Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

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Saw the latest Harry Potter on Sunday. Figured I’d fill you guys in.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, based on the book of the same name by JK Rowling, is about… hang on. You know what? Go read the book. Seriously. I’ll wait.

Okay, now while those folks are off reading the book, the rest of us will continue.

Minor refresher: A believed dangerous individual named Sirius Black (played by Gary Oldman) escapes from the wizard prison of Azkaban and comes after Harry (Daniel Radcliffe). Harry ends up finding Black and uncovers some interesting information about his (Harry’s) past, particularly in regards to his parents.

Now that we’re all up to speed, here’s the deal: There’s a new director, there’s a new Dumbledore, and there’s a new way of looking at the Harry Potter series.

From a direction standpoint, I think Alfonso Cuarón did a decent job. I’m not sure what I would have done differently, and most of the beefs I had with the movie could just as easily have been blamed on the screenplay. I’ll give the guy credit where credit is due.

The new Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) did an outstanding job, enough that it was an entirely seamless transition to him. Can’t ask for much more than that.

As for the new way of looking at these movies… In the previous two books, there was some certain amount of introspection but not so much that it affected the plot; which is to say, the movies were able to come out and, even leaving out certain elements from the book, the story was sufficiently conveyed. In this one, the book contained a lot more in the way of subtle plot points and things that took place as internal realizations or dialogue, which would have either been impossible to show on screen or would have made it drag so slowly as to be unwatchable. That’s a hard thing to put on film, I’ll admit, but there were a few things they left out that I really think they should have left in.

The Patronus: When Harry manifests his patronus (expecto patronum!), it manifests as a stag because his father was an animagus who could turn into a stag. Not only did the film not mention any of this, but the patronus didn’t really manifest as an animal except for one quick shot about a second long. Every other time, it only ever seemed like a white “shield” of some nature. They never did address the fact that it looked like an animal. I think that’s an important point.

The Knight Bus: Didn’t the Knight Bus show up more than once in the book? Yeah, I thought so, too. Too bad it was only a very tiny part of the movie.

Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs: Harry gets the Marauder’s Map and uses it for about five seconds in the movie; it was much more important in the book. Anyway, when Professor Lupin gets the map in the movie and talks about it like he knows exactly what it is… they never really explain why he knows what it is, nor do they explain the significance of the names “Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs” that show up on the map. Those names, which represent Professor Lupin, Peter Pettigrew, Sirius Black, and Harry’s father, respectively, illustrates the relationship between them and sort of provides some insight into their background. We didn’t get any of that. For a story about getting to Harry’s background, they sure left a lot of that out.

We’ll let all of that go, though. It was still a good story and a lot of fun. I’ll get it when it’s out on DVD… I just have to keep in mind it’s a movie and not a book on film.