Sep 5

Movie Review – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

While I was puttering around Prague, I was able to catch the third Harry Potter movie. As I didn’t like the second movie so much, I was hoping that the change of directors would do the story good. (Chris Columbus was taking the series much too seriously.) For the most part, the changes were for the better and I enjoyed the movie very much. Which is why I’m torn now instead of just hating it like I did with the second one.

The best part about this movie was the humor. Although this chapter was less like the book than the other movies, I feel that it best captures the spirit of the books. The books were always able to blend terror and humor well and this film adaptation adhered the most to the mixed genre. As a sign that this was so, the Weasley twins finally got some lines other than “Hello Harry.” Of course, now they are also blond, which isn’t so in keeping, but I suppose there’s only so much a fan can expect. Furthermore, Dumbledore winked and made jokes, which made me like his movie version for the first time. It was little parts like this that warmed my fangirl heart.

Unfortunately, when a book goes to the silver screen, there are the obligatory disappointments. This movie is definitely no exception to the rule and I could see why it would be upsetting to fans of the book (which compromises 3/4 of the movie base, so I wonder why they aren’t more conscientious). The movie ran long (2.5 hours) so I realize they didn’t have time to do everything in the book. However, there were three major cuts I could see that could only be described as a copout. It would have taken little to include them and please the fans (where “fans” in this case really means “me”) immeasurably.

First, I didn’t understand why Remus Lupin never mentioned that he and Harry’s father (with Sirius and Peter) made the Marauder’s Map. It made Harry look like a bit of an idiot, actually. Here the Weasley twins (if the audience can even recognize them now with the blond hair) tell Harry how super-secret it is and that the teachers don’t know about it. But yet Professor Lupin not only knew what it was, but he also knew the passwords to open and close it and poor, stupid Harry wasn’t even bright enough to consider that odd. Next, there was the failure of the movie to mention that Harry’s Patronus was in the shape of his father when he shape-shifted. It’s a sweet, dramatic moment that would have taken all of thirty seconds and it was missed.

The last moment that could and should have been included is Harry’s first meeting with Cho Chang. I really wanted to see who would be cast as her character. Would it have killed them to include her in a five second spot? She could have been that other Seeker in the Quidditch scene, and that would have satisfied me. All it would have taken was a casting change. Really.

The first three books relied on drama and character building, while leaving the truly creepy parts and dead bodies for later. This movie succeeded more than the sum of it’s little failures because it captured the essence of the books even though it did not strictly adhere to the story. This movie was definitely the best out of three. I only hope they can be truer to the book in the next one.

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