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Old 5th Jun 2004, 18:56   #1
Colyngbourne
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Default Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban

Ask most fans of Harry Potter, young or old, which is their favourite book and there are two answers. For action and dramatic drive, it’s Goblet of Fire – the dragons and mermaids, challenges and danger and the return of Voldemort. But for character development and a deeper clue to the series’ success, Prison of Azkaban is the undoubted champion. It forms the still place before the dark times begin to gather pace, gathering and deepening friendships, and it draws in depth two (possibly three) of the more complex and attractive adult characters in Harry’s life.

So similarly here in the film we are presented with a more complex and maturing treatment of the story, delivered by director Cuaron. It is the cinematic opposite of the first two films, of Chris Columbus’ cartoon-like, childish and hermetically-sealed Hogwarts, and it plunges straight into the Dursley’s house like a fly-on-the-wall reality TV – with clear-edged cinematography and all the grimness of British housing estates, old-fashioned middle class families and a newly edgy and slightly dangerous Harry (playing with his wand under his bedsheets… :wink: )

The necessary contraction of the text played fast and loose with some of the more interesting detail (exactly who were Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs?) but was mostly justified and secondary to the plot. It did mean that the famous character actors were short-changed (Julie Walters – 1 line; Mark Williams – 1 line; Maggie Smith – 2 lines etc.) and the bit players remained merely functional – only Neville and Malfoy had a chance to develop their parts a little. Squashing into two and a half hours the year in which Harry finds and grows close to two supportive father-figures is made possible by the strength of the trio’s improving acting ability (Hermione is very good, Harry better than he was, and Ron less reliant on grimacing) but they gain mostly by the support of David Thewlis as Lupin, and later on Gary Oldman as Sirius.

It has to be said that Lupin and Sirius are probably the most loved characters in Harry-World (not counting the trio) and whilst looking nothing like this reviewer’s idea of them (they are meant to be only 34/35 yrs old after all) the actors really conveyed the affection and deep loyalty that the book suggests. The biggest problem was Lupin’s moustache. :x I also had issues with whether he would have worn tweedy suits (NO :x ), or turned into a humanoid-type werewolf (opposed to a dog-like one); and also with Sirius’s tattoos (he’s a rebel but not that kind of rebel). There was also a pleasant bit of subtext re Lupin/Sirius spouted by Snape in the Shrieking Shack, which made me laugh out loud.

A couple of continuity errors and squeezing of the text meant that the last third of the film is less intelligible to younger folk and non-au-fait viewers – how did Lupin know the Marauder’s Map was a map if Harry had wiped it clean? Why weren’t we told about how the Marauders learned to become animagi (transform into animals) in order to support Lupin, and that their nicknames M, W, P and P related to their animals? Why didn’t Harry quiz Lupin about why his protective patronus was a stag?

Emma Thompson played a great loopy (if rather young) Prof. Trelawney, and I felt Michael Gambon fitted Dumbledore’s shoes a lot better than Richard Harris. For those who love ‘shipping wars’, there was enough to satisfy the Ron/Hermione and the Harry/Hermione crowd.

Mostly though this was a new Hogwarts – one set in a real Scottish context – a real school with ordinary, real (if magical) kids, with wet pavements in the housing estate, and less of the pantomime that Columbus made of the Wizarding World. The relationships were more mature and sincerely examined – the Dursleys were less villainous; we saw the importance of Harry’s joy and sense of freedom riding Buckbeak, and his loneliness and neediness for a father figure in Lupin, then Sirius, and a desperate imagining that his father helped him defeat the Dementors.

A great film, not faultless but maturing like Harry. And Voldemort didn’t get a look in!
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Old 6th Jun 2004, 8:19   #2
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I dont like going to the cinema alone - but I might have to make the exception for this ......

