Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Last night, adorned in my time-turner necklace (an homage to my favorite book in the series), a hoodie aimed at warding off the theater’s chill, and a purse full of dollar store candy, I continued my journey through the world of wizards and witches with the next two movies of the Harry Potter series. By the time these were originally released, I'd caught Harry Potter fever and had read all the books, so I went in to the movies with more knowledge, and hence more expectations, than ever before.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Even now, having devoured the four outstanding books that followed it (twice), this one is still my favorite. Rich in the history that brought Harry to where he is, this is the book that really started to give shape and definition to the universe, and complex story arc, that Rowling had created. It was with a certain amount of trepidation, therefore, that I went into this film initially. Not surprisingly, I wanted all that nuance from the pages to come to life on screen, and on first watch I must admit I found it slightly lacking. Where were the lovely details about how Lupin’s friends transformed themselves so they wouldn’t have to leave him on the full moon? Where was the winking indication of how they got their nicknames? Where was the secret of Snape being saved by James, and the resulting resentment toward him and Sirius that Snape has carried ever since? These were crucial points, I felt, and I was sad to see them edited out. Over the years I've come to better appreciate the film, and how it allows a lot of those nuances to be implied, but last night I truly marveled at how streamlined and focused this film is compared with the first two. Gone are the drawn-out endings and superfluous scenes. The childishness is gone, too, as new director Alphonso Cuaron allows the children to grow into teens, maturing emotionally along with the story, the themes, the humor, and the dangers. Embarrassing fact: Despite this film featuring my most beloved Sirius, my favorite part will forever be Hermione being distracted by how her hair looks from the back, because it is exactly what I would do in that situation.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

It was when the worldwide frenzy occurred over the release of this book - a massive tome by any standard, let alone a young adult one - that I became really aware of the popularity of the novels. Everyone, it seemed, had a copy of this and was toting it around to read at every opportunity. This was the first book I owned - it was a gift - and because I am OCD that way, it meant I needed to buy and read the first three before I could tackle this one. It took me no time to get through the first two, since I'd already seen the films, and I devoured the third because, as I said, it instantly became my favorite. Within a week I was ready for this one, and it took me a mere three days to finish. I loved it, of course, but I had no idea how they would turn all of it into a movie. Answer: Pretty damn well. Once again, this movie is more streamlined than the first two, a fact that is made quite clear watching all the movies together in this marathon fashion. Pertinent items are still addressed, but extraneous ones are cut. The movie also takes another step forward in the maturity of the students (also more noticeable in the marathon setting, since it allows you to see the subtle gradations of change more clearly, like watching a blossoming flower over time-release video). Social standing and romantic leanings become the forefront of their everyday lives, and the primary arc of the Triwizard Tournament enhances that change by putting everyone in new and awkward social situations, be they first crushes, school dances, or petty rivalries. Of course, the tournament in itself is harrowing, and once again the stakes are raised, this time resulting in tragedy quite close to home. And while the movie ends on a dark note - it leaves me in mind of The Empire Strikes Back in that respect - there is still lightness and humor and hope to be had. Draco as a ferret, Moaning Myrtle in the tub, and Fred and George forever are just some of the abounding happiness to be found, as well as the reminder that Harry has friends and people who love him, which means he is never alone. Despite all the dark, all the terrible change to come, we can hold onto that hope that, united with his friends, Harry can overcome the evil awaiting him. Mind-boggling note: To maintain the disguise of Mad-Eye Moody, Barty Crouch Jr. was required to drink Polyjuice Potion every hour on the hour for about nine months straight.

Tonight the movies get even better while Harry's troubles take a turn for the (even) worse with Order of the Phoenix and Half Blood Prince. And then I'll be back tomorrow to talk about them.

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