Some thoughts about ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’

Quite a few people asked if I would publish what I thought about the third Harry Potter movie. I figured that’s a fair request, especially since reading comments like OMG SNAPE or OMG HERMIONE or OMG LUPIN don’t give people any sense of how I felt about the film. Plus, I’m reviewing the books, so why not the movie?

I don’t have any grand scheme planned out for this review, so, if you’ll allow me, I’m just going to ramble on about some points of interest for me. RAMBLE RAMBLE RAMBLE.

So, let’s start this off this way: I really liked the movie. Easily more so than the first two films, despite that those films were far more “faithful” to the source material. It’s no secret that I would easily give my firstborn to Alfonso Cuaron in a heartbeat, BUT THAT IS NEITHER HERE NOR THERE. His poetic sense of scenery (and how important that is to his storytelling) is really what sold it for me.

I think the first two movies (and perhaps even the first two books) didn’t really give me a sense of grandeur about the grounds of Hogwarts. In fact, it was pretty difficult for me to even imagine exactly where things were. (The first two books made the grounds seem much, much smaller than this third one did.)

It’s going to be pretty hard for me to imagine the rest of these books as taking place in any world aside from the one Cuaron created. I feel like I finally know where Hagrid’s hut is, where the lake is, where the Forbidden Forest is, how close the Whomping Willow is to the castle.

I read online (and in a few comments) that a lot of people were mad at the shots of the Whomping Willow, mostly because they “aren’t important” and apparently could have been used to add more plot? Well, I say POOH POOH TO YOU, SIR AND/OR MADAM. First of all, the lack of any gorgeous cinematography in the first two movies (at least in the geographical sense) is what made me love this movie so much. And yes, those scenes were meant to show the passage of time AND I THOUGHT THEY DID IT VERY WELL. Also, now the Whomping Willow is an actual character in the narrative, which adds a sleight bit more weight when they have to rescue Ron towards the end of the movie.

In terms of acting: TURN TO PAGE THREE HUNDRED AND….NINETY….FOUR. Oh my god, Alan Rickman is the most perfect Snape of all Snapes that could ever be Snape. I love it so much. The switch to Michael Gambon was a bit odd; so far, I like Richard Harris more, but…:(

Obviously, Maggie Smith is simply the best person on the planet. Emma Thompson as Professor Trelawney: brilliant. Gary Oldman as Sirius Black? Perfection.

My favorite casting, though? David Thewlis as Professor Lupin. I think Lupin might just be my favorite character in the Harry Potter universe. (I STILL LOVE YOU, HAGRID.) There’s something gentle, kind, and respectful about the way he conducts himself. I believe he’s a reasonable man who isn’t quite aware he’s being so reasonable. Even when he dismisses himself from Hogwarts due to his werewolf-ness, he’s doing so with a bit of self-deprecation. It’s almost as if he…hates what he is? Despite that he accepts it.

Thewlis plays this character with care, nuance, and great attention to detail, especially in the way he moves around other characters. I love that the movie paid a lot of attention to his relationship with Harry, acting as the mentor he really, truly needed.

(Someone else pointed out in the comments that it was a great bit of character detail that Lupin listened to old swing and jazz. I completely agree.)

And now, onto a slight bit of whining. You were totally waiting for this part, right?

For the most part, I was totally onboard with the slight changes in story and characterization. A lot of important lines were spoken by different people, but I didn’t feel it was adverse to the larger story. At heart, I believe Cuaron got the main theme, confronting fear, down to a T.


I was definitely confused by the lack of inclusion of the Merauder’s story. I’m sure every Harry Potter fan has said this, but if I hadn’t read the book, there’s no way I would have figured out why Lupin knew how to use the map or why Harry’s Patronus appeared as a stag. Simple as that. Could it have been explained in a very short scene? Certainly. It wasn’t. Does it effect my entire view of the film? Nope.

However, I was pretty gutted that Harry never received that final letter from Sirius Black. The more I think on the book since I’ve finished reading it, the more it becomes my favorite scene. It’s such a redemptive moment for Harry, knowing that there’s someone who knew his parents so intimately and who also loves him just as well. I think not including that was a detriment to the film, because it acts as Harry’s reward for facing his fears.

I was only prepared to talk about those two gripes until I hunkered down and read a lot of comments. I have to agree that Ron’s characterization was a bit muted in the movie. (But not Hermione, who, to me, was an amazing female character throughout the film. YAY WOMEN!) The de-emphasis on Ron and Hermione’s fight and the removal of the broken leg heroism just made him…kind of whiny? He was sort of just….there. An impetus for the plot, sure, but not nearly as present or important as the other two movies. And I deeply, deeply love Ron, even if he was a total douche for most of the book.

But that’s ok. Things change. I really adore Cuaron’s adaptation. So far, it was the most visually and emotionally satisfying of the three movies. I know it’s the only Cuaron-directed movie, but I’ve heard the cinematography for Goblet of Fire is out of this world. So bring it on.

You can look for my first review (or two!) of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire on Monday morning. Thank you so much for smashing the comment record for the third time on Buzznet, for providing an amazing experience yesterday, and for giving me 675,000 pageviews in just over two months.

No. Seriously. SIRIOUSLY. We are almost at 700,000 pageviews already. Thank you so much. I love you all, Harry Potter fans.

EDIT: HOLY SHIT HOW DID I FORGET THIS. The time travel sequences? FUCKING UNBELIEVABLY AMAZING. omg omg omg omg omg OMG.