Reviews

Harry Potter: Wizard's Collection

5

The whole Hogwarts. Has the magic lasted?

All of the ingredients were there.

A universally adored series as source material, some strong directors to steer, an exhaustive catalogue of British thesps to star.

The release of each new Potter pic was An Event, heralded by breathless anticipation and heartfelt hype, with reviews tending towards friendly indulgence if not wholehearted praise (the films’ lowest Rotten Tomatoes score is 78 per cent).

On paper, this was a decade-spanning cinematic triumph.

So why, looking back, does the Harry Potter series feel like a bit of a nonevent? (It’s not a term you could apply to this piggybank-busting 31-disc set, rounding up all released extras plus hours of new stuff and memorabilia.)

The first and most damning problem is the casting of lead trio Harry, Ron and Hermione.

It’s hard not to feel churlish when you’re talking smack about actors as young as Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson were in The Philosopher’s Stone, but the fact is that all three of them took a good two-and-a-half adaptations to start feeling anything other than stilted.

The other stumbling block is also the reason the concluding Deathly Hallows duo come out head and shoulders above the rest: it’s an issue of space.

Much of the joy in J.K. Rowling’s novels comes less from the plot mechanics than her loving, meticulous approach to the world she’s creating.

The scenes she devotes to fleshing out characters or adding dimensions to dark corners of Hogwarts are the first to be cut, which often renders the films - notably Chris Columbus’ two opening efforts - a faithful inventory of events.

Deathly Hallows: Part 1 got a lot of flak for being “two hours of camping and moaning” but those scenes are the first time Harry and pals are given the room to be real people reacting to real situations, rather than narrative delivery devices.

And it’s in these two films from long-standing series director David Yates – along with Alfonso Cuaron’s rightfully lauded, visually striking The Prisoner Of Azkaban – that the Potter series elevates itself from workaday adaptation to cinematic treat in its own right.

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