Saturday, November 20, 2010

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

The Book:

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, 1999, by J. K. Rowling.

One of my favorite books in the series, and one of the best film adaptations as well. So many creatures in this book! Dementors, Werewolves, Animaguses, and Hippogriffs? They made for a lovely story, my favorite parts were these. I won't touch the bit about time-turning, although it's quite a vital piece to the narrative. But in terms of polite criticisms, (I very much consider myself a huge fan, so don't get mad, I'm just bein' real) there comes a bit of exasperation in this novel, and onward through to the end, that everything, ever in existence at Hogwarts that will ever happen, must happen to Harry. No wonder Ron gets a bit moody in the next book. I mean, Harry has been through a lot, granted, and his life with the Dursley's was very unpleasant, but Harry gets to see the mirror of Erised, gets the Invisibility Cloak, finds the diary, gets to ride Buckbeak, gets to learn to make Patronuses, etc., etc., etc. Doesn't anyone else at Hogwarts ever do anything, EVER? Or are they just a bunch of clueless gits? I'd be feeling very cast aside if I was a student there. True some of these things could only have happened to Harry because of his history, but really. It seems as if he's favored quite a bit by all of the professors and exceedingly in the wrong place at the wrong time, every time. And don't get me wrong, I like the stories, but sometimes everything seems a little slanted, as if we, the reader, are just reading about a Harry Potter game that Harry alone is playing, everyone else is background.

But I do think it was written well, and the writing is much improved even from the first two. Maybe Rowling allowed herself to get a little more British with her verbiage after she'd gained herself a solid enough following, or the characters just took a while to get comfortable in their lines, but some of my favorite dialogues in this novel are these (British) utterances, rhetorical question asked as statement followed with affirmation question (there is probably a much nicer, more literary way to describe that):

Harry: What if I accidentally let something slip?
Uncle Vernon: You'll get the stuffing knocked out of you, won't you? She does this a few times, this phrasing, and I loved it.

Something else I liked: "It was Professor Trelawney, gliding toward them as though on wheels. She had put on a green sequined dress in honor of the occasion, making her look more than ever like a glittering, oversized dragonfly."

The Film:

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, directed by Alfonso Cuaron, 2004.

Very much a favorite. The kids are getting older and are much less McGoo, and the events are getting darker. The actors are comfortable enough in their roles, new Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) = aces, and Snape is really killer in this one (storming into DADA class, slamming the window hangings closed, "PAGE THREE-HUNDRED-AND-NINETY-FOUR!")

The filmmaking in this one is probably the best of any due to the imagery and sound. The opening scene where Marge gets inflated is funny subject matter on its own, but the constant cuts from her to Dudley getting pelted in the face with her beads as they pop to the random cuckoo clock opening and closing with a jaunty little orchestral score going? These things added so much; very, very well done. There is more of this technique-lending-a-hand-to-narrative when Lupin shows the class the boggert in the closet and Pavarti's clown bends back and forth, slowing down (slow motion) from a low POV into Harry's dementor; it's creepy and it's effective. We are jarred and taken aback just like Harry. Great scene on the Quidditch field as Harry falls from hundreds of feet up; Dumbledore rises in the stands, "ARRESTO MOMENTUM!" the voice sounds as if inside an echo chamber and everything goes black (my favorite scene from this film).

The coldness (ice, breath) that comes with the Dementors. And the close up on Lupin's eye and magnified heartbeat thumping when he sees the full moon. And Snape holding his arms out to shield Ron, Harry, and Hermione. And Gary Oldman as Sirius Black. Bravo, everyone.

One final note: I went last night, to The Deathly Hallows, and honestly loved every blasted minute of it. Cried for much of it. Wished it wouldn't end. Am considering going again. Will write it up in its proper slot in the chronology.


Donald said...

A lot of people point to this film as the first in the series that was really good, but I thought it was the first that was really bad. I don't love the first couple films, but at least they had stories that made sense. This movie was just a mess in my opinion.

The acting, of course, was fantastic, and Gary Oldman was a lot of fun as... what? The villain? The hero? I've seen all these movies and I still don't know who he is or what he's doing. Then again, so far as I can tell, none of the heroes in this movie are heroic, nor are any of the villains all that evil. I just never understood anything that was going on in this movie, and then she went and threw time travel into the mix, which was dumb.

But it looked neat.