Wednesday, August 12, 2015

RE-READ | Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

I'm up to book three in my re-read of the Harry Potter series.  HP & the P of A was a lot more interesting read the second time around.  The movie is arguably the most interesting as well with the distinctive direction of Alfonso Cuaron.

In the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry and the gang are a little distracted from their impending fight against Voldemort and are instead focused on the past and sorting out who their other enemies might be.  Sirius Black has escaped from Azkaban Prison and according to everyone in the wizarding world he must be hunting Harry.  Sirius' actions support this idea but are also mysterious.  In addition, being hunted by a violent murderer isn't all Harry has to worry about.  There's also the Quidditch cup, a feud between his two best friend's pets, and Hagrid's disastrous debut as a teacher thanks to Draco.  Speaking of which, look how friendly and goofy Buckbeak looks on the cover of the book - he's so full of joy to be alive, ha ha! 

  Some other thoughts on Book 3 of the Harry Potter Series:
  •  This book introduces Remus Lupin (who I took even more of a shine to the second time around), Sirius Black, Rosmerta, Cedric Diggory, Crookshanks, Professor Trelawney and Hogsmeade (so it's not a character, sue me). 
  • Is this the only book in the series where Voldemort does not make an appearance?  The focus of the story is very much in the past and not on what's to come.
  • Again with Rowling's attention to detail:  In my post about Sorcerer's Stone I expressed confusion about how Hagrid could have borrowed Sirius flying motorcycle considering what's believed about Black.  Selah from A Bibliophile's Style set me straight, explaining that there was a gap of time in there before people "discovered" that Black had betrayed the Potters.  In this book, J.K. lays out exactly how Hagrid came to be using Sirius' bike and the precise timeline.  Seriously, how much detail did Rowling have planned out from the beginning?!? I'm in awe.
  • The two most interesting characters in this book for me are:
    • Severus Snape:  He becomes more interesting during a second read through of the series, because of what we end up knowing about him.  He is ridiculously vindictive in this book and at times downright cruel (torturing and denigrating Neville).  His hatred of Black and Lupin (but mostly Black) is incredibly dark and ugly.  His strong negative feelings towards Black are understandable when you consider not just what Black did to Snape (and we know the four friends, James Potter included, were really big jerks to Snape) but ALSO, he believes that Sirius is at least partially responsible for the death of Lily.   Is his behavior all, mostly, or just a little bit of an act considering his future role as double agent?  Or is Snape really a bitter, miserable jerk who just happens to have his moral compass adjusted correctly?  
    • Hermione:  Several times in the story she is the one with the cooler and better head to the point where she defies Ron and Harry and does things that are very unpopular with them (threatening to tell about the map, telling McGonagle about the Firebolt). She does this while tackling a massive course load and even finds her inner feisty rule-breaker when she slaps Draco and walks out on Divinaton.  She's finding herself and it's kind of awesome.  Ron has a point about Crookshanks BUT as we know Crookshanks had a very good reason to be going after Scabbers.  Ron and Harry (especially Ron) come off not nearly so well as Hermione.  They act like pretty typical 13 year old boys which means they are clannish jerks to Hermione and I wanted to slap them both silly. 
  • I've always been a fan of Ron and Hermione together but because of the above behaviors I am finding, this second time around, that I am feeling like Ron doesn't deserve her!     
  • Is there any sweeter scene then the one between Sirius and Harry as they awkwardly try to reach out to each other? Sirius asking if Harry might want to live with him and Harry anxiously agreeing. Both of them have had a very rough 12 years without a lot of affection and it is just so poignant that things don't work out for them though maybe it's for the best?  I'm not entirely sure Sirius would be the best of influences on Harry - fine in short intervals but I'm not sure about 24/7.  
  • Finally, I love the nicknames - Moony, Padfoot, Wormtail and Prongs.  They seem quite obscure and strange until the nature of each boys' animagus is revealed and then it's totally obvious.  
Five out of Five Stars:

The Movie  

At this point in the movie series, each one has been better than the one before and this movie from a cinematic point of view may be the best in the series.  Alfonso Cuaron's vision is unique and visually interesting.   I love the visualizations of the Dementors, The Night Bus and the Marauder's map.  However, while the first two movies stuck close to the source material there are a lot of changes made in Prisoner of Azkaban, some good perhaps and some which I think weaken the movie a bit.

The conflict between Hermione and the boys is mostly swept under the rug along with all of the plot points that go along with it - Crookshanks' role is mostly ignored and most of the Quidditch and the Firebolt controversy is avoided.  Snape is softened a bit in the movie - his edges sanded.   What Harry hears in his head when he encounters the dementors is also gentled.  In the book, he can actually hear his mother pleading with Voldemort, trying to save Harry's life and there is a lot more detail. It's heart wrenching.  I'm wondering if they thought that it would be too disturbing for the movie so instead they just had Harry hear some generic screaming.  The whole idea of the secret keeper is left out and the whole scenario is greatly simplified.  I do think these changes/omissions are slight weaknesses in the movie but they don't in any way ruin it.

In addition to its visuals the movie also has a few other things that I love.  The Bogart scene is so much fun and better than in the book where it is oddly dull. I also love the fierceness and timing of Hermione's punch of Draco. Such a good scene.  Finally, as is pretty much the case with most of the series there is so much good casting.  Davd Thewlis is perfect as Lupin and I am also quite fond of Dawn French as the Fat Lady and Emma Thompson as Professor Trelawney.

Four out of Five Stars:

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