Sunday, June 06, 2004

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: My Thoughts

Friday night (yes these posts are out of order) BrainyBoy (v8.3) and I went to see the new Harry Potter movie, and were not disappointed. Rather than a full and salient review (seeing as I am neither full nor salient myself), suffuse yourselves with a few brief observations and comments:


1) Overall, I enjoyed this movie a great deal, but I'm not sure why. The pacing was as even as I've ever seen in any kind of action-oriented film. There were very few highs, and very few lows - most of the action throughout the film was on a very even plane. I began to notice this trait about half-way through, and it followed fairly consistenly to the end. I don't think this was a bad thing, necessarily - it most likely had more to do with the structure of the novel than anything the director or screenwriter consciously did - but it was interesting nonetheless.

2) Again, this is the fault of the book but it felt wrong to leave Ron out of the climax of the movie. He was holed up in the Hogwarts infirmary with an injured leg while Harry and Hermione went back into the past. I thought as a result the last 20 minutes or so were too dry. Interesting, because time travel is always interesting, but Ron's normal addition to the team was obviously missing.

3) That said, he was written to be almost too childish through the whole movie, and was never allowed to do much that was heroic. And Rupert Grint as Ron is too old for some of the dialogue. If they're going to continue with the same group of young actors in the roles for films to come, they need to remember to steer the dialogue correctly.

4) What the heck happened to Draco "Mr. Pushover" Malfoy? Everytime he's confronted he breaks down into little girly-man tears and runs away. Yes, a bully is a coward at heart, but how does even he possibly keep his little crowd of Slitherin Sycophants interested?

5) Sirius Black's sudden change from hideous bad guy to trusted good guy, while accurate from the novel, was extremely abrupt and almost took me out of the story. And Gary Oldman was wasted in what was essentially a minor part.

6) Speaking of wasted actors, poor Maggie Smith. Why does she even bother signing on if they're not going to give Professor McGonnigal anything to do except flutter her hands and look worried? Similarly, Alan Rickman's act is getting old and needs to evolve more from film to film as Professor Snape gets more familiar with Potter and his friends.

7) Is it just me, or did David Thewlis (Lupin) look almost exactly like Jeffrey Jones?

8) Excellent use of the time metaphor throughout the movie, from the giant pendulum just inside the front door of hogwarts, to the virtual trip through the clockface, it set up the ending perfectly.

9) The Dementors were especially chilling.... I was a bit worried about BrainyBoy, but he took them in stride. Thankfully he's a bit young to have absorbed a good deal of the popular Death imagery, so the Death-Eater's similarity to the Grim Reaper was probably lost on him. They were still plenty spooky in that "Nazgul" sort of way...

10) I hope Hogwarts Castle has a good drainage system in the grounds, because somehow it seemed to rain and/or snow almost through the entire film. Also, BrainyBoy's soccer team calls off practice for 15 minutes at the first sound of thunder. At Hogwarts, they play Quiddich matches in blinding lightning storms...folks, far be it from me to tell you how to run your games, but if I were a parent of an aspiring wizard-to-be, I'd rather my little Seeker be safely indoors than flying through a thunderheard on a broomstick, dodging deadly lightning bolts. And I'd ask for better weather protection for the spectators, as well...

11) Finally, an open message to the folks who sat beside us in the theatre: Hey, my son's eight - he needed a little help with the plot, and was plenty excited about seeing the movie. That gives you no reason to SSHHHHHHHH!!! us twice - twice! - near the end of the film, in an auditorium full of chattering audience members. There was an action scene going, with little dialogue besides the occasional, "Come on!" and "Let's go, Harry!". Maybe those little snippets are important for you to understand what's going on. But he wasn't bothering anybody. Next time you want utter and abject silence while watching a movie, wait till it comes out on DVD.

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