up latter events in the film series, and doesn't bother with most of the overarching questions. While it answers the immediate questions concerning the school year's events, one gets the sense that they cut a little too much out of the novel when they adapted it into a film. Nevertheless, the film builds on the visual style of The Prisoner of Azkaban, and Dir. Newell's vision of duelling magicians is truly a must see!

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Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

3.5 stars

Release date: 2007
Written by: Michael Goldenberg
Directed by: David Yates
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2022.03.25
During summer, Harry Potter and his cousin Dudley are attacked by Dementors while out in the neighbourhood. Even though Harry successfully repels them with the Patronus spell, the Ministry of Magic detects the underaged Harry using magic, and expels him from Hogwarts. Harry is taken to Sirius Black's house, which doubles as the headquarters for the secret Order of the Phoenix organization. He learns that Minister for Magic Cornelius Fudge is in denial that Voldemort has returned. Sirius also mentions that Voldemort is searching for an object that he previously lacked—Harry believes it to be a weapon. In the subsequent trial at the Ministry of Magic, Harry is exonerated, and allowed to attend Hogwarts. However, Cornelius has appointed Dolores Umbridge as Hogwarts new Defence Against the Dark Arts professor. Her refusal to teach defensive spells causes a clash with Harry. As Umbridge gains more control over the school, Hermione and Ron help Harry to form "Dumbeldore's Army", a secret group to teach the students defensive spells. However, Umbridge catches wind of their activities, and recruits students from Slytherin for an Inquisitorial Squad to spy on the other students!

Order of the Phoenix continues the franchise's turn into the darker side of the Harry Potter world. There are few, if any, frivolous touches that showcase the more lighthearted aspects of the magical world. Things are more grim, with Harry and friends facing Umbridge, perhaps the most vile antagonist in the Harry Potter world—where Voldemort would kill you once he's finished with you, Umbridge will scar you for life with a magic quill that cuts what you write into your own skin! However, most troubling of all is that Harry is taking on some of Voldemort's traits, and Dumbledore is doing his utmost to avoid Harry. The latter is a worrisome development, as Dumbledore has become a father figure for Harry.

The highlight of the film is that it is content at being the chapter where most things are being set up in the background, out of site of the protagonists. While life goes on and the Ministry of Magic interferes with Hogwarts, one gets a strong sense that both Voldemort and Dumbledore are quietly and steadily building their respective armies. We get some clues—the most spectacular being Bellatrix Lestrange's explosive release from Azkaban prison—but the focus is squarely on Harry and the other students trying to make sense of it all, and doing what they can to prepare for the coming storm. When the storm breaks, we are in for a treat that eclipses the duelling wizards that concluded The Goblet of Fire. However, like all good dark, middle chapters, there is also a great loss in this film. As it comes suddenly and unexpectedly, it is all the more shocking. And makes the film all that much better.

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Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

4 stars

Release date: 2009
Written by: Steve Kloves
Directed by: David Yates
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2022.04.14
Voldemort is tightening his grip on the wizarding and muggle worlds. Voldemort enlists Lucius's son Draco to carry out a secret mission at Hogwarts. Draco's mother Narcissa seeks out Severus Snape to make an Unbreakable Vow with her to protect Draco and fulfill his task should he fail. Harry Potter accompanies Dumbledore to persuade former Potions professor Horace Slughorn to return to Hogwarts. When they succeed, Dumbledore tells Harry that he should let Slughorn "collect him" during the subsequent school year. After reuniting with Ron and Hermione at the Burrow, Harry and friends visit Fred and George Weasley's new joke shop in Diagon Alley. Harry spots Draco and Narcissa, and they secretly follow them into Knockturn Alley, where they see the pair meet Death Eaters. Harry suspects that Draco has also become a Death Eater. At Hogwarts, Professor McGonagall assigns Harry and Ron to Slughorn's potion class. Harry ends up with a used Potions textbook filled with helpful notes and spells, added by the books former owner: "the Half Blood Prince". Using the book, Harry excels in class, but he soon learns that not all the notes are for potions, and some may be Dark Magic. Concurrently, Draco begins his mission—often harming his fellow students in the process.

The Half Blood Prince is like all good penultimate films: it takes the story into truly dark places, giving thrills and chills along the way, and ending on a note that offers a glimmer of hope. Even though Voldemort doesn't appear, his influence is felt everywhere, starting with the bold kidnapping of Garrick Ollivander from his store and the destruction of the Millennium Bridge (in London), to a truly shocking, unexpected death in the film's climax. Along the way, we are presented with a conflicted Draco, who is at once proud that he has been given such an important mission by Voldemort, but also finds it morally reprehensible and isn't fully willing to complete it—the problem being that he can't fail, as an even darker fate awaits him if he fails Voldemort.

The film is also filled with lighthearted moments as Harry and friends interact with the almost bumbling peculiarities of Professor Slughorn. He is well meaning, but is self-serving and has a tendency to ignore students whom he deems unimportant—the others, whom he 'collects' into his Slug Club, are either well-connected or are greatly talented. We also have Ron getting swooped up in a romance with Lavender Brown, much to Hermione's chagrin, and Harry falling in love with Ginny Weasley. However, the highlight is the astounding glimpses into Severus Snape. He is a very complicated character placed in a truly complex situation being forced to do impossible things. Where he was initially portrayed as an antagonist and a thorn in Harry's side in the initial films, this film paints him in an altogether different light. In many ways, this is a film about people in difficult situations having to make difficult, and sometimes painful choices, with the hope that it'll all work out in the end.

