Are the Harry Potter Films Getting Better?

Yesterday I saw the sixth film in the Harry Potter franchise, Harry Potter and the The Half-Blood Prince. It’s the first of the movies that I’d call “quite good”. We’re watching the cast mature on-screen, and the audience is getting older too. As a result, movies seem to be getting more interesting.

The young leads are much better actors than they were eight years ago. They’ve earned some confidence and chemistry onscreen that makes them much more watchable. Given the series’ success, the producers took a huge casting gamble. Any three actors would be a gamble, it just happened that these turned out without:

  • Looking hideous
  • Engaging in a crippling public scandal (drug addiction, sex change operation and so forth)
  • Quitting acting for a quieter life

As a producer, the only casting decision I’d regret is Bonnie Wright as Ginny Weasley. She’s pretty plain, in both performance and appearance. In light of the international cadre of Hogwarts honeys giving him the doe eyes, one finds oneself asking what Harry sees in Ginny. The producers might be forgiven, as they probably cast her in 1999 or 2000. According to Wikipedia, only three or four books had been published, so they may not have had much insight into Ginny’s importance to the later films.

The addition of the superb Jim Broadbent is also a treat. I was recently remarking on how difficult it is to convincingly act drunk, and he does an exquisite job in one scene.

Which reminds me of the underlying drugs-and-alcohol motif of this movie. Everybody seems to be constantly high on this potion or drunk on that brew–it’s like Dazed and Confused with wands and robes. Harry Pothead, indeed.

The Half-Blood Prince manages to avoid a lot of the irksome ruts of the earlier movies. They were often a combination of Choose Your Own Adventure and a Cast of Wand-Wielding Thousands, neither of which made for natural pacing or easy watching for those who haven’t read the books. The film’s opening moments really grab you in a very unexpected way. Plus, this movie is less married to the standard year-at-Hogwarts structure–the action goes off the reservation in a satisfying way. For a change, the special effects feel streamlined and underplayed. I even found the Quidditch scene to be happily brief and kind percussive.

I even enjoyed the teen romance. It’s refreshing, in light of how chaste the previous movies were. After all, these are a bunch of teenagers living away from home.

The movie isn’t without its flaws. No director has worked out how to really sell the wand-to-wand combat scenes, which always come off as goofy Latin shouting matches. Plus, at 153 minutes, it’s pretty long and drags here and there.

Director David Yates is apparently signed on for the remaining two films, and the franchise feels like it’s in sound hands. I was listening to the Slate Spoiler Special podcast (I tried finding a home page for that badboy, but no joy) for his film, and guest Dan Kois aptly refers to the next film as “Harry, Hermione and Ron Go Camping Forever”, so Yates will have those hands full.

Ranking The Latest Movie

I have a poor memory of the Harry Potter movies, but I feel like this is the best of them. I thought I’d hit up a couple of review aggregation sites, Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes, to see how they thought this movie stood up. In both cases, the films are rated out of 100.

Movie MC RT
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001) 64 78
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002) 63 82
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) 81 89
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) 81 88
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007) 71 77
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009) 78 84

Like I said, I can’t remember them well enough to assign more than a vague order. I’d say the first movie was definitely the worst, but after that I’m a bit lost.

Speaking of teen romance, I saw the trailer for the second Twilight movie. I don’t know about the movie, but the trailer is an incomprehensible hack job. I’ve seen the first movie, and I was still kind of lost. And, surprise, surprise, there’s a werewolf.


  1. I have to disagree with you about the first movie being the worst – imho, the fourth movie was far and away the worst. I actually came out of the theatre quite angry about how bad it was! I’m surprised to see it was given such high rankings on Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes! Terrible, terrible movie it was.

    Like you, I quite enjoyed the latest one (which I actually just arrived home from seeing!)

  2. I agree about Ginny… although from the books it sounds like she is “plain” but also “pretty”, I think they could have found a more attractive actress who has a bit more charisma, without being over-the-top stunning.

    And I have to defend Twilight here 😉 You really have to read the books to really understand anything about the movies, or the trailers… although chances are it’s not really your kind of book series anyway 😉

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