So I went out to see Prisoner of Azkaban all by my lone wolf lonesome last night after work. It was either that or wait two weeks until Gloria had a free weekend.
POA, is of course, my favorite of the five books, and the first book I read *before* seeing the movie. Yeah, I’m one of those fans who came to Harry Potter first through the movies, and of course I sat through both of the first two going, “I don’t get it,” and “What just happened?”
The books are just so intricately complex, and if you’re going to capture any of that in a movie, you have to just leave out a lot of lengthy explanations of things and just expect the audience to fill in the blanks.
When did the first movie come out, December of 2001? It took me until September of 2003 to get around to reading the books. I admit I was a book snob. Anything *that* popular had to be lowest-common denominator tripe. And the movies didn’t much change my mind. Fun little fantasies, but chock full of credulity-straining wish-fulfillment (Harry’s little Cinderella tale, from cartoonish emotionally abused home life to incredibly!powerful!wizard!celebrity who seems to be able to get away with breaking all the rules) and deus ex machina endings (“Harry defeats Voldemort by some means he doesn’t understand, but luckily there’s Dumbledore afterwards to explain how he did it!”)
It was rahael who convinced me I needed to read the books. If she thought they were complex and interesting enough to be worth my time, then they must be.
And even though the books still have that cartoonish Cinderalla stuff and the deus ex machina endings, it all comes across much more satisfactorily. Harry’s celebrity works more against him than for him. He does face consquences for his mis-behavior. And the reasons Harry is able to defeat Voldemort are given much more explanation, and the reason they work the way they do is given complex back story built up in later books (like, for example, how he was able to mysteriously burn Prof. Quirrel in the first book is all related to how his mother saved him from Voldemort way back when).
But I’ve talked about all this before. The reason I liked Azkaban best of all the books is it doesn’t follow the formula of all the other books, where Harry eventually must face-off with some version of Voldemort and is aided by Dumbledore. This time, the bad guy is someone else, and of course the twist is that Sirius Black ISN’T the bad guy at all.
And of course, I *loved* the time-travel element, where all these events that happen which left you wondering at the time, “What was that? Where did that come from?” turn out to be Future Harry and Hermione’s actions in the past. It’s a similar thing to Rowling’s usual deus ex machina (“and suddenly something pops out of nowhere and saves Harry!”), but then we are given the reason *why* it happened, and the time-travel element used is so well-established earlier in the book without calling too much attention to itself, it’s very satisfying.
And of course, Azkaban was the beginning of my HP OTP (I swear one of these days, we’re going to communicate purely by acronyms), Sirius+Harry. And git your mind out of the prison cell, dweebs, it’s another one of my sentimental father-son ‘ships.
As for the movie version, I had the misfortune of running out of library books the other day and I decided to start re-reading PoA. I was up to the Leaky Cauldron chapter when I went into see the movie. So of course for the first few scenes, I was all in critical-comparison mode, going, “they didn’t build up how mean Aunt Marge was before Harry went all Dark!Willow on her”, and “The Knight Bus doesn’t avoid obstacles, obstacles avoid the Knight Bus!”
Well, I’m not going to dwell on book/movie differences. I get that squeezing a 300+ page book into a feature-length film means cutting corners and sometimes even inventing new things that can do in two minutes what Rowling takes two chapters to do in the book. Some people may not always agree with how the film-maker cuts corners, but you can’t really argue with the fact that he has to cut somewhere.
What disturbed me about the movie was how disjointed, gloomy, and grimy it all seemed compared to the first two books. The campus grounds and surroundings were obviously different from the first two movies, more gothic and raw (“wow, England really looks like that? And here I thought their forests were all neat as a pin”). The students running around in their muggle clothes or in disorderly-looking robes rather than looking all uniform. Everything was just a bit less glowy and neat and orderly and magical.
Which I get on a couple levels–new director, new visual vision, and, the older Harry gets the less simple his view of the world is. But I *liked* the kind of unreal, child-like fantasy quality of Hogwarts in the first two movies. I’m one of those grown-ups who still gets warm-fuzzies from Disney.
Oh, I’ll get used to the look after I watch the movie a few dozen times, no worries there. And the story-telling was good. They kept all of the elements in the book that I remember liking.
Of course, sometimes I still had trouble filling in the blanks, and had to scramble my brain to remember how something worked in the book so I could figure out what was going on on screen.
But watching the movie also helped me make sense of some things in the book that confused me at the time, like that whole scene in the Shrieking Shack. I have to admit I couldn’t tell Sirius and Snape and Lupin and Pettigrew from each other half the time. The movie made it simpler, maybe just by putting faces to names and allowing us to see the action rather than just imagining it.
So all is well in movie-land. Off to work.