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Harry Potter.... (no, not that one)

Yes, this is about Harry Potter, but not the newest book (which I should be getting tomorrow when UPS arrives, if nothing goes wrong *knocks on wood*). I happened to receive my ordered copy of the Prisoner of Azkaban movie today, since I had found it at a surprisingly low price in my "Gold Box" offers. Well, surprising, until I watched it.

So in honor of the occasion, I figured I'd put up my own review, behind a cut for spoilers of course. I'll spoil the movie, but try to avoid spoiling *too* much of the book itself, though some comparisons must be made. (And yes, in this case I think it's two separate sets of spoilers).

And yes, I probably should be in bed but.. meh, long day, head full, and figure I might as well get something semi-productive done.

So. Not happy.

I read the book Prisoner of Azkaban some time back, and have re-read a couple times since then. Yet this is actually my first time watching the movie. And I have to say straight out that I was completely unhappy with how they took a book - maybe not Lord of the Rings depth, but surprisingly deep and moving, especially considering it's meant to be a kids' book - and turned it into basically a bunch of vignettes strung together mostly as a platform to show their Neat Special Effects.

Of course, at the rate the actors were chewing the *normal* scenery, I suppose there's some excuse for the reliance on special effects, since there was probably nothing else left as a backdrop for the action.

Now, I'll admit to some extent, some of this may be the fact that I was watching it on, frankly, a crummy day in general. Plus a day when my expectations are high, since I'm expecting the next book.

And to some extent, some of my problems with the movie are probably inherent in a film of this type - for one thing, the characters on the film really didn't match up with those in my head. And second, the fact that the book and story within are long, a LOT happens, and they just don't have all that much time to put stuff on film.

Except. Even allowing for that, it just doesn't hold up.

With the characters for example. Yes, to some extent, the characters naturally aren't going to fit up perfectly with how I pictured them. Lupin, for example, is completely different from my mental image - but offhand, I can't figure out how the character on film would differ from what's described in the book. So that... not really the filmmakers' fault (unless there are huge differences that I can't think of offhand).

But then we turn around and have messes like Sirius, and Peter. Whose idea was it to have a man who "resembles a rat" to turn around and actually be pretty much a rat-man in his "normal" form? What the hell? McGonnagal, what little we see her, comes across less as a very capable teacher and more a schoolyard gossip. Trelawny - that's another case that may just be a difference of interpretation, but I pictured her (and I think the book describes her) more as an elegant woman, full of self-importance, who happens to be a flake and a fraud. In the movie? Hippy cornflake.

And Sirius - yes, we do get a build-up in the book of some complete nutter, but that's mostly from peoples' expectations, and when we actually see the man himself, the real impression we get is not of madness, but just of rage. Yet in the film? Complete whackjob, with occasional sane bits. Hell, you'd have to sit and wonder why Harry would ever want to trust himself to this godfather, wanting to get away from the Dursleys or not.

And speaking of Harry himself - could he come across as any more of a dark little wizard in the making? Hell, I realize you can't include a ton of internal monologue in a movie or what have you, but while in the book he's not a saint but at least comes across as having reasons for what he does, half the time in the movie he just seemed to be, well, channeling to Dark Side. With his Aunt, he seems to be intentionally causing her possibly irreparable harm, and being a complete prat about it. At the end, he decides to turn against Snape for apparently no real reason, attacking a teacher and risking freeing an insane murderer in the process. The hell?

And the time thing. You know, if you're having SUCH a time crunch that you must cut out a ton of scenes, you might THINK that you wouldn't make the situation worse by ADDING IN a bunch of extraneous scenes that weren't in the book, apparently just to show off your Nifty Special Effects. Like the fact that they took basically a scuffle-and-dash, and decided to just turn it into two big strung-out fights with a werewolf? And what a screwed up werewolf that was - at least then I realized why they changed the whole "recognition" part of the Dark Arts class to "what's the difference between a werewolf and an animagus" rather than how can you tell a werewolf from a normal wolf" - since in the movie's world, that'd be a no-brainer.

Also, when you do have to cut out scenes, it helps if they aren't some of the perhaps minor scenes that make the book as warm as it is, and also cut out scenes that frankly are going to cause problems later in the series for being cut. Like Pigwidgeon. They don't even bother to show the scene where Ron receives him, unless they're going to cut that lil' guy out of the movies altogether later on. And the scene where Harry meets up with the Dursleys, and basically gets his "out" from getting picked on too badly the next summer. The scene with Ron in bed, and the attack. And speaking of attacks, the scene with the Fat Lady and her painting slashing, where she goes from a serious victim seeking comfort from a friend into a Hippo joke. And the total omission (except a few sightings, not pointed out) of Sir Cadigan, although that at least can be attributed to lack of time. Or Crookshanks - hell, I'm wondering why they bothered to even include MENTION of him in the movie. They took out Hermione getting him - he just shows up. They take out any of his connections to Sirius. And the one thing he does do in the movie - cause Scabbers to apparently die - is almost nullified by the fact that they don't even bother to have Ron and Hermione have a big row over it.

