25 Thoughts While Re-Watching “Prisoner of Azkaban”
Welcome back to the Harry Potter movie re-watch series. I, Jasmine, shall, once again, be your guide on this Prisoner of Azkaban reaction journey, as we make our way through my absolute favorite installment. Goodness, all that blue-tinged moodiness, courtesy of director Alfonso Cuarón, and the introduction of the absolutely yummy Gary Oldman. All good things. Additionally, before we go on, I feel compelled to disclose that there will be, once again, much squealing over Ron.
All right! Everyone ready? Here we go!
1. Stupid opening scene is stupid.
Um. Why is Harry using magic outside of school? Yes, in the books, he dragged his trunks up into his room so he could finish his homework in secret. But nowhere in the books does Harry frantically whisper “Lumos!” under his sheets, trying to avoid detection by Uncle Vernon. Didn’t the second movie already make clear what happens to wizards and witches who use magic outside of school? Oh, right. THEY GET SENT A HOWLER.
2. Dudley = Mikey Wormwood
When Aunt Marge’s shirt button goes flying off upon her inflation, and her button hits Dudley in the head, and he goes dramatically flopping off his chair – he’s totally Mikey Wormwood in his numerous getting-hit-in-the-head-with-food scenes in the 1996 Matilda movie. (And now that I’ve said that, all I want is to track down a Matilda/Harry Potter crossover fanfic.)
3. The Knight Bus is super cool.
I clearly remember going WTF when I first saw the Knight Bus scene the first time I watched PoA. Upon my rewatch, however, I have to admit that the movie version is actually pretty cool. Sure, the Jamaican shrunken head is a weird bit of unnecessary tokenism, and the over-the-top braking is indeed over the top. But after 15 minutes of dealing with the exaggerated conservatism of the Dursleys and Aunt Marge, a campy, extremely magical artifact was needed to dredge up my spirits.
4. Wizarding pictures
I swear, GIFs are the Muggle attempt to recreate the nearly sentient pictures that exist in the wizarding world. I giggled when JKR, via Ron, explained that, in the wizarding world, people couldn’t expect the subjects of various pictures to hang around in a tiny frame all day, as opposed to Muggle GIFs, which infinitely repeat.
But. From the first time Sirius Black’s screaming mugshot graced my screen, all I could do was turn to my sister and say, “This is why I can never be an actor. The idea of me just screaming my head off into a camera, attempting to make clear my pain, frustration, and worst-cards-dealt – I could never do that convincingly.”
So brava, Gary Oldman, brava.
5. Igor says wha?
First of all – Fudge. Ugh. What a butt-kissing turd.
Second – why did Cuarón turn Tom the landlord into a hunchbacked, Igor-esque minion to Fudge? I get the total change in style and direction between SS – where we first see Tom in the Leaky Cauldron, wiping a glass – and PoA, because of the different director at the helm, but for what reason? Explain to me what on earth this change could have added to the development of Tom’s character?
6. Harry’s stay in Diagon Alley was way too short-lived.
Harry’s stay in Diagon Alley was way too short. The movie implies that Harry’s stay is only about a day or so: He arrives at the Leaky Cauldron in the wee hours of dawn, gets settled into his room, unhappily discovers his new Care of Magical Creatures textbook, bumps into Ron and Hermione in Leaky Cauldron’s lobby, eats with the Weasley clan, and then heads out to Hogwarts.
In the book, however, Harry stays nearly two weeks at the Leaky Cauldron, exploring Diagon Alley, happily eating Florean Fortescue’s ice cream while finishing his homework in the bright sunlight. The readers get a chance to, alongside Harry, thoroughly discover what Diagon Alley has to offer, after two books of brief, tantalizing mentions of this wizarding marketplace. I’m sad we get to miss out on all this; I’m especially sad that we don’t get to see that Hermione adopted Crookshanks after a disastrous (to Ron) visit to Eeylops Owl Emporium.
7. Perfect hair is perfect.
Everyone’s hair in this movie is perfect. Just. Perfect. (UGH, do we HAVE to suffer through the awful, shaggy hairstyles that litter GoF? Why isn’t there a way to Photoshop movies after the fact?) Harry’s hair FINALLY looks the way it’s always been described throughout all the books: perpetually messy and untidy, regardless of how many haircuts Harry has endured. Ron’s hair is perfectly messily pushed up. Hermione’s hair is on the last leg of its bushy period, right before it become sleeker and sleeker for the rest of the series. Malfoy’s hair is gross and greasy, the perfect manifestation of the sleazeball that his character actually is. I LOVE THEM ALL.
