'Dis a good movie. It has some flaws. Now that that is out of the way, I ask, does anybody actually take reviews into consideration? I guess Daniel Radcliffe's and Alfonso Cuaron's wages aren't really dependent on whether I give this movie good press or not, so I'm just going to say everything I remember having crossed my mind while watching this film two weeks ago. Alright, the story goes like this, it is opening day for this spectacle, I think the sun may have been shining, too... or not, dammit, I'm just trying to create some "ambience" or whatever-- yeah, anyway, opening day, right-- and worse, my party and I are late, of course, always late for movies, concerts... so we already knew that we had sentenced ourselves to first row seating. We take our seats after getting the popcorn and such, and lo and behold the movie is just starting. I think we arrived right when that blurb of animated popcorn and m&m's is gyrating across the screen-- speaking of, is that just a Block-E thing? Whatever, I'm embarrassed to look at it regardless of it's origin, and last summer I particularly remember it sparking a laughing fit during 28 Days Later that didn't cease until I had sufficiently made a nuisance of myself.
The film begins like the book does[spoiler ahead!!!!!], with Harry at the Dursleys. These scenes are such nice openers, I like having it hammered into my head that Dudley is fat, Petunia is a bitch and Vernon is well, domineering and angry, an obvious candidate for high blood pressure-- why am I getting my hate on? A short preface; I've read each Harry Potter book, (the third and fourth twice) Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban actually being my favorite. I was excited out of my mind to see this movie but was still grappling with the possibility of coming out of the theater with every notion I had about the book, the characters I had vividly imagined, and the chemistry of their interaction having been shattered and reduced to idiot fare. Back to the plot; Harry runs away from his oppressive guardians in order to evade punishment after he loses his temper and accidently causes the rude Aunt Marge to blow up. He is then picked up by a magical bus, called the 'Knight Rider', which is when he initially learns of renowned murderer Sirius Black's escape from Azkaban prison, a feat never before accomplished successfully. Harry Potter learns about Black bit by bit, just as the audience does (unless you have read the book). I love how Harry asks the big questions everyone should be wondering and how they are answered by multiple sources at different points in the movie as to avoid another one of those villain-uncharacteristically-reveals-all sessions placed at the end of installment one... like when Professor McGonagall and posse are gossiping about Sirius in the tavern at Hogsmeade-- "Did you hear about Sirius Black wanting to kill Harry Potter?!" "No! Why would he want to do that?" "Well, apparently, since he be all crazay 'n shit, he thinks Harry is the last thing standing between the re-emergence of Voldemort and, since (Black) is believed to be the right-hand man of Lohd Vohldemoht, he wants to serve his master to his own end as well as Harry's!" "Why don't we warn Harry?" "'Cause he'd get all touchy and weepy and may even seek out Black as revenge, which would only make Potter die faster." "Why would he do that?" "Cause Black is sort of responsible for his parents being all dead and crap..." I just think it's a little funny is all!
If I'm not explaining things very well, then, I guess, suck it up- because the movie didn't waste time with the expository "Into each generation a slayer is born..." bit, so neither will I. Cuaron assumes you've at least seen the first two movies and are thus familiarized with the story. In terms of how the first two movies compare to this chapter-- well, they can't begin to. Not that the director didn't have adequate material to work with, well, actually that could be part of it-- but the characters were also 11, and Rowling wasn't entirely suspect that the book would become a franchise and probably wasn't putting her best foot forward. Prisoner of Azkaban is definitely the turning point for the series. It introduces the darker aspects of Harry Potter's world (i.e. the soul sucking Dementors-- which are done superbly, by the way) and makes way for serious character development, as seen via Sirius Black, Professor Lupin, and the semi-villainous Severus Snape. The central characters of Harry, Ron and Hermione have also matured greatly, not just in age but also in depth.
The Pros: the cast is great. Radcliffe (Harry), Rupert Grint (Ron) and Emily Watson (Hermione) are all you could ask for when it comes to child actors. They've made the transition well, and hardly provoked a cringe from me. Emma Thompson as Professor Trelawney is a delight during the brief moments she is onscreen. I have no complaints concerning the acting. I don't think anyone could have done a more fitting portrayal of Sirius Black than Gary Oldman, who walked away with every scene he appeared in (though there were too few). The special effects were great as well.
The Cons: The director, writer-- whoever is responsible for the script and scenes-- has little discrimination concerning which scenes to show and which to leave in the book, thus causing the overall plot to suffer. Though I would've had a hard time as well deciding which scenes to scrap, I must say that the distinguishing aspects of Book Three are left somewhat transparent due to their limited airtime. The last half an hour is rushed, leaving the dynamic between Lupin, Sirius, Snape and Pettigrew (an integral element of the story) unexplored and unresolved. I didn't have to cope with my favorite scenes being raped because frankly, they weren't seen fit to even be included. Also, just out of curiosity, what was up with that freeze frame at the end? And the misplaced Firebolt scene? Why did the director feel he had to end on a happy note, when the actual ending to the book is darker and sets up for the next book/movie perfectly? I hate that the makers of the film have to keep watching themselves, making sure they don't accidently "scare" children. Can't they just throw caution to the wind and trust that any child not old enough to understand the events will be delighted anyhow just by the flurry of colorful moving pictures before their very eyes? Am I just being selfish?
Resolution: I doubt this movie could've been done remarkably better. It's good enough. I wish I could watch it through the eyes of someone who is unfamiliar with the books, then perhaps I could relate whether it does an adequate job of conveying the book's messages, characters, et cetera. This movie is more of a supplement to the book than a worthy substitute. I look forward to the next (which I heard isn't until the fall of 2005?), but shudder at the sacrifices that will be made to fit it into a three hour time span.