New York Times Looks Back on the Evolution of Potter Films

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Jul 14, 2007

Posted by EdwardTLC

The New York Times has a new article and video feature online contrasting and examining the directors of the first five Harry Potter films, along with the themes, effects and actors that have evolved in step with the films. The article first discusses the four directors of the series: Chris Columbus, Alfonso Cuarón, Mike Newell and David Yates, and the distinct vision they have brought to each film along with the advancing effects used to tell the story. It is also noted how each director advanced the darker tones in the story, with the a darker look, characters and story that was paralleled by author J. K. Rowling originally in the books. From the article:

Just as the “Harry Potter” books may have spurred children to reach for more adult fare, the films may be accomplishing much the same in the cinematic realm, initiating them into the pleasures of more genres. The first two movies, directed by Chris Columbus (“Mrs. Doubtfire’ “Home Alone”), played much like kiddie comedies, with plenty of mild gross-out humor and schoolboy antics (like the mishap-strewn joy ride taken by Ron and Harry in “Chamber of Secrets’ above left). But by the third film, “The Prisoner of Azkaban’ directed by Alfonso Cuarón, the tone and color palette have shifted, the bright, flat lighting giving way to a somber and dangerous feel, evocative of horror films (above center).

An accompanying interactive feature, presents the audio commentary of Manohla Dargis and A. O. Scott, who wrote the piece, expanding on their thoughts written in the article. Their commentary is featured over a series of clips from the films, which you can fade in and out from the films audio.

Thanks much to blulzrd and GN for emailing!





22 Responses to New York Times Looks Back on the Evolution of Potter Films

Avatar Image says:

i heard alot of reviews that weren’t so pleasing. alot of parents and many other people who don’t actually read the books, complain about it’s darkness. it’s all a matter of reading the books so you can understand why it’s getting darker. the movies, while they are pleasing visual aid, don’t really explain the true nature of the story. They give the impression that Harry, Ron and Hermione are merely skipping through out their school lives, yelling magic words. That everything will be happy, fun and safe at every moment. I love the movies, don’t get me wrong, but i just think that movie fans are justified in their critique.

Avatar Image says:

a correction to my last comment.

the movie fans are NOT justified in their critique.

Avatar Image says:

i didn’t really like the 5th movie. it was WAY too different from the book, and it skipped a lot of stuff cough cough quidditch cough cough that made me really enjoy the book. y do people even go c the movies if they don’t read the books?! the won’t even understand a lot of it if they haven’t read the books!

Avatar Image says:

i have to say this… the movie was well done for a movie but how could rowling allow them to do this to such a well written book? how could she let them change the stroy line so much? to make harrys first crush the bad guy? i was very dissapointed in the movie and experenice of it.

Avatar Image says:

i enjoyed the film. it’s probably the best one yet. i know a lot of people are complaining with the lack of truthfulness to the book. fans of the book should expect this by now, it’s going to happen. i think the writer did a pretty good job with adapting the book. he had so much story to work with but he found the parts that were important. yes, he changed some things like Neville finding the room and Cho ratting them out. but seriously, did we really need an extra scene with Dobby and Marietta??? no. I’m a film student so I understand why the writer did what he did. the only problem i had was how Sirius “died”, because he’s not DEAD :D

Avatar Image says:

There were two big things that I thought was left out of the movie. One was the MIRROR which I thought would play some kind of role in the last book along with the three cleaning out a desk in Sirius’ house which we assume is where the locket is.

Just my thoughts. A LOT WAS LEFT OUT OF THE MOVIE!

Avatar Image says:

Yeah, I was really disappointed by the last movie. They just seem to be getting darker and less true to the books. I mean, I didn’t like how the first two movies were all cheesy and aimed towards 10 year olds, but they really were the truest to the books. I wish they could just combine how true to the books the first two were with the darker tone and feel of the later movies. I think that GoF had a good feel to it even though they cut out way to many important things.

Avatar Image says:

I think after five film we ought let this debate about film v book go. There has never ever been a film as good as the book it’s based on. I love the books and films as two seperate entities. I think it’s great that at last an article has been written praising all four directers and the contribution each has made to the HP world. I feel we owe a big thank you to Chris Columbus for giving us the cast and the designers, can you imagine if the orgininal concept of condensing the first three books in to one film had gone ahead. I think Chris moved aside at the right moment, a move that has kept the francise fresh and alive. I too am honoured to have seen the developement of Dan, Rupert and Emma.

Avatar Image says:

I agree with you jain.

Avatar Image says:

I agree jain, the Potter fans seemed to get so riled up whenever anything is changed in the movies and in many ways act like a selfish pack of individuals who think it is their movie to control. (I am afraid Jo will start getting nasty letters after Deathly Hallows, as well. But that is another matter.) But films are always adaptations of the books. Jo understands this and allows the directors freedom and liberty to adapt them as they see fit, only intervening in rare instances such as for the inclusion of Kreature. Some authors similarly snap at any adaptation of their books, but Jo seems quite pleased with the films and the talent that flows through them.

