Monday, June 14, 2004

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

You may consider me a good boy.

I waited over than a week to ruin the movie for all of those who read this (like three people), and who have yet to see the new Harry Potter movie (all three of you).

I have to start off by saying that I really liked this movie, despite all that I’m going to write here. The acting was good. The set direction was amazing. Costumes were wonderful. Directing was great. I walked out of the theater with a big grin on my face. Even being nearly hit by a car running a red light couldn’t wipe the smile away. I couldn’t help myself. I was even blown away by the score. I don’t think John Williams has ever written anything this good.

After watching the movie, I felt safe reading many of the reviews that would be posted later in the morning. (For those who do not know, I went to the midnight showing the day it opened. I’m that obsessed/sad, but not obsessed/sad enough to dress-up like so many others did.) Reading the reviews, I was surprised at how many of the writers kept commenting on how old the three stars are. They wrote things like, “No longer children, the stars of Harry Potter...” or “The kids are growing up, how will this be dealt with?” and other things. Have so few of the reviews read the books that they don’t know that each one takes place in a school year and, therefore, the kids age a year every book? Did they not notice how the teasers and trailers all mentioned it being Year 3 at Hogwarts? Was there no research done? Didn’t the press release say anything? Couldn’t they have spoken with a 10-year old son/daughter, niece/nephew, kid off the street to find out about this? Why do so many of them seem nervous that the stars are getting older when the characters are supposed to get older? It’s not like the confusing crap with The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger, and The Sum of All Fears Jack Ryan bullshit. Did they go crazy about three actors playing the same role?

Now I’m off topic. Back to Harry Potter.

I was surprised at the beginning of the flick. Not enough Dursleys. Not enough explanation. Not enough Aunt Marge. And Ripper was not the big dog I pictured. Why did they need more? To really show why Harry hated Aunt Marge. There wasn’t nearly enough. We got her walking through the door, then the dinner where Harry puffs her up. (Kudos to everyone for keeping Aunt Marge’s line where she compares Lily Potter to a bitch. Never thought I’d hear that word in this movie, even though it is in the book.) I wanted the slow week of torture. I wanted to see Harry doing everything he could to not punch her in the nose just so he could go to Hogsmeade on weekends. But those extra 5-10 minutes of movie probably weren’t filmed (especially considering the Dursleys won’t even be in the next film). Dudley watching a TV set in each scene was wonderful, though.

The Knight Bus was spectacular. From it’s first CRACK to its final zoom away. The way Stan Shunpike could just stand there as the bus dodged traffic and stopped for old women while Harry was thrown around, wonderful. And Stan’s whole bored demeanor, as if he’d seen everything all already. I only wish that they’d have shown an inanimate object or two (mail box or street light or bus bench) hopping out of the bus’s way.

Diagon Ally has never lived up to my imagination. It’s not big enough. It’s not magical enough. I did like the waiter with the huge pile of plates, though. And why did Mr. Weasly take Harry aside? Why couldn’t Harry have just overheard the story of Sirrius? And why was the news report announcing Sirrius’s escape left out from the beginning?

There wasn’t nearly enough Sirrius in this movie. Not enough of Sirrius as Snuffles and not enough of Sirrius. Roger Ebert pointed out that when Sirrius was finally revealed, the director also introduce us to Peter Pettigrew instead of giving us stuff about Sirrius. This is a major problem for two reasons: 1) the book does give us all sorts of back story on Sirrius and James and Lupin and Peter, then introduces Peter when we have a good idea of what kind of man Sirrius is; 2) to leave such vital information out of a movie kills audiences; people who haven’t read the book, when (or if) they finally thought about this scene, probably didn’t understand why Harry did what he did and why Lupin decided it was okay to kill Wormtail. And then, when Peter transforms into a rat, why didn’t his clothes transform with him? When he transformed into a human he was fully dressed, but when he goes back to being a rat, he falls out of his clothes, why?

In the end, I was surprised that the not allowing Harry to go to Hogsmeade didn’t arrive. Does this mean he won’t be able to go in the next movie? I doubt it and I doubt there’ll be any explanation as to why he can now just walk into town. No Pig either. Oh well.

And then there’s the whole patronis thing. When did it just become a shield? When I first read the book, the line that stood out to me was that a patronis is an anti-dementor, which is why it takes on a specific form, not just a spray of silver like it was in this movie. Give me wisps of smoke trying to form a figure, not just an odd spray of white.

I could go on forever picking at nits, but I shouldn’t. The last thing to pick at is just how hard it is for me to get my view of things to work with what’s on the screen. I’ve gotten used to seeing the people on screen. Sure, they’re nothing like what appears in my head (Harry is shorter, Ron is taller, Hermoine is chubbier, Hagrid is larger, Snape is slimier, Dumbledor is pointer, and on, and on), but I’ve come to terms with that. What I haven’t come to terms with is how different these people envisioned the grounds at Hogwarts. Mine was more spread out. Hogwarts up on a small hill that levels out toward the lake and the Forbidden Forrest. Nowhere near as steep as what’s seen in this movie. Same with some of the halls in the castle. But it is a beautiful set.

Despite all of that, I really enjoyed myself. I’ve only seen it once, but had to fight myself to keep from seeing it again this weekend. (I would have been late for work, but it probably would have been worth it.) Maybe this weekend, if my will power isn’t strong enough.

Anyway, you should all go and see Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban because it's the best of the bunch. It's the best movie, so far, and it's the best book, hands down.


PS Was I the only one who wished Professor Flitwick had at least made a (pardon the pun) small appearance?

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