And then as I mentioned they in their infinite wisdom also decide to cut out all the minor scenes that yet were so great, and stand out more than most from the book. Like Neville and the passwords (and don't even get me started on Neville - the word coming to mind when we see him is supposed to be "clumsy," not "pratfall" or "slapstick" - he's a clutzy kid who can't do anything right, not a freaking Vaudeville act). Or the (correct) receiving of the Firebolt, and the fallout from that. Or... for Pete's sake.. the whole second match of Quidditch! Hell, even poor Hogsmeade barely rated any screen time. OR Snape, one of the whole banes of Harry's existance. Damnit, they couldn't even keep the ending of the "rescue" right, and give Harry and Hermione a "watertight" alibi as to just why they didn't help in the escape.

And the Dementors themselves. I remember them being described as more or less "floating" along the ground. I don't recall them being able to fly three friggin hundred feet in the air. Not to mention that it's a bit pathetic when the actual special effects themselves start competing with the actors in a how-big-is-your-hamminess competition. Oh, and it would have been nice to have some mention of the Dementors' Kiss, and the danger that it poses, BEFORE pretty much all the danger from them was ancient history.

And probably the worst omission in the entire movie? Yeah, the map, and more importantly its creators. You know, considering the fact that the whole "Moonie, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs" thing was in many ways CENTRAL TO THE PLOT OF THE BOOK, it might have been nice to even have SOME MENTION OF IT in explanation. You know? You think? But not a word. The only time we *hear* those names is when the map is read from. Touching on that, they don't even *bother* to really point out how Sirius escaped, or how he broke into Hogwarts, although at least some of that can be put together by an astute watcher who really connects the dots well. But we get NO mention of Lupin's history with the group, or why the group really formed (and under those names) in the first place, we get NO explanation of the whole getup at the end when Harry is confronting Sirius (and gods do we miss so much from it! That entire scene was just... limp), and we have no idea of how it connects to Harry, his Patronus - anything. Hell, we don't even get a mention of a Secret Keeper, or just why it was so "positive" that Sirius was behind Peter's death, or how it actually came to be that he wasn't. NOTHING. Gah, I'm getting angry just thinking about it again.

It seems like there was more that I wanted to touch on but... at this point, I can't even think of it all. There was just so much that annoyed me about that movie - I'm really hoping the next one will at least bring SOME credit to the books themselves, rather than being an excuse for Flashy Things on the screen.

Oh yes, I did want to say - the one thing I did like about the movie was Buckbeak. Really cool Hippogriff. I so totally want one! Too bad it wasn't enough to save the rest of the movie...

So... yeah. Not too thrilled with the movie adaptation. Ya think?



( 4 Notes — Write a Footnote )
Jul. 16th, 2005 01:09 pm (UTC)
It's been a while since I saw any of the movies (I think I haven't seen PoA since release week, actually), and I can't really argue with quite a few of your points, but:

Whose idea was it to have a man who "resembles a rat" to turn around and actually be pretty much a rat-man in his "normal" form? What the hell?

That would be JK Rowling, actually. Repeatedly and in medium detail, she goes into how much Wormtail looks like a rat.

Trelawny - that's another case that may just be a difference of interpretation, but I pictured her (and I think the book describes her) more as an elegant woman, full of self-importance, who happens to be a flake and a fraud. In the movie? Hippy cornflake.

Trelawney elegant? She's described as an over-makeupped lady who likes to dress in pink veils and whose classroom is frou-frou to the max. That's not 'elegant' in my book, even if it's not quite the way they portrayed her in the movie either.

By the way, the map is referred to extensively in the Credits sequence, in that the Credits play themselves out as the map is described to work.

The rest of your points, I plead no contest.

Jul. 16th, 2005 02:36 pm (UTC)
I think it was far and away the best of the movie adaptations so far, but I also think as the series progresses the movies are going to get worse. If Sorcerer's Stone had been made by a competent director, it could have been a fairly faithful rendering of the book - because it's a short, simple book. PoA (while not as long and complex as those that follow it) had to have quite a bit of ornamentation and a fair amount of core story stripped out in order to fit into the alloted time, and then it made no sense so they put all the frou-frou Effects in so people wouldn't notice.

I'm actually kind of dreading the Goblet of Fire movie.
Jul. 17th, 2005 08:33 am (UTC)
Are we still hearing rumours that GoF will be two films?

Otherwise, um, yeah. Plot compression == bastardisation.
Jul. 19th, 2005 12:18 am (UTC)
I agree with you 100%. The casting in the Harry Potter movies is uniformly awful, with the exception of Harry, Ron, and Hermione. It's nice that they did alright with the three most important characters, but literally EVERY OTHER CHARACTER is off. Neville is horrible, he's supposed to be shy and insecure, not a kid who belongs in special ed. The first Dumbledore sounded way too old and frail, and didn't have a tenth of the real Dumbledore's personality - he didn't even sound remotely upset about eating the earwax-flavored jelly bean. *I* could have delivered that "alas, earwax!" line better than he did. I also hate the way they leave out important things while including tons of extraneous crap. It's like they don't understand what makes the books enjoyable, they're just going for action and dumb slapstick (when there's plenty of *witty* comedy they could use right there in the book). And yes, I have the same impression that they're just stringing together scenes without any attempt to build a narrative, just banking on the viewer already knowing the plot. None of the movies have any dramatic tension whatsoever.
( 4 Notes — Write a Footnote )