I do think that Chris Columbus had the difficult task of starting the series, and I did find myself at the time enthralled by the first two movies. But looking at them now, they seem overly long, stale, and and childish. Alfonso Cuaron pushed the series into art, and created a brilliantly rendered world for Harry. Mike Newell seemed to stumble a bit in my opinion, I just didn’t feel that connected to the film, but some of the sequences were nothing short of superb. And now we have David Yates, who I think has done brilliantly in pushing the young actors and challenging the older ones to do their best while finding the dark and inner-turmoil that marked Order of the Phoenix.

I think the Harry Potter franchise has worked because it continually displays the best adult acting talent anywhere and always finds news ways of re-imagining the series and what it holds. That way we get to see the series interpreted from all different perspectives and in all different lights. Ultimately for me, the books are the books and will remain as such forever. And the movies are the movies, experiments of translation, and will always remain as such.

Hopefully other Potter fans can see it the same way.

Avatar Image says:

i have to say this… the movie was well done for a movie but how could rowling allow them to do this to such a well written book? how could she let them change the stroy line so much? to make harrys first crush the bad guy? i was very dissapointed in the movie and experenice of it.

Avatar Image says:

i am wondering why it is mentioned by jessica i believe that sirus is not dead? im i missing something? in the book the curse was not used like in the movie but he did die as far as i can tell by reading. and to add to what i wrote before. i agree that the movie was well done. just dissapointed. i feel things of importance were left out and now those things that relate to the half blooded prince will be confussing for some. but the movie alone i give 3 and 1/2 stars out of 5… and i want to say sorry for the double post. i am haveing to read and post from my cell phone. so please accept my appology for and double post… also i would like to say thank you to the poster that mentioned the locket. it just now clicked for me thank you

Avatar Image says:

Kyle, I couldn’t agree with you more.

The 5th film was, I think, my favorite HP film yet. It still seems to be a toss up between this one and POA. Cuaron and Yates seem to have captured and preserved the books they adapted the most. Like the overall tone and cheeky style of the books. I do understand that many fans upset easily by the recreated and revamped scenes, not to mention the many (but I think necessary) omissions. I just think, while I still enjoy the playful nature, the first two films lack in any originality or style. It’s a bit ironic to me…Chris Columbus who took the most literal approach to the books, seems too have done little or no justice at all to SS and COS. And maybe I am one of the few who believe this, but CoS is one of the most pivotal books to me…and Columbus did NOT capture that.

Avatar Image says:

I don’t underestand why people think Yates strayed so far from the book because he didn’t at all. He stayed very true to the book. The 5th book is my favorite and I think Yates did it justice. He was able to capture the spirit and tone of the book along with the story. I just don’t see what people are talking about? Anyway, OOTP is the best movie yet imo and I didn’t think that was possible after the wonderfully made POA.

Avatar Image says:

The last three films have been completely unwatchable…and all for the same reason: Dumbledore. Richard Harris had the perfect calmness and power for the character, but Gambon is just horrid. From the wardrobe to his demeanour, it is just wrong.

The first two films are my favourites, mainly due to accuracy. I would rather have the story told properly than an “artistically edgy” pile of dragon dung.

Avatar Image says:

I NEVER thought I would say this, but I feel that Michael Gambon has redeemed himself and is now an acceptable Dumbledore. He has let go of the histrionics of GOF and the weird, out-of-character moments of POA. We see a truly vulnerable man, one who is not accustomed to being vulnerable. I finally feel Gambon hasn’t “phoned it in” but has really embraced the character (and, surrounded by such passion and talent, how could he not?).

Yes, of course there will always be the moments we wish had been translated to screen. And daily, as I play the movie over in my mind, the list grows. But really, those feelings are inevitable. Many plot changes were obviously done for cinematic reasons, and aside from a couple of things I thought they might “plant” for the sake of DH, I can’t say I’m bitterly disappointed with any omissions. Most of them seemed necessary and/or justified.

As a matter of fact, I think the movie did a BETTER job than the book of building up the relationship between Harry and Sirius. (And now I’m ducking into a corner to dodge the stones!)

Avatar Image says:

I saw the movie yesterday, and it is my favorite of the five. PoA comes as a close second. Both of them are my favorite books and films. Sure, a lot was cut, but shouldn’t we expect this by now? This is no more disappointing than GoF was. In fact, I think GoF was a LOT more disappointing than OOTP. First of all, the acting was great. Daniel is great as Harry in this installment, and you can see the amount of effort he put into his performance. He and Gary Oldman have great chemistry. I’m really glad to say that the character of Ron was done justice in this film, even though he was given little to do. No longer is Ron a wimp who makes sick-to-stomach facial expressions, but a funny, witty, loyal friend to Harry. I assume this is because Steve Kloves didn’t write the script this time. I loved the Harry and Seamus scene, the first one where they argue. It’s so close to the book. I love it when Ron says , “Anyone else got a problem with Harry?”