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Old 16th Jun 2004, 16:14   #3
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I've actually read this book, for research purposes of course..ahem. It was over three years ago though, so my memory of the plot was a bit patchy. Watching the film, i was more than a bit confused in the last third, so god help anyone who hasn't read the book.
On the whole it is better than the first two films yes, much better. You're right to point out whathisface's grimacing, no-one's mentioned it before but it always got right on my nerves; what's with his lips?!?! That kid needs a good boot up the arse. Harry is better, if still slightly odd looking. Lupin, and especially Sirius, were great.
Even though the school was rooted more in the real world than the previous cartoon attempts, it pulled me in much more, it actually felt like a school, felt magical.
Also, as the films progress, i'm quite sure that there'll be a number of websites springing up with the sole purpose of counting down the days to Miss Emma Watson's 16th birthday, a la Charlotte Church. One for the future that one, she holds the screen better than any of her gawky co stars.
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Old 16th Jun 2004, 18:40   #4
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Quote:
There was also a pleasant bit of subtext re Lupin/Sirius spouted by Snape in the Shrieking Shack, which made me laugh out loud.
I can't think what this might be.

I agree entirely with your review, C. This Potter movie was way better than than the previous 2. I loved the old fashion iris fades (is that what they're called?). And the retro psychadelia of the patronus charm was really cool too. I thought Cuaron had great cinematography and production design people behind him. Very enjoyable--I eagerly await the next one. But I also agree that it seems rather too truncated to satisfy for those who haven't read the book.
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Old 16th Jun 2004, 19:05   #5
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I don't I'm spoiling anything for folk by quoting Snape referring to Sirius and Lupin as an old married couple. :D
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Old 20th Jun 2004, 19:36   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Colyngbourne
I don't I'm spoiling anything for folk by quoting Snape referring to Sirius and Lupin as an old married couple. :D
Nope - and there has been much speculation about that on another board I frequent!

I have now seen PoA (at the Leicester Square Odeon no less!) and yup I liked it. Especially the humanoid werewolf (sorry Col) as I think this is the best werewolf I have seen on screen for some time.

I do agree that Gary Oldman was a wonderful Sirius - just about how I would have pictured him! But I am a Gary Oldman fan after all.

The plot did jump about a bit, but I think we are going to have to get used to that - as the books get longer and longer, and there is a limit to how long the films can be!

The darkness of this film was wonderful - I did feel the earlier films were a little too 'nice' - and the characters are beginning to feel more 'real' as the actors seem to grow into their parts (and I am getting heartliy sick of the speculation about whether they will get too old to play the parts - they all age a year each book, so if they keep making a film a year, then there shouldn't be a problem - especially as JKR is still ahead on the books).

Hazel (who might write more when she has recovered from a weekend where she did way too much)
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Old 20th Jun 2004, 20:23   #7
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I feel the werewolf being humanoid is problematical since the books make it clear that werewolves are dog-like (eg. Hermione is asked to describe the differences between them and real wolves, which are few). I saw the cinematic need to differentiate between Sirius and Lupin's animagus forms but part of the relevance of the Marauders learning to become animagi was so they could become animals like Lupin and the humanoid version didn't fit in with that; also the similarity between Sirius's and Lupin's animagus/altered forms is one of the (many) other arguments for the 'theirloveissocanon' position.

Not strictly movie talk there.
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Old 20th Jun 2004, 21:28   #8
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Well this is true - it didn't fit the book - but it was a good movie werewolf!

I am going to reread the books soon, as I need something I can carry to work (all my home reading is a little hefty - or damageable)

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Old 21st Jun 2004, 7:27   #9
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So am I I missing something, or is it generally accepted that Lupin & Sirius are bedtime buddies? If so, I totally missed that in the book.
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Old 21st Jun 2004, 7:57   #10
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I wouldn't say it's generally accepted but The Order of the Phoenix in particular has many scenes which could read as strong subtext (gazing at one another, giving Harry a joint Christmas present, the time spent in each other's company and Lupin's noted distress at the end when no-one else's is recorded). I'd say it's not necessarily canon but it's as close as you could get in a book that's written for 9-11 yr olds, and for older fans it makes a lot of sense.

(This is more technical nit-picking, but in the Prisoner of Azkaban, it is noted by fans that Lupin does not inform Dumbledore of Sirius's ability to become an animagus, when he knows Sirius is on the loose and presumably trying to kill Harry, and has already infiltrated the castle.)
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