80. The Corpse Bride (B)
81. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (B+)
82. Beauty and the Beast (A+)
83. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (B)
84. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (B/B+)
Prelude to Potterdammerung, Part 1: Film Series Rewatch: The Columbus Years
Got my advance ticket for the Friday showing of Deathly Hallows, Part 1
, so in the intervening days, I'm going to revisit the preceding six films. In the first installment, Chris Columbus' initial two entries, released in 2001 and 2002 - I actually don't think I've seen either of them for the better part of a decade (probably at least one VHS rewatch soon after they came out; heh, VHS, that was a while ago).
The two films broadly reaffirmed what I remembered: they're solid pieces of commercial filmmaking, and I think they get a bit undeservedly knocked in some quarters (they're certainly not bad), but the directors subsequent to Columbus really upped the game considerably, and they can't help but feel a bit pale in comparison. There's a palpable lack of atmosphere to most of both films - you can't help but wonder what Cuaron or Yates would have done with many sections (the bit where Harry is dying of Basilisk poison in CoS jumped out to me as a moment that could have had a lot more rung out of it). Both films probably skew a little longer in an admittedly understandable desire to include as much as possible (something that was obviously no longer possible with most of the later one-film adaptations, though GoF also suffered from this a bit) - the first film takes too long to get going, the second film takes too long to end.
All the same, plenty of plusses. As said earlier, the films are a solid foundation for future teams to work with - Columbus knew how to cast, if nothing else. It's particularly interesting to revisit the three young leads at their earliest. Watson was singled out as the standout in the initial release; looking back, she probably still is (I sometimes think she comes on a bit strong in the earliest scenes of PS, but that fits how the character comes across to Harry and Ron). I didn't notice Grint as much the first time around, but he's got great comedic timing here. Radcliffe suffers a bit for having what is in many ways the blandest part; his character isn't as quirky as the other two, so he has to basically do straight drama (the eternal curse of leads). It's not Osment-level work (remember him?), but he does well enough, and starting with the next film, he really starts to impress. And while Columbus' direction is generally not overly impressive, the Basilisk fight in CoS is actually one of the series' best action scenes.
One performance that doesn't especially hold up is Richard Harris as Dumbledore. Harris v. Gambon is, of course, one of the great debates about the film series, and while Gambon might play things a bit too aggressively on occasion, Harris really just doesn't have the energy the character requires (he was close to dying, of course, so we'll not be too harsh on him). I can't imagine him doing the fight scene in Order of the Phoenix
at all convincingly.
Good stuff, but there's better things to come.
Oh, and the film series makes for a really interesting study of advances in FX technology in the last decade. Even between Philosopher
, the CGI used on the Quidditch games is noticeably improved - compared to the scenes in Half-Blood Prince
, it's like a videogame.