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PoA Review: SPOILERS!

Movies
Posted by: Kristin
May 20, 2004, 12:57 PM

TLC reader Alexandria had a chance to see Prisoner of Azkaban yesterday, and wrote up her thoughts for us. This is FILLED with spoilers, folks - don't read if you don't want to know. Thanks, Alexandria!
p.s. If the format is off in places, apologies - it's because this editor is doing her best not to read too many spoilers.

p.p.s. And if you don't want to be spoiled, in summary - she liked it. ;)
When my manager offered to let me go to the preview screening of
"Prisoner of Azkaban," I immediately accepted, regardless
of the fact that I would miss a full day of school. My second thought, after accepting, was that I should do a review for the fans out there who still have 16 days to wait. So without further ado, this is my first attempt at an organized critique. (Spoilers abound, by the way. I don't think I could even attempt this without spoiling it.)

I'll say this now, and I'll say it again at the end, if you've read
the books and love them as much as I do, the first thing you do when you go see a movie adapted from the book is do your best to forget that there ever was a book. You're setting yourself up for disappointment right there because there is no way a movie will ever look the way you imagined it unless you make it yourself. Whether it's "Lord of the Rings," "Master and Commander," or, of course, "Harry Potter," the most important thing is that you view it as though it's an original film.

Even so, I am as guilty as anyone for comparing the movies to the
books. These are the differences which stood out to me, and which I was a little (emphasis on little — it's almost insignificant, my
amount of disappointment):

-Quidditch: I don't like the new uniforms. It could have
been that they looked like rain slickers because the game was played in the
rain, but I really do like the ones from the first two movies better.
Also, I can easily think of a way to put in the other two matches so that we get to see Gryffindor win the cup. This film is over a half hour shorter than "Chamber of Secrets" — it would have been
simple.

-The script has Harry see Pettigrew on the Marauder's Map
before Lupin does: There was no reason for this, except to have Harry run into Snape and do the "turn out your pockets, Potter" scene. If they had had the cloak slip off Harry's head in Hogsmeade, they could have done that scene where it's supposed to be.

-The Shrieking Shack: This scene was WAY too fast. They don't go into the fact that Prongs is James, Padfoot is Sirius, etc., or that the three became Animagi for Lupin. They could have made it about two minutes longer, explained the whole history behind why Sirius is there trying to do what he's trying to do, and it would have been much better.

-Yeah, the werewolf looks weird: But I got over this really fast,
because it's not a crucial plot element. Who cares, really? (Another little "who cares?" moment is the fact that the entrance to the Gryffindor common room has changed locations: it's now at the top of a staircase instead of in a corridor, and they changed Fat Ladies. It's a magic castle, though, so I've explained that one away quite nicely.)

-They kept the ending: And by this, I mean the one that I
heard was rumored to have gotten bad feedback at a test screening weeks ago. As we all know, Oliver Wood is not in this one, so that complicates things regarding the Firebolt. Harry gets it in the end, and flies off on it.

And that's where the movie ends, on a very abrupt note. It's the
way they did the last shot, a freeze-frame on Harry's face, instead of Harry flying by and then a fade-out on the castle.

So those are my only qualms. And they are far outweighed by
the good things. If I wrote down all of them, you'd be reading for about a
year, so I'll try and compact them the best I can.

Dan, Rupert and Emma: They have all matured and grown into their parts, most noticeably Dan, who is light-years ahead of where he was
2 years ago. He IS Harry. Rupert is wonderful, as always — he always seemed to be the most comfortable in his part of the three, at leastin my opinion. Emma, in some scenes, still seems a little bit ...stiff. She looks the way I feel when I'm doing a scene in Drama, and I don't quite know what to do. But she's honestly very good in the role, very much Hermione. She's nailed the know-it-all attitude and voice.
Every time Ron questions how Hermione has suddenly appeared in a class or
at the table, she dismisses it so forcefully and matter-of-factly. (In addition to these three, Tom Felton is much better now — I find the de-gelling of his hair to have released the tension in his jaw which was causing him to clench his mouth a lot in the last movie.)

David Thewlis is not how I imagined Lupin, nor is Gary Oldman as
Sirius: I think a lot of people feel this way, at least about the
way they look. However, they are actors, and act they can. They're perfect.

Michael Gambon as Dumbledore: For the few scenes he was
given, he did marvelously. He's more spunky and energetic, which is the way I personally envisioned Dumbledore. He's not given that much screen
time, though, which is a shame, because I think he could do so much
with the part.

This is a darker film. My mother then asked me what I meant by
darker, and I said, "Creepier ... and not as happy." And
it's not. It's highly emotion-driven, and Harry is bummed for a lot of the movie, by the fact that he can't go to Hogsmeade, the broomstick debacle, the fact that his parents' murderer seems to be out to get him. It's made more so by the music. John Williams composed again, but it sounds
nothing like the last two movies' music. The prologue theme only
shows up about twice, which is nice, but it gives the movie an entirely different feel. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed it. It's just different.

It's very hard to critique it without comparing it, both to
the books and to how well it continues from the first two. The differences between Columbus and Cuarón's directing is night and day. It's totally apparent that it is not the same director. Even the grading (color) on the film lends to the overall tone, which is less playful than Columbus's interpretation. It's grittier. I think the biggest difference is that Cuarón GETS this book in a way that Columbus didn't.
It's a very good thing that Cuarón did this one instead, because we all know that the conflicts in "Prisoner of Azkaban" are
mostly internal, and when they are external, they come in the form of Quidditch, Malfoy, and the conflict at the end. I think if Columbus had made this one, it would have been a little boring, because Columbus's screenplays follow the events in the book, but often miss out on the emotions.

Cuarón presents the audience with both events and emotions,
which are edited a little to work around a story line which had to endure some tweaking. Rest assured, all crucial plot events make it in, even if they do come in a slightly different order. As I mentioned before, as long as you look at this as a film separate, and I do mean COMPLETELY separate from the book, you'll love it as much as I did. It's a cliché'd phrase, but totally applicable. I just wish Cuarón could stay and do the rest of them. Anyone who felt that the first two lacked a little something, I'm sure, will agree with me that Alfonso was it. Everyone I've asked always says that "Prisoner of Azkaban" is their favorite book, and I don't think anyone will be disappointed.

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