Where does FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM rank in the WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER films?
It’s been five years since Harry Potter’s story concluded with HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 2 on screen, and the popularity of the world author J.K. Rowling created in her absurdly huge series has waned very little since that time. With FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM, audiences can once again return to the WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER* film series. The spin-off follows Newt Scamander, BEASTS author, on his adventures in 1926 New York. How does it rank with the other POTTER films?
- HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 2
DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 2 is the culmination of eight films and seven novels, bringing a fantastic and satisfying conclusion to the story of Harry Potter, no matter what HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD tried to do. It’s almost impossible to appreciate a finale like this without experiencing the wait between books and films. Sorry, new fans to Harry Potter, that’s your blessing and curse.
- HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN
AZKABAN isn’t one of my top two favorite Potter novels (those are DEATHLY HALLOWS and GOBLET OF FIRE), but with Academy Award-winning director Alfonso Cuaron (GRAVITY) at the helm, this remains the most cinematic of all the adaptations. By tinkering with the novel’s narrative a little, Cuaron was a breath of fresh air to the franchise, which struggled to balance magic and character in the first two films, each directed by Chris Columbus.
- HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE
The biggest mistake the original POTTER series made was not taking the Peter Jackson/LORD OF THE RINGS route and making extended editions for home release. Jackson would release a 150-180 minute version of a LOTR movie for theaters, then a four hour extended version followed on DVD. GOBLET OF FIRE needed an extended edition. So much of the plot was excised for time, it hurts. Less footage is the only thing keeping GOBLET from cracking the top two.
- HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX
Rowling famously struggled with writer’s block while writing PHOENIX, and the start-stop nature plaguing the first part of the novel showed it. The film, which is the first from now-mainstay director David Yates, excises a lot of the start-stop, making PHOENIX (along with AZKABAN) one of the few movies that are arguably better than the book. Few villains can get under your skin like Dolores Umbridge, that one teacher all of us had times a zillion. Voldemort was the big bad, but admit it: Umbridge was way scarier.
- HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 1
The worst reviewed of the original series per Rotten Tomatoes, I really enjoy DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 1. The animated sequence explaining the Deathly Hallows—the trio of Harry, Ron, and Hermione on the run in various settings, none of which are Hogwarts—made for a nice departure.
- HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCEROR’S STONE
Rowling’s first Potter novel lacks a lot of the heft and maturity of the later entries (and while we’re at it, so does CHAMBER OF SECRETS), but this is the story that started it all. A great mix of world building and character that proved even a boy who lived under stairs could be magic.
- FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM
The only film in the series not based on a novel (it’s a textbook in the Potterverse), BEASTS is the first time Rowling has provided the screenplay for a POTTER film. Because it was our introduction to the world of Harry Potter, SORCEROR’S STONE avoided getting too bogged down in world building. The first of five planned films, BEASTS struggles to maintain its sprawling narrative under the heft of establishing the wizarding world in the United States. Still, Eddie Redmayne’s Newt Scamander is a wonderful character, and BEASTS is one of the more optimistic entries in the series.
- HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE
HALF-BLOOD PRINCE isn’t bad (none of the Potter films are), but the novel’s climactic battle was cut from the film, making the ending a bit of a let-down. PRINCE is sort of like the art film in the group, favoring lush visuals (it received a Best Cinematography Oscar nomination) and small character moments over everything else. It doesn’t help that PRINCE – both the book and film – serve more as set-up for DEATHLY HALLOWS than a stand-alone story.
- HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS
Again, CHAMBER isn’t a bad film, but it sort of it what it is: a sort of SORCEROR’S STONE rehash that isn’t as good. The events in HALF-BLOOD PRINCE give greater substance to CHAMBER, but the film is more of a stepping stone in the series. We needed CHAMBER to further entrench Harry, Ron, and Hermione before they – and us – could take a larger, more grown-up journey. It’s a bit silly, made evident by the silly new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, Gilderoy Lockheart.
*There isn’t a Potter, Weasley, or Grainger to be found, so the film series is now known as the WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER. This is a thing I just made up, but I’m sticking with it.