I hated Pulp Fiction the first time I saw it. The first Tarantino movie I’d ever seen was Kill Bill: Vol. 1, which is a decidedly gorier and altogether more accessible movie for an eighth grader (technically I wasn’t legally “mature enough” for either by the MPAA’s standards), although I was the only one in my grade who seemed to enjoy it. When I watched Pulp Fiction for a second (and a third and a fourth ad infinitum) viewing, it gripped me like few other movies had before or since. To this day it is still one of my all-time favorites.
Movies, especially great ones, often change from viewing to viewing, not because they are different but because we are. Though we now live in an age of Rotten Tomato blurbs and aggregated consensus, a critic’s most valued possession is still their written voice. With every review now posted quickly and then archived online, conversation on most movies usually peaks quickly when they are first released, and then dissipates just as fast. The only time afforded to looking back is the annual “Best of the Year” cluster fuck.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 Directed by: David Yates Written by: Steve Kloves (screenplay), J.K. Rowling (novel) Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, and Ralph Fiennes
The cheers and tears of millions of fans around the world will signify the end of the era of Potter. Though the books ended in 2007 (when the fifth film came out), this eighth film installment truly marks the end of J.K. Rowling’s wizard phenomenon.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 abandons much of the atmospheric dread of the past two films in favor of full-on confrontation. The initial scenes carry that “Calm before the storm” not only narratively but aesthetically as well. We watch as Snape (Alan Rickman) precedes over fascistic-looking marches at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry with a troubled calm settling on his face.
Before The Deathly Hallows begins the end of the Potter films, we decided to look back at the films, from their beginnings trapped within the pages of JK Rowling’s books to the emerging of an original identity on the screen.
1. The Prisoner of Azkaban 2004
In a near tie for first place, The Prisoner of Azkaban makes its way to the top for being the first Potter film to not only hold its own against the books, but break out from them and create an identity of its own. The first film to finally stylize the setting using clever cinematography, narrative rhythm and creative art direction came as a surprise to fans. It was much darker, more mature and more enthralling than the previous installments. See the opening scene that hints at masturbation for further proof. Much of this is attributed to director Alfonso Cuaron, who previously directed the Spanish youth sex odyssey Y Tu Mama Tambien before attacking this adaptation. Guillermo del Torro and Marc Foster turned down the project, fearing it was too happy and full of light. Luckily Cuaron found the gloom and realism even in the magical world of Hogwarts.
2. The Order of the Phoenix 2007
Just like The Prisoner of Azkaban redefined the way the Harry Potter world would be told and constructed, The Order of the Phoenix built on those changes, exploring what an even larger budget, larger sets and more visual effects could do for the story. David Yates was the perfect person to take over the rest of the series and handle the edge and seriousness the rest of the story had to offer. With a story drawing on really interesting themes like repression and rebellion, it’s about as fun and appropriate as it gets for a struggling-to-grow-up story.