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows–Part 1

4 stars

Release date: 2010
Written by: Steve Kloves
Directed by: David Yates
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2022.05.15
Voldemort learns that Harry Potter is no longer under his mother's protective spell and will soon be moved by the Order of the Phoenix to a safe location. During the move, Harry survives an attack by Voldemort and his Death Eaters, but Mad-Eye Moody and Hedwig are killed. The new Minister of Magic visits Harry at the Weasley's house, and gives Harry, Ron, and Hermione the items that Dumbledore bequeathed them in his will: the Deluminator to Ron, a copy of The Tales of Beedle the Bard to Hermione, and a Golden Snitch to Harry. They are just as baffled by them as the Minister is. Preparations for Ron's older brother Bill's wedding to Fleur Delacour proceed. News arrives at the height of the wedding, however, that the Ministry has fallen, and that Death Eaters are on their way. Harry, Hermione and Ron escape in the ensuing melee to Sirius Black's house in London, and ponder how they are going to find the last 5 Horcruxes, let alone destroy them. Investigating the house, they discover that Sirius's brother Regulus is the person who stole Voldemort's Horcrux locket and—through the Black's house-elf Kreacher—learn that not only was it stolen from the household, but that Dolores Umbridge is its current owner. They hatch a plot to sneak into the Ministry of Magic to retrieve it from her, but as the Ministry is swarming with Death Eaters out to capture Harry, things get complicated and go sideways fast.

Deathly Hallows Part 1 is unlike any Harry Potter film to date. For starters, the film is set everywhere but Hogwarts, and classes in magic are a distant memory. While we revisit a few familiar places—such as the Weasley's and Sirius's homes—most of the film has the protagonists on the run. It's also a frustration filled mystery, as Dumbledore has given Harry the impossible task of hunting down and destroying the Horcruxes without telling him what and where they are, nor even how to destroy them! This is the darkest chapter in the series, as the protagonists are so far removed from friends, family, and support that their friendship is tested to the breaking point. At the same time, Voldemort's forces go on the offensive with constant 'disappearances' and attacks occurring in the background.

In the midst of all that, the film asks who Dumbledore really was, and it is subtly suggested that Harry was manipulated by Dumbledore into accepting the task of hunting Horcruxes. Nevertheless, the highlight is the resourcefulness of the protagonists, which helps them get out of the expected and unexpected predicament that they face one after another—though they don't necessarily come out scratch free! They are truly chewed up and spit out on their road-trip through the unbeaten paths and the wilderness they hide out in. They also get help from allies and friends that pop up in unexpected places. This penultimate chapter in the series, though dark, also marks a major turning point, as we get the sense that Harry and friends finally start to unravel the clues that Dumbledore left them to help them in their mission.

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows–Part 2

4 stars

Release date: 2011
Written by: Steve Kloves
Directed by: David Yates
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2022.05.26
At Bill Weasley and Fleur Delacour's remote seaside cottage, Harry Potter asks the goblin Griphook to help him break into Bellatrix Lestrange's vault in Gringotts Bank, as he suspects a Horcrux is there. Griphook agrees, but in exchange for the Sword of Gryffindor. With Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley disguised as Bellatrix and a Death Eater, and Harry and Griphook hidden by an invisibility cloak, they succeed in sneaking into the bank vaults. However, the suspicious bank staff soon discover the trickery. After they find the Horcrux—in Helga Hufflepuff's cup—in Lestrange's vault, Griphook snatches the sword and abandons them. Trapped, the trio release the Gringotts's dragon guardian, and they flee on its back. Harry soon has a vision of Voldemort at Gringotts, in a furious rampage. Harry also senses that a Horcrux connected to Rowena Ravenclaw is hidden at Hogwarts. However, Hogwarts is under Death Eater control, with Severus Snape as its headmaster, and heavily defended by Dementors. The trio apparates into nearby Hogsmeade, but set off intruder alarms. As they scramble to hide from the town's defenders, a mysterious man beckons them into his house to hide. He looks like Dumbledore, and reveals plenty of secrets about the late headmaster, as well as a secret passage into Hogwarts!

If Part 1 is a slow-burn road movie, Part 2 is anything but. It picks up right were Part 1 ends, and continues the theme of revisiting the famous places in the Harry Potter series. This time, after a brief adventure in Diagon Alley, it brings us full circle back to Hogwarts and its environs—which makes it feel like a "true" Harry Potter film. Along the way, we are introduced to the final four Horcruxes and their hidden locations, as well as Aberforth Dumbledore; Albus Dumbledore's younger brother.

Aberforth is full of revelations that paint Albus in an entirely new light, and casts some serious doubts on his hidden true agenda behind the task he had given Harry. This leads directly into the most emotionally powerful sequence in the series that underscores Harry's heroism—intriguingly it is the decision to do or not do something, and not the action itself.

The highlight of the film, however, is the further revelations of Snape, and his true motivations. Rowlings "a gift of a character" description is an understatement, and adds immensely to the poignancy of this final film, while also recasting all of Snape's actions in the preceding films in a new light—to the point of wanting to rewatch them all to catch the subtle ques Alan Rickman gave us in his performance. If you've watched any of the Harry Potter films, this film cannot be missed.

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