Harry Potter: a tale of two viewers

Michael’s never seen ‘Harry Potter’ or read the books; Jon grew up idolizing the series. So, Jon and Michael decided to watch the movies together, each offering their own take on the classic story of a young wizard from Privet Drive. (Note: this is part one of a two part series).

Jon Wood:

“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”

I know Michael is brutally dismantling this movie, but let me defend it for a second. This had the arduous task of providing an insane amount of exposition and introducing an entire audience to the Harry Potter universe. That alone could have taken the whole two and a half hour runtime, but it also manages to provide some good storytelling and action to keep everybody entertained. Is this the best movie? God no. The action is subpar at best, and it doesn’t help that the plot just isn’t as strong as the other books/movies. Admittedly, most (if not all) of my enjoyment that I get from watching this particular movie is derived from nostalgia and the joy of seeing all the actors as little kids. However, watching this movie for the first time at age 17 would kind of give anybody a bad taste in their mouth for the series, so I’ll let Michael’s cynicism slide. For now. Side note: I think Michael may unironically prefer Dudley over Harry???

“Harry Potter and Chamber of Secrets”

The second movie is my second favorite movie of the series for many reasons. First, the action gets rolling WAY sooner than the first movie, as it doesn’t have the role of introducing the audience to the characters. Second, I think this movie focuses a great deal more on the humor that is present in the books and the dynamics between characters are more natural, thus leading to more comedic sequences. I only have two complaints. The movie feels like two in one with it’s near three-hour runtime, so we had to take a couple of breaks (during which Andrea finally found an excuse to escape what seemed to be her personal hell that is my basement, watching “Harry Potter”.) The second complaint has nothing to do with the movie, but Michael insists on pronouncing Dobby’s name wrong. How on earth am I supposed to just sit there while he says ‘DOBEY’ like a dope? Also, update after finishing the movie: Michael still does not know Hagrid’s name. It keeps changing from ‘Haggerd’ to some weird mutations of that. I have given up correcting him.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”

Ok, I’ve always had something against this movie. It’s probably because it’s everybody’s favorite Harry Potter movie, but I just have never seen what’s so good about it. It’s the only movie that doesn’t have Voldemort as a part of the plot, and I’ve always thought it makes it weaker. It also irrationally bugs me how often everybody wears normal clothes instead of their robes. After watching it for the nth time with Michael though, it actually started to grow on me. It’s definitely not my favorite, but seeing as it used to be second to last on my ranking of the movies, anything is an improvement. Michael seems to think himself a human inconsistency detector with the number of plot holes he thinks he finds. It’s becoming exhausting looking up the answers to his skeptical questions because my knowledge is subpar. I think the best part of this movie is the final shot, where Daniel Radcliffe’s face is freeze-framed, a bold yet commendable choice by the director. Well done, Alfonso Cuaron, well done.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”

This SHOULD be my least favorite movie, but it’s not. It’s my favorite book, and the amount of things they decided to cut during the adaptation to the silver screen is insulting. However, this movie has two things going for it. We get the most action in the series so far, and it has an excellent plot coming off of a great book. If you haven’t read the book, you won’t notice anything wrong with the amount of content missing, but it hurts my soul not to be able to actually watch the Quidditch World Cup or see ‘Dobey’ at least ONCE. I think this movie is important as a split in the series because it represents a pretty drastic tone shift from the happy-go-lucky attitude of the first couple of movies to the more sinister tone of the last chunk of the series. Also, what. Is. The. HAIR. Did nobody on set ever say, “Hey Daniel, Rupert, maybe a little snip snap?” No conveniently placed scissors on set to give them a little nudge? Nothing? We don’t see the Forbidden Forest much in this movie, and I think it’s because the real Forbidden Forest is on the top of their heads.