8. LUPIN, MY DARLING
You all probably have already read my “HP characters who are really kind” article, in which my thesis basically boils down to “EVERYONE NEEDS TO LOVE LUPIN BECAUSE HE’S THE BESTEST.” If you haven’t, well, then, TL;DR, Lupin is ridiculously amazing, achingly strong despite his effed-up life, and deserving of all the praise. The reason I love PoA, book and movie, the most out of the entire series is because of the introduction of the characters Remus and Sirius. Yes, the Marauders backstory is fascinating as hell, but what really gets me is the evolution of the Lupin-Sirius relationship within PoA’s narrative span. They go from enemies, with mistaken grudges, to rushing-into-each-other’s-arms best friends again, all thanks to a piece of parchment trickery that the two of them helped create when they were teenagers.
An accomplished wizard, who has a steady supply of chocolate, who champions the underdog, who has patience a canyon wide, who knows the appropriate times to act as professor or mentor or friend, who equips Harry with the ability to produce a charm that not only literally saves his life but also gives him a tangible connection to his dead father. This is Lupin. From his first scene in PoA until his last one in DH – Part 2, Lupin is fantastic. Every time I re-watch PoA, my fuzzy feelings being to build, alarmingly fast.
9. Dementors look appropriately terrifying.
In OotP, the Dementors look like Venus flytraps, the visible parts of their bodies looking extra decayed and macabre. The way they look is remarkably different than the way they appear in their first incarnation; in PoA, the Dementors look wispier, with the ragged ends of their cloaks billowing behind them, sheens of ice and frost heralding their presence. Their wispy appearance, however, does not diminish the unsettling and terrifying feelings they dredge up from all the characters and even the viewers. And when they swoop in to devour Harry’s soul, their hoods falling back, Harry’s face blurring – SHUDDER INDUCING.
10. God, I love the look of this installment.
PoA, cinematically, looks superb. I know a lot of viewers have their beef with the “too blue” look of the movie, but I honestly love it, as well as the vignette-focused camera work, the stark panning over the Hogwarts grounds, and the individualized look of each character’s costume. The third book begins to move the series toward a darker side of the wizarding world, toward a world that can no longer be split up into stark black and white, and I think the film does a very good job in portraying that move. Additionally, because Trewlaney’s crystal ball crops up constantly throughout the film, it was very fitting that each scene change was the fade-in, fade-out.
11. Malfoy is an especially awful human being in PoA.
Man, Malfoy is awful in this movie. His “Potter! Potter!” stage whisper in the Great Hall was teeth-grinding. His magicked note to Harry made me headdesk. His nasty teasing of Ron and Hermione in front of the Shrieking Shack was unnecessarily pathetic. His snickering at the trio’s aghast at Buckbeak’s supposed beheading was absurd. It was only a matter of time someone went to go smack him, so all the points to Hermione!
12. Emma Thompson is a gift.
Everything about Emma Thompson’s take on Trelawney is on point. Her bug-eyed glasses, her hippie hair scarf, her lilting voice. Trelawney is unbearable in the books, but Thompson manages to imbue her with enough battiness and clumsiness that she reads as more airheaded than nose-in-the-air deluded about her Gift. When she pretends to be concerned for Hermione’s well-being, so very sarcastic, Thompson is hysterical. Near the end of the film, when she sneaks up on Harry and rasps out a prediction, oof, she gives me the jeepers.
13. Crookshanks’s role is severely diminished.
It wasn’t until I recently re-read PoA that I remembered the vital role Crookshanks played in the book. He caused the temporary fracturing of Ron and Hermione’s relationship, made it necessary for Hagrid to remind the boys that friendships shouldn’t be taken lightly, and proved to be a very smart and loyal friend to Sirius. In the movie, Crookshanks is just Hermione’s pet, who occasionally growls at Scabbers. He didn’t even get to slither to the Whomping Willow and press the knot that freezes the dangerous plant. (Because, unlike in the movie, in the books, the Whomping Willow ignored spells with ease.)
14. The Marauder’s Map.
The Marauder’s Map is SO. COOL. The creative team, who decided on a multi-layered map concept, rather than the expected blueprint on a rolled-up piece of parchment, is brilliant. Admittedly, the Map is way different than I initially imagined – instead of traveling footprints, I’d expected to see tiny stick figures with speech bubbles hanging over their heads – but in a very good way. The Map is iconic now, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
15. The discussion of Sirius Black in the Three Broomsticks
Oh, this scene. Harry’s traumatized reaction has been regurgitated into all sorts of memes, which do take away from the impact of the discussion, but since it’s the first manifestation of Harry’s angst, it’s not as cringe-inducing as I’d expected the scene to be upon my re-watch.