Bonnie Wright seems to be developing in the same way that Ginny is. She’s is really quite hot now. Matthew Lewis is always great as Neville. Evanna was perfect as Luna. Imelda was perfect as Umbridge. Did anyone get chills when she slapped Harry near the end? It was SO evil, and SO perfect. Oh, and Bellatrix was dead sexy. She was a BEAST. Helena was fantastic. I loved it when she screamed, “FILTHY HALF-BLOOD!” in a very loud, deep voice. I also love the fact that Harry doesn’t respond like he does in the books, but instead just looks at her. Her laugh was sexy, too. Sirius’s death was quite sad.

Alan Rickman was WONDERFUL. I didn’t expect the “He’s got Padfoot” scene to be in the movie, and it redeemed how I felt about the Snape’s Worst Memory scene. When Snape says, “I have no idea,” so much can be debated about why he says that. It’s a crucial scene. I loved this movie from the very start. I could tell from the start, when Dudley was taunting Harry in front of his gang, that this was going to be a much different film than the previous four. I REALLY wanted to smack Dudley in the face in that scene (I hated him more than Draco Malfoy on the part when he talks about Harry’s mom being dead). I was half-hopinh that Harry would attempt the Cruciatus Curse on Dudley and his stupid friends. The movie has its flaws and disappointments (casting Michael Gambon as Dumbledore, although he’s improved, still wasn’t a good idea), it is my favorite. I also think it’s the strongest. The book is better, but the film is great.

Avatar Image says:

btw, I enjoy the first two films. I appreciate their accuracy, but if you notice, they’re really flat. The trio (mainly Dan) are MUCH better actors than they were back then. Also, those films focused mainly on the adventure/mystery aspects on the plot, rather than the characters’ feelings/emotions. They were a little too long, as well. I think Chris Columbus would’ve done horrible on PoA, etc. Besides, I don’t really want to see an illustration of the book, just a faithful adaptation. That doesn’t stop me from being irritated with GoF, though.

Avatar Image says:

Michael Gambon has redeemed himself. He toned it down a bit. The fight in the end was CRAZY! It made the movie for me next to Daniels posession sceen. The acting, as Dan says, has stepped up to the challenge. Has anyone heard about the idiot Jeffrey Lyons(film critic.) He basically said it was time we all moved on and grew up. You can see his asinine critique on ABC.com.

Avatar Image says:

I have to say, that I really disliked the movie. Don’t get me wrong, the acting was wonderful and so were the effects, but the story line was not that great. I am a HUGE HP fan, and I totally understand that the movie has to leave some things out; understand that. What makes me the most mad is that the stuff that they did put in the movie was NOT ACCURATE!!! Neville finding the room of requirement and Cho ratting the DA out was decent, but a lot of the other changes were ridiculous. I was so mad that I almost walked out of the theatre.

I understand that everyone has their own opinion, and I am just expressing mine. I do have to give Leaky commenters kudos. I have read a lot of forums and chats and people are literally fighting about their opinions. I know that my opinion may not be the same as everyone elses, so I appreciate not getting bashed for it.

Avatar Image says:

The scenes that made the movie for me were these scenes (not in any specific order):

1. the Harry/Seamus argument, and when Ron steps in and tells Seamus that he believes Harry, and says, “Anyone else got a problem with Harry?” That scene made it for me, because it was so close to the book. I think that it was Rupert Grint’s best character moment out of any of the films. It made Ron out to be a true, loyal friend to Harry, rather than a wimp like he is in some of the previous films.

2. All of the Harry/Sirius scenes. They were done really well. I really loved the vision that Harry had where Voldemort was torturing Sirius. Really well done.

3. All of Umbridge’s scenes. I loved the “I must not tell lies.” At first, they had made it, “I must not break rules,” but I guess the filmmakers realized their mistake. I LOVED the scene in Umbridge’s office at the end. When Umbridge slapped Harry, now THAT was cold.

4. The “He’s got Padfoot” scene, where Snape enters Umbridge’s office briefly. Umbridge asks who Padfoot is, and Snape just says, “I have no idea.” That scene was brilliant. With all that had been cut, I was pleased to see that scene. It is really very crucial to the plot.

5. When Bellatrix screamed, “FILTHY HALF-BLOOD!” Also, when she was cackling madly.

6. All of Ginny’s scenes.

7. Tonk’s scenes.

8. The fact that, even though they weren’t thoroughly explained, the fact that the Skiving Snackboxes were included. The fact that the Extendable Ears were included too.

9. Seeing Aunt Petunia in a short dress (okay, maybe not THAT, lol).

Avatar Image says:

That interactive video was really interesting to watch/hear, it helped to reminisce (sp?) over all the films from the beginning.

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