8 – Harry Potter

Recent news came out that there was plans for J K Rowling to write a screenplay for Warner Bros for a new film set in the Harry Potter universe that was neither a prequel or a sequel to Potter but simply another story. The story will follow Newt Scamander who wrote a hogwarts textbook Magical Beasts and where to find them and will show him in New York 70 years before the events of harry potter and how he wrote the book. With this news I thought I would analyse the film series and talk about the changes between the films.

During the summer holidays I found a box set of the first 6 Harry Potter films in a discount DVD store for 12 pound which seemed good value for a set of six films so decided to buy it. Over the last few weeks I have been watching the first few films.

Since starting media in year 10 I haven’t actually watched any of the series so this is the first time I have watched them after learning how to analyse films and understand choices that may have been made in the film. The series is particular is quite interesting as it has 8 films which is longer than most other film series and because of this there have been changes throughout the films. Even the critical role of the director has changed throughout the films and the changes are evident within the films from the tone of the film even to the set and costume design. Also this is my 8th blog post and there are 8 films so it seemed appropriate.

So I started with Philosophers Stone which I don’t think I’ve actually watched for over 4 years but was always a childhood favourite of mine. The last time I saw this my voice had not yet broken and I was roughly 12 years old which is the same as the protagonist Harry Potter and I quickly realised upon this viewing I may have been looking back at the film with rose tinted glasses. The whole film seems a lot more cheesy and camp than I remember it. Especially the main trio of Harry, Ron and Hermione who sound like they have all guzzled helium before going on set. Also I don’t know if its just because I have seen the film a few times now and also read the books but the plot didn’t really engage me this time round. I suppose also the target audience is supposed to be children although it seemed to have broadened that as the films went on. Apart from the acting overall it doesnt seem to dated despite coming out over 10 years ago now and the magic and fun is still there but having now seen better written films and more impressive CGI it’s difficult to appreciate the film as much as I used to.

Carrying on with Chamber of Secrets is basically like watching a repeat of philosophers stone. Presumably they filmed these two films almost back to back because the cast are all exactly the same, there is the same tones and themes as the director is still Chris Columbus. However out of the films I probably prefer this one as the plot is more interesting, there’s more mystery and more suspense. The acting is also ever so slightly improved. Yet again though it doesn’t have the same impact it used to, I still enjoyed it but I did start to get a bit bored towards the end of the film.

With Prisoner of Azkaban a new director (Alfonso Cuarón) came to the table and there is definitely a noticeable change. The tone of the film feels more dark than the first 2 films. I think this is mainly achieved through mise en scene as the colour palette of the film is more greys, whites, and blacks rather than the first 2 films which seem more yellow, orange, red and green. The tone may be representing some of the darker ideas in the film like the dementors, which are hooded flying creatures which feature in the film, who suck people’s happiness away from them. The soundtrack composed by John Williams is noticeably different as well as it seems more mysterious and ambient than the recognisable and warm songs in the first 2.

A strange thing happens between scenes in this film which I had not noticed before; when a scene changes the screen fades to black but it spirals from the edge of the frame into the centre then spirals back out to the next scene. It is a really unnatural and strange way to cut and finish a scene and makes it very apparent to the audience that this is a film. I’m not quite sure why the director has decided to use this technique. Unless it is supposed to further represent the dark side of the plot and maybe that the darkness is approaching the characters. Also there is a large living tree called the whomping willow which is seen in short length wide shots throughout the film which represent the seasons changing as it’s leaves may be falling off or it may be covered in snow. This was an effective way of quickly informing the audience as to what time of year the following scene was set in and in this way each shot is an establishing shot.

Physical characteristics of the castle and its environments change in this film including a clock tower and courtyard which are incredibly prominent locations within the film. Also Hagrid’s house and the whomping willow have moved from where they were in chamber of secrets. They are now more on the sides of a large valley and near a large dark forest. The location change is most likely because there new areas look far more visually interesting and magical than the plain grass fields they were in before.

Further changes carry on into the later films so I may continue this post when I have the time.