We’re now at the halfway mark and things are certainly darkening for the ‘boy who lived’ (ICYMI, read how Russell felt revisiting the first half of the Harry Potter franchise). With Voldemort back and danger emerging throughout the wizarding world, let’s step back into the Harry Potter series:
The Order of the Phoenix (2007)
The formula for the Harry Potter films is firmly in place by its fifth entry (and the arrival of director David Yates, who would stick with the franchise for the rest of its run).
What’s most impressive is the brutality of this adaptation, pairing Rowling’s sprawling and, frankly, indulgent text down to the shortest film to date. It manages a tricky balancing act of dealing with the grief from the increased burden placed on its protagonist with some of the more enjoyable aspects of the narrative (the rise of Dumbledore’s Army and an enjoyably repugnant Imelda Staunton on villain duties).
And then it pivots to another devastating finale and the toll for Harry increases as we march on to the inevitable final confrontation.
The Half-Blood Prince (2009)
It is this confrontation or lack thereof, that makes The Half-Blood Prince a somewhat disappointing entry in the franchise.
It feels a rather static film, treading water while we wait for Harry and Voldemort’s big day. Little seems to progress through the majority of the film. Instead, the narrative puts the pieces in place for the next entry. But then comes the last act and we’re treated to one of the series best magic set pieces and a much-loved character leaving the just as we approach the big climax.
The Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010)
If The Half-Blood Prince treads water, the first half of The Deathly Hallows is like wading through a lake of treacle. I’m not a fan of the trend to divide the final book of a series into two films and here the weakness of proceedings is down to a lack of major set pieces, as well as an absence of Hogwarts, the central location for the rest of the series.
Some aspects work and it’s clear that the central trio has significantly progressed in their portrayal of Harry, Ron and Hermione. There are quiet, soulful moments and impactful exchanges. But it all feels like a slog, ending on a surprisingly muted note given what’s to follow.
The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011)
From a slow march to a propulsive race, the second half of The Deathly Hallows is all action, releasing the tension that’s built since the third entry. From Rowling’s take on a bank heist (complete with a dragon) to a return to Hogwarts (so absent from the last entry), it’s almost all a payoff.
And while it probably doesn’t work as a standalone film, lacking any real build-up to the release, as a series finale, it rewards fans for the time they’ve put in. There’s also relief that there can, finally, be a happy ending here. Even if the epilogue has lost little of its cringe factor.
And there ends my return to the Harry Potter universe. And no franchise is complete without an order of preference, with mine being (in reverse order):
The Chamber of Secrets
The Deathly Hallows: Part 1
The Half-Blood Prince
The Philosopher’s Stone
The Deathly Hallows: Part 2
The Order of the Phoenix
The Goblet of Fire
The Prisoner of Azkaban
Do you agree with Russell’s order? Tell us in a tweet at @flickwhat_UK.