Harry Potter 44 stars

Ann and I went to see the fourth Harry Potter movie last night. We are both avid fans of the books, but I have to say we were a bit rusty on all the plot details of the fourth book, not having read it in four years or so.

All in all, it was a great movie. Barring the first in the franchise, which always gets credit for the way they developed Harry Potter from scratch, this could be the best Potter movie yet. I was impressed by two things: how craftily the story had been given a bit more maturity but still maintained its adolescent feel (including continuing to capture the delight in expanding the audience’s familiarity with the world of magic), and the skillful adaptation of such a huge book into a well-paced and well-acted story.

First off, the cast. Ron acts a little less like a whiny little girl this time (which has been his only expression for the past two movies). Hermione continued to deliver. You can clearly see how Harry is growing up. His face is changing from boy to “something in-between”, getting a bit wider and more angular. Of the three of them, Daniel Radcliffe (Harry) was always the strongest actor, but they have been doing this for so long now that their camraderie easily shows through.

From a prodcution standpoint, I thought the film looked marvelous. There were people who said that Mike Newell would not do as good a job on the look as Alfonso Cuaron (the director of Potter 3), but I thought the blend of the fantastic (like the dragon chase, the mer-people, and the cemetery at the end) and the added touch of realism only served to make the movie more believable.

The special effects were top notch. It’s always tough trying to depict magic on the screen (anyone remember Warlock? Or Dungeons and Dragons?) but this movie handled the subject with more aplomb (yes, it’s a word) than the other three, treating the magic as part of the context and not something that has to be painstakingly pored over.

For any Potter fan, the movie is sure to impress. The scope of the story alone is impressive, and it sets up the tone for the rest of the franchise very well. We’ll see how ‘mature’ or ‘dark’ they are willing to go with these next few films. I always thought the fifth book was a long, dark, downer of a story.

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