The Royal Academy of “Harry Potter” Guest Professors

17Apr12

It seems like the “Harry Potter” movie series have served as a British actors’ workout station. Come on set for a few month and work on performing in a wild setting. And when I say “performing,” I mean Performing. Half the fun of these movies has been seeing good-to-great actors really take hold of characters and play them to the rafters. How do they rank? Glad you asked:

#6: Ian Hart as Quirinus Quirrell, “Sorcerer’s Stone”

In these types of lists, there’s always going to be a “last place,” and given the character he played, Hart really never stood much of a chance. Quirrell comes off as severely one-dimensional when compared to almost any other character in the series, let alone among these all stars. Sorry, old boy.

#5: David Thewlis as Remus Lupin, “Prisoner of Azkaban”

Certainly a multi-dimensional character and a very specific performance, but Thewlis lacks juice. He does fine, but he’s far from the star in this race.

#4: Brendan Gleeson as Alastor “Mad-Eye” Moody, “Goblet of Fire”

One of my personal favorite characters from the book, but a bit of a disappointment in the film. Maybe this is the one case where a substantial actor has been given too much freedom in this series, but this version of Moody feels a little too over the top. Bonus points garnered, however, for sheer energy and commitment.

#3: Kenneth Branagh as Gilderoy Lockhart “Chamber of Secrets”

The unofficial winner of the most underrated character and performance goes to fancy, fancy Kenneth Branagh as shameless self-promoter Lockhart (winner of Witches Weekly’s best smile award!). This marked the first point in the series where the “guest star” just seemed like plain fun, and Branagh can’t help but shine.

#2: Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge, “Order of the Phoenix”

Perhaps the scariest villain of the entire series, and that includes He Who Must Not Be Named. Voldemort is a bad guy who dresses like a bad guy, talks like a bad guy and does bad things. It feels far scarier, creepier and entertaining to make a villain out of an old maid librarian who loves pink and kitties. On top of that, Staunton does an excellent job of performing the part rather than letting it lead her. Umbridge sees the world differently than our heroes, and this performance makes that resoundingly clear.

#1: Jim Broadbent as Horace Slughorn, “Half-Blood Prince”

While re-watching these films in order, I came to the “Order of the Phoenix” and thought, “There she is. There’s our winner.” But then came “Half-Blood Prince” with Jim Broadbent reminding me why he’s so great in his Jim Broadbentiness. Delivering what might be the most complete and human performance, Broadbent closed out the trend of great performances by pulling off a funny, sympathetic, shifty and angry character, sometimes hitting all these traits through the course of one scene. And not that it should count for so much*, but Slughorn is also one of the least magical characters in the entire series, if you don’t count Broadbent’s acting abilities. Maybe that allowed him to give Slughorn even more humanity. Whatever the case, he’s the king.

*I sometimes think people give a bit too much credit to things that are different just because they are different. This will seem insane, but I remember a friend from college slagging Guns N’ Roses, but admitted how much he liked “November Rain,” adding how incredible it was that a song so “beautiful” (read: “slower”) could come from this band. And I thought that was bullshit, because it simplifies everything into “Fast songs = dumb; Slow songs = good.”

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One Response to “The Royal Academy of “Harry Potter” Guest Professors”

  1. Oh yes.. everyone hates umbridge..


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