Michael Murray:

“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”

I came close to abandoning this whole watch-party project after suffering through this film. I get the need for exposition, but that shouldn’t take up a whole 2.5 hours. This movie had no plot and no point. The whole Sorcerer’s Stone bit seemed like an odd, tangential subplot in the movie. The exposition was never integrated properly into the movie’s overall plot. And then all of a sudden there’s a creepy, wrinkly face on the back of turban man’s face? Where does that come from? Was this really the great reveal that we have been waiting for the whole movie? It all comes across as extremely random and abrupt. But the obscenity doesn’t stop there. Now that we have reached the movie’s “climatic” moment, it’s supposed to be time for some action. Nope. Instead of some exciting action moments, we get a total of 57 disappointing seconds. Turban man leaps at Harry, chokes him for one second, and then Harry suddenly has the ability to kill him with touch. Since when? Then we get to watch a 12 year old boy oddly grope a bald guy’s face for a couple seconds. The end. Really? (Also, Ron, maybe try jumping off the chess piece before acting all stoically sacrificial.)

“Harry Potter and Chamber of Secrets”

I knew it. Jon can attest that halfway through the movie I guessed that Ginny was somehow involved with this whole Chamber of Secrets business. She was suspicious from the start, checking out Harry every chance she got. This movie was much better than the first because there was a lot more suspenseful action upfront. For example, those giant spiders had me covering my eyes for a solid five minutes. Even when you thought the spider attack was over, bam! Here they come again. I also loved this movie because of the fancy professor guy, Gilderoy. He provided some comic relief, especially with his whole “Do you live here?” bit. My greatest complaint about the movie, though, is this Riddle guy. Who is he? I still have no idea exactly who or what he is (Jon tried explaining it multiple times). So, he’s Voldemort, but he’s also a ghost or some hologram type? What’s the deal? I don’t get how he exists. It also unnerves me that Riddle just stands there awkwardly while Harry fights the big snake. Lastly, why does the big bird’s tears suddenly heal everything? When was that explained? Seems a little convenient….

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”

The first two-thirds of this movie were very boring, but the last third was so energizing that I walked away liking the movie overall. Just like with Ginny in the previous movie, I was quick to guess that Ron’s little mouse/rat was a bad guy. I mean, they made it pretty obvious with that whole map scene at night. Despite suspecting Ron’s vermin, I was very confused when Lupin and Sirius and everyone met up in the abandoned house. It wasn’t the type of confusion that leaves you frustrated; it was more like confusion mixed with enjoyable curiosity. I was a little angrily confused, though, when Hermione suddenly has the ability to time travel. Sure, she’s supposedly been doing that all movie, but when was it ever really explained? I did find a plothole in the movie, though. When Snape interrupts the party and tries to arrest Sirius, Harry shoots Snape against a wall. Snape pretty much disappears from the rest of the movie, but isn’t it strange he never confronted Harry about the scuffle? Snape really doesn’t seem like the forgiving type. Did they ever tell Snape that Sirius was a good guy? I need to know!!

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”

Like Jon, I think that this movie had a dramatically different tone than the previous three movies. We’ve definitely left the land of adolescent bliss. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I thought the movie was more compelling to a certain degree because of the more serious and intense tone. Still, I was a little disappointed by the film’s uneven plotline. We spend all of this time watching Harry complete these tasks and compete against these rival schools only to find out that it was all kind of futile when considering the greater story arc of the series. Honestly, I would have been fine if we just skipped to the scene in the graveyard where Mr. Voldemort shows up. That’s the only real vital part of the movie: oh look, Voldemort is back. I get that you have to work to that kind of reveal, but I felt like the whole tournament plot wasn’t well connected to the Voldemort reveal. The tournament plot seemed like it could be exchanged for any other plotline; it didn’t seamlessly or uniquely lead into the big reveal. Nevertheless, it was sad to see Cedric die, but it wasn’t as sad as it could have been. Cedric barely had any lines, and he seemed so static and forgettable. His death would have meant more to me if we got to know him past the superficial level.