I do love that PoA brings back the Invisibility Cloak in full force, though. While I did miss the entire trio hearing Fudge, Madam Rosmerta, Hagrid, McGonagall, etc., talking about Pettigrew’s supposed confrontation with Sirius, the scene made a whole lot more sense to be held upstairs in a private room, rather than aloud in the first floor of the busy Three Broomsticks.
16. Page 394
Alan Rickman works those flowing robes. Yummy. He’s in full swagger mode, totally in his element, loving the chance to teach a Defense of the Dark Arts class. We finally get another view of the DADA classroom, different than the front-of-the-classroom view that we had been limited to in the first two movies, which is awesome.
Ron, once again, makes the best faces in PoA. His hair, also, has never looked better (or as good, actually). I love that, once given the direction from Cuarón to wear the Hogwarts uniform in a way that accurately reflects his character, he went with haphazardly tucked-in shirts and loosened tie. *swoon* My two favorite scenes of his are the first day of Divination, when he makes a terribly hesitant tea-leaf prediction, and when he reassures Hermione that his leg doesn’t hurt at all, nope, just a small bruise, after having been forcibly dragged down into the Shrieking Shack.
18. Gary Oldman is wonderful. As is the entire Shrieking Shack scene.
Gary Oldman made some fascinating character choices as Sirius Black, with those all-over body prison tattoos, the perpetually half-buttoned shirt, the manic eyes, and overexcited speech. My only mmph about the casting of Gary Oldman, David Thewlis, and Timothy Spall as three of the Marauders is that they’re a decade or so older than their book counterparts but whatever; they’re fantastic actors, so that’s a tiny detail.
Everything about the Shrieking Shack scene is incredible, minor details notwithstanding (e.g., Snape’s entrance into the Shack). The place itself is so dingy and depressing, Remus and Sirius, once the air has been cleared between the two of them, are fierce friends, Pettigrew is grotesquely pathetic, Snape and Sirius frustratingly refuse to listen to each other, and the whole scene just thrums with tension. It’s such a good scene.
19. Werewolf transformations look painful.
Lupin unwillingly transforming into a strung out werewolf is one of the hardest scenes to get through in the movie. You can practically feel the pain Lupin feels as his body forces itself into a bigger, bonier monster, his human face turning almost alien-like before it settles into the long-nosed wolf version. Werewolf-Lupin looks way different in the movie than I remembered; I’m not sure if years of watching Twilight and Teen Wolf made my brain forget what Cuarón’s version looked like, so I was very much taken aback at how painful the transformation looks.
20. Hermione’s Time-Turner
Every time I watch PoA, I always marvel at how pretty Hermione’s Time-Turner is. Also, I want my own personal Time-Turner. How awesome would it be to have an infinite number of times I can repeat an hour, a day, to get things done that I need to get done?
21. Dumbledore, stalling for time, gloriously steals the scene.
Bullshitting Dumbledore is the best Dumbledore.
22. WHY is Harry’s Patronus NOT a stag??
I’M SO MIFFED. Harry’s Patronus being a stag is such an important part of the series, as well as being such an important part of Harry’s realization that he, himself, has the ability and power to save Sirius from an unnecessary Dementor’s Kiss. The cantering stag symbolizes loss as well as hope and rebirth, and by excising that from the movie, we lose a vital part of the narrative.
23. I love the movie’s Harry-Sirius goodbye scene.
When reading the book’s version of Harry’s and Sirius’s goodbye, I always felt a bit gypped. After all this time and all this misunderstanding, JKR wasn’t able to give them more than a minute to part ways? Thankfully, the movie gave Harry and Sirius a small window of time to tearfully say goodbye, wistfully imagine what life would’ve been like had Pettigrew been captured, and reminisce over what James was like as a person, not just an idealized dad. This made their goodbye even sadder, but it gave them satisfying closure.
Except: Buckbeak never getting to say goodbye to Hagrid makes me sob.
24. Lupin’s packing method is on point.
It’s like Mary Poppins but with more variety. His clothes packing themselves up, by the way, gave a quick look into Lupin’s fantastic wardrobe. We already knew Lupin was a snazzy man, what with his elbow-patch cardigans and his gramophone that piped jazz music. Brogues?! Yes, please!
25. The end credits are fantastic.
The wandering footprints are the cutest part of the Marauder’s Map, and I love that the movie ends with a meander around the whole thing.
What were your thoughts when re-watching the third movie? Sound off in the comments below!