Friday, 17 June 2011

Harry Potter: The Prisoner of Azkaban - Book vs. Film

The third book in the series saw the world of Harry Potter get even darker than its predecessor The Chamber of Secrets and also saw the introduction of a whole bunch of new characters including the fantastically demented Sirius Black, new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher Remus Lupin, the totally bonkers Professor Trelawney, the chillingly creepy dementors and the magical hipogrif Buckbeak.

Sirius Black is one of the most feared prisoners held at the magical prison of Azkaban, guarded by the terrifying dementors who don't kill you - they suck out your soul with a dementor's kiss. But Sirius has done the impossible and broken out of Azkaban and is after Harry. Of course, having been sheltered from the wizarding world until his eleventh birthday, Harry doesn't know who Sirius is or why on earth he would be after him and will soon unearth a horrific secret about how Voldermort found his parents and killed them - they were betrayed by their best friend.

Hermione and Ron begin an argument that seems neverending as Hermione's new cat takes an instant dislike to Ron's rat Scabbers and Harry is caught in the middle while dealing with his own issues (and the poor kid has bigger issues than most!). The third year students are allowed to have weekend trips to the nearby town of Hogsmeade but Harry is excluded as he has no permission slip allowing him to go, leaving him behind while all his friends go and have fun elsewhere. Hermione also becomes a little frazzled after taking on a rather demanding work load and, as is often the case in the world Harry and his friends - things are not always as they seem. The twists and turns are non-stop and will leave you guessing right to the end and every character seems to be hiding a dark secret.

This is the first book where as a reader you start to appreciate JK Rowling not just for her brilliant imagination but for her unbelievable creativity and complexity in her writing.

The film version is one of the best and most popular of the series, despite it's bad ending which is not only simplified but altered entirely from the brilliant twists of the book. Seeing the hipogrif on the big screen really is magical and the dementors are the stuff of nightmares, fantastically realised by new Director Alfonso CuarĂ³n.

Due to the sad death of Richard Harris, the role of Albus Dumbledore was taken over by Michael Gambon who, though a brilliant actor in his own right, never managed to capture the role for me as well as Harris did. Dumbledore is a very particular character who must be powerful (as he is the only wizard feared by Voldermort) and grandfatherly. I never quite believe Gambon as the grandfather type - perhaps because Harris did it so well.

It's great to see more of Robbie Coltrane as Hagrid gets more involvement in the plot and the introduction of Emma Thompson as Professor Trelawney armed with crazy large glasses and a quirky and totally mad performance Thompson pulls off as only she can.

George Weasley: Yeah, c'mon, Ron. We'll walk you off the
Astronomy Tower and see how you come out looking.
Harry: Probably a right sight better than he normally does.

There's also some great effects and a brilliant finale as magical creatures take over their human counterparts with impressive fights and flight sequences. Oh and Hermione finally gets her own back (albeit briefly) on the nasty Draco for always calling her 'mudblood'. You go girl!

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