Sunday, June 06, 2004

The Prisoner of Azkaban

I had been waiting to see this since the fall, when I saw the first preview, with the choir singing "Something Wicked This Way Comes." I became a reluctant Harry Potter fan last summer, when I finally read books 2-5 and realized that after you get #2 out of the way, they're actually quite good. So for her graduation from journalism school, I bought my roommate tickets for Friday night, since she is a big fan (not to say groupie...).

I thoroughly enjoyed the movie - laughed, gripped the edge of my seat at the appropriate moments, got caught up in the plot - yet the movie has some real flaws. So, this might come across as a negative review, but I want you to know that I had a great time watching it, so maybe the flaws aren't that important right now, for fans. Overall, I felt like the movie had great promise, and if they keep this team together, they can iron out the problems and the next movie will be awesome.

The good news is that the new director gives it a much darker, grittier feel. I love the visual style. It was definitely time to get away from the polished, shiny-happy-Harry of the first couple of movies. This movie does a great job developing the landscape in which Hogwarts is set. One of the most brilliant images is when he backs up the camera (computer?) and shows Hogwarts with the dementors floating around it, looking inwards towards the school. Hired to guard and protect the school, shouldn't they be looking outwards? But that is exactly the point. The dementors are evil in the hire of good. Or perhaps I have just been thinking too much about the hairs-breadth difference between criminals and prison guards, those in prison and those guarding them. The dementors are extremely well-done; Harry's first run-in with one, on the train to Hogwarts, is creepy and chilling (literally).

Nevertheless, the visual imagery can be heavy-handed at times, like one completely unnecessary scene showing two flowers freezing and wilting as a dementor floats by. Some of the writing is heavy-handed, as well, particularly Dumbledore's lines in the first 3/4 of the movie, which are all written and delivered in "Everything I Say is Wise and Significant" voice. Hermione and Professor Lupin have a few awful lines, too.

The plot focuses almost entirely on Ron, Hermione, and Harry. In fact, it is surprising how little any of the professors - Dumbledore, Snape, Hagrid - appear in the movie. McGonagall is almost entirely absent! I don't know whether this is a good choice or a bad choice - maybe neither.

I'll be seeing the movie again in a week or two with my students, and I'll let you know what they think!


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