After finishing the Fantastic Beasts trilogy earlier this year, I finally got around to watching the original Wizarding World movies, the Harry Potter saga. As my first time watching these with no prior knowledge about them whatsoever (Yes, I’ve been living under a rock for several years now, in case you were wondering.), here are my initial impressions of the first four films, but let me be clear that, despite my gripes with some of these early films, they are much more enjoyable and a lot more fun than Fantastic Beasts. I see why several Harry Potter fans I’ve talked to dismiss them in favor of the original stories. In fact, I enjoyed this batch of movies so much that I listened to the soundtracks afterward, am genuinely excited to continue the series, and found out which Hogwarts House I’m a part of. Read on to find out my thoughts on Harry’s early adventures, as well as which Hogwarts House I’m in!
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone--Whimsical, charming, and refreshingly lighthearted, the first adventure of the boy who lived is a great introduction to the wizarding world and its delightful characters. It’s a gleefully childish tale full of magic, mischief, and, above all, friendship. This installment and the sequel were directed by Chris Columbus. Not to be confused with the historical figure, Columbus also directed the first two Home Alone movies, and his ability to channel childish fun into the story and bring out memorable performances out of child actors is as well done here as his other projects. I see why many people were charmed by this franchise, because this first chapter of the saga is a strong start.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets–Everything I said can be applied here, but one area that is more faulty than the previous film is its villain twist. Its explanation is a bit of a stretch, even for magic standards. It reminded me of the convoluted lore behind the villain of the Kingdom Hearts series and how much of a headache it is to wrap your mind around it. If you're familiar with my nerdy reference, you know what I mean and have probably also taken an aspirin or two from thinking about it too much. Aside from that, it’s another fun and delightful adventure featuring everyone’s favorite Gryffindor trio.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban–This one got a little darker–and surprisingly scarier (How did they get away with PG?!?!)–than the last two films. Parents, beware of the werewolves and also the intimidating dementors. Things are not as bright and cheerful as the previous adventures. Because of the more life-threatening plot and more serious subject matter, it’s a lot more intriguing though. I was seriously curious how the characters would get out of their predicament. They were basically backed into a corner and had no easy options, which really excited me to see how things would turn out…except the solution was so incredibly lame. Let me give you a brief summary:
Harry: Oh no! Everything is getting worse, and there’s no hope in sight. Shall we put our brains together and find a clever solution?
Hermione: No need for that! I’ve got this handy dandy time travel device that will solve all our problems conveniently and we’ll get everything we want–super easy, barely an inconvenience.
Harry: Well this seems random. Where did you get that?
Hermione: Oh, a professor gave it to me two years ago. You know, when I was eleven. An irresponsible teacher thought giving a tween the power to control time and space was a great idea!
Harry: Wow! Brilliant! Let’s definitely not use this to go way back in time to defeat Voldemort before he was able to kill my parents and never, ever use this very useful (and potentially universe destroying) device again to solve any future problems we may have!
Like, come on! I seriously hate this random solution, and it just about ruined the whole movie for me. Thankfully, this is my only gripe with it, but unfortunately, this was just the warmup. Prepare yourself for a rant, BUT may I remind you that I still had fun with these movies, so please don’t cast avada kedavra on me.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire–I’ll start things off positively and say that the special effects in this one were incredibly impressive. Some effects look like they were done yesterday, and this is an 18-year-old movie! In particular, the dragon fight and Harry’s aquatic transformation looked terrific. However, unlike the previous two movies where I had problems with just the endings, I have a problem with the whole dang thing this time. I don’t like the premise of this movie at all. Not one bit. Up until now, I grew to like Dumbledore, Snape, and the rest of the quirky yet lovable professors of Hogwarts. They seemed to have a passion to help their students and have their best interests at heart, which made me naturally admire them…except this time, they basically throw the kids into mortal danger for kicks and giggles. Before you say, “They weren’t kids; you have to be 17-years-old to participate in the Triwizard Games,” I want to point out that a 17-year-old IS A MINOR. Did the kids get their parents permission before signing up to fight a blood-thirsty dragon hellbent at barbequing them? Nope! “Well they knew the risks when they signed up” you might say, to which I counter that the professors at Hogwarts could have made a way safer tournament but choose not to. Even when the dragon got loose and chased poor Harry around THE ENTIRE SCHOOL CAMPUS, did any professor get up out of their seat to protect the school and its students? No, they stayed in their seats and watched a 14-year-old fly around trying not to get eaten. Oh, and that’s not even the worst of it! The professors allowed the participants’ family and friends to be sacrificed if the competitors failed the mermaid challenge. And I’m supposed to believe Voldemort’s the bad guy?!?! Even my favorite professor, Hagrid, just stood by and watched the whole thing, knowing full well these kids could die at any moment. One line–ONE LINE–could have fixed all of this: “Don’t worry, kids, we have referees to jump in and help out if things get too dangerous. Okay, have fun! We’ll see you in class tomorrow.” Instead, they told the kids that people have died, and they might live long enough to see their 18th birthday! I have no idea if the book touched on this at all and made the games a lot less inhumane, but in the movie version, it’s a very bad plot that makes the “good guys” seem more villainous than the guy who murdered a child. At least the bad guy knew he was being bad. Dumbledore would’ve just watched a dragon chow down on a child and called it entertaining. UGH! I don’t like this one. Can’t you tell?
And those are my first impressions of Harry’s first four years of magical mayhem. Despite the problems I pointed out, overall, these were very enjoyable and have a unique charm about them. Harry, Ron, and Hermione's friendship makes these movies highly enjoyable and very memorable. There are some decent lessons for kids about bravery, sacrifice, and selflessness, as well as some more adult themes like betrayal, corruption, and overcoming abuse to keep the older audiences entertained. They also have a youthful outlook about the world--the mysterious wonder of unknown horizons, an excitement for the future, and wonderful memories to share with friends. I’m excited to continue this journey and see how it all concludes. And hopefully, my fellow Hufflepuffs get in the spotlight more. So far, all I have going for my House is Newt Scmander and a very dead 17-year-old. I hope the next four years prove better for them. I'm routing for you, badgers!