Onto the third installation of the Harry Potter series, and the movie version of my favourite novel in the collection.
There were a few things that I really liked in watching the movie again. Firstly, I liked how the third movie is noticeably darker in tone, starting the progression from the wonder of the first movie to the horror of the last. I also liked the way the way the romance between Ron and Hermione starts to get introduced in a couple of scenes (so cute!). Finally, the creators’ decision to use animatronics instead of CGI for everything really pays off. Twelve years later and the movie still looks fresh and sharp, rather than badly aged.
I think the third movie is the start of major differences from the books. There’s a few petty things I could easily pick on. Sirius Black is meant to be much bigger in dog form; he’s described as “massive” in the books. In my mind, he was big enough to almost look Harry in the eyes. Remus transformed as a werewolf also didn’t seem right to me; he looks far too human, whereas in the books he’s much more wolf-like, with only a few distinctions. I also expected the Dementors to look something more like the Ringwraiths from the Lord of the Rings, with large hoods instead of face coverings. However, I can understand the creators’ decision to make them look very different, given the two movie series were released around the same time.
A couple of other things that I think are unusual decisions, but more on the petty side, include Harry only getting his new Firebolt broomstick at the end of the movie (as opposed to part-way through), and Ron not getting threatened by Sirius with the knife. I know neither are major events, but I still think that they’re weird things to cut or alter.
However, there are two big differences between the book and the movie which I think is a really bad choice. Firstly, there is a lot of inner-group fighting between the trio, specifically Ron and Hermione, in the book. It’s the first time the three start to have any real arguments, but it’s reduced to squabbling in the background in the movie. I think that this fighting helps to show that the characters are still young, which helps with their overall growth throughout the movie series. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, is the fact that James Potter, Remus Lupin, Sirius Black, and Peter Pettigrew’s story isn’t told in full. Not only isn’t it explicitly stated that they are the Marauders of the map, there’s no explanation as to why no one knew that Sirius could turn into a dog (in fact, it’s never asked how he escaped), or that Sirius and Peter’s Animagus abilities are directly related to Remus being a werewolf, or even that James was also an Animagus! It’s such a shame, because it’s such a waste of some really interesting background, and it would also help concrete Sirius’ character, since he seems to go from raving mad lunatic to Harry’s would-be guardian very quickly.
Moving on to casting decisions. I think that Gary Oldman as Sirius Black and Emma Thompson as Professor Trelawney are perfectly accurate. Although I think Timothy Spall doesn’t match Peter Pettigrew’s description that accurately, his mannerisms are spot on and perfectly rat-like. Richard Harris will always be the perfect Professor Dumbledore in my mind. Although Michael Gambon does a praise-worthy performance in the role, I still miss Harris’ presence. Finally David Thewlis as Remus Lupin. I just don’t see it. Don’t get me wrong, I think Thewlis is a fantastic actor, but to me, he is simply not Lupin. It’s not only that he doesn’t match my imagined physical appearance of Lupin, but I also don’t feel like his mannerisms are entirely correct. I picture Lupin has being very soft spoken, calm, and very kind, which I don’t think lines up with Thewlis’ portrayal as well.
All in all, the third movie is a bit of a mixed bag for me. It was always going to be the movie I was the most pickiest about, because it was always my favourite book. I think that the basic plot line is handled very well, and the special effects are downright amazing. However, I don’t agree with all of the casting decisions, and I think there are some big things from the book that the movie neglected. Overall, I still enjoy the Prisoner of Azkaban, and I think I even look at it more favourably with this re-watch.