Harry Potter & The Philosopher’s/Sorcerer’s Stone was a great start to the HP series. The Chamber Of Secrets was awesome! So what could possibly go wrong? Oh yeah, I get it, The Prisoner Of Azkaban. This was the film that signalled a few changes to the series. And yet, even though I like this film better now than I remember it, I remember on my first viewing that my spark was running flat.
Spoilers will be highlighted in red.
Harry returns to Hogwarts school for his third year. Before he goes back, Arthur Weasley warns him that a so-called murderer, named Sirius Black has escaped from a dungeon. But Harry soon learns the truth about Sirius.
I suppose you’re wondering what I had against the film in the first place. Well there was a huge change to the series. Chris Columbus quit directing and switched to the producing side, the director’s chair was given to Alfonso Cuaron, who apparently never read any of the books (eek!). The Philosopher’s Stone and The Chamber Of Secrets were more colourful and were referred to as family films. The Prisoner Of Azkaban, on the other hand, I felt, was just grittier (in colour that is) for the sake of being gritty, which has now become rather cliched; it’s like they just wanted to make an excuse for a Fight Club flavour. Plus, this film got a little more ‘teeny’ and I have to admit, I ain’t really into teen movies. One obvious fact is that Harry, Ron and Hermione are thirteen in this movie, which means they’re now teenagers. I remember not being a huge fan of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and through my first viewing, I had a feeling it would remind me of that show.
There was certain scenes I didn’t like in the film. Firstly, I wasn’t too fond of the choir scene. When I saw the scene, I was thinking “since when did Hogwarts have student choirs chanting for the introduction to the new semesters?” and “wouldn’t they have needed a bit of rehearsal?”. I have nothing against the lyrics to the song they sing whatsoever, I’m always in favour for Shakespeare. I also didn’t like the ending much. I was in favour of seeing Harry find his broom repaired and feel so thankful for that that he decides to joyride, but is that it for the ending? I expected to see a lot more from it, like to see a bit of Sirius for example, and Dumbledore doesn’t exactly make much of an impact. Speaking of Dumbledore, I was aware of Richard Harris’ passing which meant that they needed a new actor, and they chose Michael Gambon, who I don’t think was a great replacement. He does have a Merlin-style appearance, but he sounds a lot younger and looks a bit too much shorter than Richard. I personally think Warner Brothers should’ve picked Nigel Planer. (sighs) Yes he was Neil in The Young Ones, which is a comedy. But he did play Dumbledore once. (sighs again) Yes, it was in Harry Potter & The Secret Chamberpot Of Azerbaijan, the French & Saunders version, but I’m pretty sure he could’ve pulled off a more sensible role of Dumbledore as well. He did have an appropriate voice and he did look exactly like Richard’s portrayal. Oh well. And for the love of god, please don’t get me started on Professor Sybil Trelawney, that psychotic… person!
And yes, let’s point out the rip-offs; Firstly, during the scene where Harry literally blows up his rude and obnoxious Aunt Marge. After she insults him, Harry turns to her and rages, just screwing his face up and clenching his fists, then Marge inflates. It’s like Harry has developed a similar persona to The Incredible Hulk (get it? “Don’t make me angry, you won’t like me when I’m angry”?) And speaking of inflation, this ain’t the first time any fictional character has been inflated. Remember Violet Bureauguarde from Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory? And of course J.K. Rowling didn’t exactly invent the species of the werewolf. There’s a scene where Remus Lupin turns into a wolf as soon as the moon comes out, just like on An American Werewolf In London.
With that said, Harry Potter & The Prisoner Of Azkaban is much better than I remember it. Snape remains as awesome as ever, with his resentment towards Harry and his suspicious attitude towards Lupin. I especially love how he dismisses Hermione’s full knowledge on animaguses and werewolves as her proceeding to be a know-it-all. Lupin’s a pretty nice character. In fact, I admire his back-story which involves his friendship with James Potter (Harry’s long dead dad) and his Defence Against The Dark Arts lessons are amazing; when he teaches them the ridikulus spell is a lot of fun. Malfoy’s at his nastiest; during Hagrid’s lecturer and following Harry’s interaction with Buckbeak the hippogriff (a species of griffin), Malfoy scowls and provokes Buckbeak causing himself to get seriously scratched in the arm and then snitching on him to his dad, leading to Buckbeak to get sentenced to death, and yet, I can really feel for Hagrid when he emotionally tells his friends the news. The provoking scene has reminded me of the recent news today where a suicidal American provoked two zoo lions causing them to get shot. The fact that Buckbeak is given a sentence can leave a nasty taste in your mouth and make you feel that you really want to strangle Malfoy, because he’s to blame for the whole thing. Buckbeak is a pretty unique creation too. And I have to say, I admire Sirius Black’s backstory and the fact that it turns out Ron’s pet rat was Peter Pettigrew all along and that he was the actual murderer who helped Voldemort commit the murder of Harry’s parents. At first, I didn’t understand it, but I clearly wasn’t ready to see the film yet. The first scene with the Dursleys makes me laugh. Pam Ferris was exactly the right choice for Marge. I also remember sniggering when Harry lied to her “Oh yeah, I’ve been beaten loads of times.”
If I had to pick a favourite scene; I’d go for the scene where Lupin and Sirius fight each other as an animagus and werewolf. It’s a truly dark scene, considering that Lupin has turned into a werewolf and because of that, he can’t control himself in that form. The growls are so great. It makes you wonder whether the same guy who worked on the dinosaur growling sounds for Jurassic Park also worked on the canine ones in this movie. I also love the way Snape attempts to protect the three young protagonists from the two monsters before he can punish Harry for knocking Snape out, which I have to say is an extremely important scene which relates to Harry & Snape’s love/hate relationship.
Overall Rating: 7/10
Next review: Harry Potter & The Goblet Of Fire