Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

See also:
Harry Potter: The Saga (Uncle Cliff)
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Uncle Cliff)
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Uncle Cliff)
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Uncle Cliff)
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Uncle Cliff)

I don't know how this film makes a lick of sense to those who haven't read the book, just as this review certainly won't make a lick of sense to those who haven't seen the film.

So much is left out of The Prisoner of Azkaban that it gives me nervous fluttery feelings about future Potter adaptations. The books get longer and longer, which means more and more will have to be snipped down the track. I almost wish they would fuck off the movies and instead make a kick-ass TV show/mini-series instead that would allow them to fit in so much more. (Hey, don't laugh. Some TV has gotten so fucking good lately it puts the majority of films released these days to shame.)

Look, I'm a realist. I know that things have to be cut. I know there can't be any perfectly faithful adaptations of books (and even if there were they'd probably be mind numbingly boring and suck ass). I know that in film you have to kill your babies and that things may have to be totally re-interpreted so that they are cohesive with the language of film. I know all this.

But fuck me they left out the best parts.

This isn't just me whining and griping because I had a particular attachment to a scene they cut. I remember sitting in the cinema in San Francisco, where I first saw this, totally frustrated me that a whole subplot was culled – yet remnants of it remain in the film, totally unexplained. This subplot – following some of the school adventures of Harry's dad James, and his friends, including Hogwartz newest Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher Professor Lupin and the apparently villainous Sirius Black - and Snape - is a great part of the book. As you know if you've seen the film, Lupin is a werewolf. What you won't know if you haven't read the book is that his friends learn illegal wizard spells to make themselves into animals so they can keep an eye on their friend during the full moons. Hence - Sirius is sometimes a big black dog.

There is also the Maurdrer's Map – which makes it into the film of course, but without it being properly explained that this map was the creation of Harry's father and friends to get around the school unnoticed to monitor Lupin. These things are not only important for this story, but for the entire series. I realise I'm coming off sounding like the Potter geek that I am here, but this series was going so well that I don't want to see it fucked up.

Although I'm obviously unhappy with what they excluded this time round, The Prisoner of Azkaban is not a fuck up, (and after my initial outrage I've come to appreciate it a lot more on subsequent viewings) but it sets a dangerous precedent that worries me. I'll try to put that aside for the time being, and move on.

As much as I love the first film, and appreciate the second, I am glad the reigns were handed over to a more ambitious and interesting director, although I am also glad this will be Cuaron's solo Harry Potter outing. Some of his vision for the series worked (Dementors), a lot did not. His pacing leaves a lot to be desired and cutting so much out of the book leaves the start of the film feeling like a scrambled mess of unconnected scenes, and the scenes that are left seem to rather obviously just be setting up some story pay-offs for the end of the film.

I know a lot of people love what Alfonso Cuaron did, and he certainly made his involvement evident. Besides from more camera movement, purposely askew shots and an overall darker production design (which included having the kids out of their school robes for most of the film) there are sprinkles of things added in that aren't quirt right – the annoying rasta shrunken head ‘comic relief' in the knight bus being the main culprit (and having the kids out of their school robes for most of the film was a mistake too).

The new cast members seem to fare better than the original gang – a lot of whom would have found their parts chopped significantly, with the exception of Snape who regains the prominence he had in the first film. David Thewis makes a welcome addition to Team: Potter as werewolf Lupin, as does Gary Oldman who, despite publicly saying he just took the role for the fat paycheck, does a great job as Black, and is at appropriate turns menacing, broken, desperate and endearing. The kids just keep getting better and had a little more to work with since Cuaron started pushing the sexual tension and romantic possibilities forward by at least a film.

Still, something about the film just isn't right and it dawdles along for quite some time. Just when I was wondering when the story would really kick-in, it accelerated towards the end at a blistering pace. The time-travel aspect to the story adds a great third act to the film, as Harry and Hermione race to right some wrongs, building to the climax where Harry realises it wasn't his father that saved him from the Dementors, but rather himself, in the future – made all the more poignant when you realise that his patronus (spell of light that takes the form of an animal) was a stag: the animal his father could change into.

Or you would have realised that touching moment if they hadn't gutted out the sub-plot so completely.

If you haven't read the book surely you would have been wondering just what the hell it all meant.