Tv blabs, movie blabs, book blabs. Lots of blab, but no flab.

Tuesday, June 15

Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban - In Brief

Being the third film based on the world-famous books you have a certain expectation about what the film should be like. You have two hugely successful films to base your expectation on. My advice. Don’t expect the same from this film. Don’t watch the first two right before you see this film.

Prisoner of Azkaban (POA) is my favourite of the 5 books so far, and thus I expected a lot to be delivered.

Alfonso Cuaron has taken helm of this instalment of Potter and this gave me hope that the series would get a good injection of vision and style that had been lacking. Stone and Chamber have set up the world, it’s time to explore it.

The film opens with Harry under his sheets, secretly playing with his wand. To start the film with Harry doing something clearly stated as not allowed, is not a good way to gain the trust of an audience, as it’s been stated clearly that magic can’t be done outside school. Yet Harry’s doing it anyway. Beyond that, the fact Harry is playing with his ‘wand’ secretly under the covers alludes to, or even smacks you with, the statement that this year is going to be about being thirteen.

For me, 13 was my horror year. I was a terror. Well, compared to before and now, I was pretty awful. So when watching scenes of Harry, Ron and co in the dorm being stupid and acting like, um, teenagers, I could relate easily enough.

Relationships are going to change. Harry’s got to deal with a new guy who wants to kill him; discover more about his parents; face his own fears in the form of Dementors; study; flirt with the odd girl and spend time playing with his wand! No wonder things go a little sideways.

As with all Potter films so far and to come, the script is adapted by Steve Kloves (who has lost the n from his name). To be honest, I am yet to be really impressed by any of the potter scripts. The first two films seemed to be weighed down by detail from the books and missed the mark, POA has gone in the opposite direction and relieved itself of all the superfluous detail, and lost mountains of important plot elements with it.

If I go into details of the stories skipped in the film right now, I’ll never get this post finished. I will say however I can see what the intention was, to focus solely on character and the flow of the story. They certainly succeed in not producing a movie that lagged. At 2 hours and 20 minutes, it’s unlikely to drag it’s heels.

That’s the inherent problem in adapting a book. The fine line of what to and not to keep. I think that the choices of what to lose were ill-advised. Even for someone who is unfamiliar with the novels, the gaps in the plot were hard to follow. Why did Lupin follow Harry and co to the Shrieking Shack, why did Snape follow as well? The whole scene in the Shack seemed to be more explanatory then revelatory. Why? The minor clues were excluded that would have made that whole sequence make more sense.

Read from here! If you’ve dosed off. Here are the things that are about the film...

Visually POA is vastly different to the previous. This re-imagining of Hogwarts brings the grounds into new light. Rather than being wondrous and Hollywoody, Cuaron has shown them as mysterious and much more English! I’m trying to think of a scene in the first two where it’s raining. Can’t. Well thankfully, Cuaron has discovered that it rains a lot in England.

Via a large number of single shot scenes, we move through Hogwarts with a renewed thirst to explore and discover new nooks and crannies that should be explored by more adventurous characters. I love that Hagrid’s Hut is down a hill and not just beside the castle like it was. The steps down to it seem rather treacherous and I kept waiting for Ron to fall on his butt.

As was covered in the censors' ratings change, this film is much darker: in tone and style. The Dementors are far more disturbing than either the Werewolf or Grim. There’s a particular close up shot of a Dementor during the Quidditch match that lingers long after the film is over. I agree that this is a PG film, with emphasis on the Guidance part.

Werewolf Lupin is not exactly scary, he looks like he needs a good feed and so munching on Harry and Hermione wouldn’t do him any harm. The Grim was wasted overall and didn’t present any of the menace it needed to. Hagrid’s Hippogriff Buckbeat was excellent and I’ll be calling my local pet shop to place an order for one.

It is good to see that most of the kids are back. Most are going through the stage of major hormonal change and thus becoming nearly unrecognisable. The obvious example would be Neville Longbottom. Taller, thinner, longer face, and his front teeth have grown accordingly.

Daniel Radcliffe is growing into Harry but still unable to convincingly portray a range of emotions beyond happiness and clenched teeth. Thankfully he is backed up by two solid comrades. Rupert Grint is a convincing Ron, bringing more humour to the films, which has been lost in adaptation. The real talent though, is Emma Watson. Love her or hate her, Hermione is the character who will deliver. Appearing to have learnt from her experiences, she really takes control and drags you along with her.

I didn’t love the Ron/Hermione thing. It seems forced and although it’s inevitable for those feelings to start arising, I’m not sure there’s an easy way to do it. I actually felt more chemistry between Harry and Hermione.

Fittingly, the other biggest change was the music. John Williams' tunes are world famous, but I feel that they can trample movies. POA has mostly abandoned the huge orchestral feel for a lyrical and folk style. Lots of flutes doing melodic melismas and lots of no underscore at all. The main theme hasn’t been lost and is heard in the film, although it has become a feature rather than a base structure.

I did enjoy this outing as a whole, and will no doubt be seeing it again. I just hope that it’s not too late for Goblet of Fire’s script to be reviewed.

1 viewers interjected with:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I sensed a certain 'through the looking-glass' quality to this one. The mountains, mist and monsters created a more established, other-worldly atmosphere.
I'm adding a Monster Book of Monsters to my wish-list!

17/6/04 5:25 pm


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