Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkeban
My daughter explained the intricacies of the plot after we finished watching the movie. I was a bit confused about the rat sub-plot but did follow the time travel exercise (I always enjoy time travel stories when well done and the end sequence here is handled quite nicely).
Watching Hermione take charge is also fun. Not only is it fun watching her punch out Malfoy, she also provides needed leadership in tight situations. (My daughter thinks it’s crazy I don’t see that she’s sweet on Ron, which I totally missed.)
This is an extraordinarily well produced fantasy film, the best I’ve seen since the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It beats the first two Harry Potter films hands down, both for plot and for production values.
I was a bit disorientedby the way thephysical surroundings of Hogwarts have been changed, chief among them being the way Hagrid’s house has been moved to a hillside. But the fact that much of this movie takes place on tilted landscapes or in visibly old building surroundings (the courtyard) is a touch of mood and reality that fits the darker and more serioustone of this installment. Hogwarts definitely looks more forbidding here, which is appropriate.
Harry lives in a dangerous world. Here powerful citizens can demand that defenseless animals be executed. In this movie we also witness hideous beasts, werewolves and, worst of all, the soul-sucking Dementors who for some bizarre reason, have been installed as perimeter guards around Hogwarts in anticipation of Sirius Black’s return. (I guess I’ll have to read the book for an explanation of that plot point which makes no sense to me).
While the production values and art direction of this film are superb (much credit must go to the maturity director Alfonso Cuaron has brought to the film) the movie is still about wizards, magic, and growing up. Young people can identify with many of the uncertainties and worries faced by the main characters, which I suppose is the secret to the book series’ success.
But the terrors of this movie are much greater than in the first two movies, and I wonder what the next movie in the series will bring. What I would like to see is how Harry and his friends interact with the world outside Hogwarts. Since I haven’t read any of the books, I wonder if this is dealt with at all.
Hogwarts while it harbors Awful Things as shown in this film, is nothing compared to the awfulness of the real evils in the world - war, disease, starvation, cancer, you name it. Maybe that’s the nice thing about creating a fantasy world - you have the power to define the boundaries of the world you create.
I would hope that young people watching and reading this stuff will realize that Bad Things Happen but that there is hope. And perhaps that is how Harry Potter should leave it, rather than the bittersweet ending that Tolkien showed in the Ring trilogy. Yes, Middle Earth was saved, but the costs were great and those mostresponsible were forever scarred and not necessarily able to share in the fruits of victory. I hope Harry Potter doesn’t have to end up like that. Fantasy worlds are nice to have now and then.
Copyright (c) 2004 by Dennis D. McDonald