Gryffindor Tower #20: The Darker Harry Potter

by Dan

*****SPOILER WARNING*****

Friday night was an odd night for me, as my friends aren’t used to seeing me jump up and down like a little kid at Christmas. Although, unlike Christmas, there was as much nervousness as excitement coursing through my body. I was worried, I admit it. I did have an open mind…but…what if? What if Alfonso Cuaron butchered my Harry Potter universe? I was scared, all right…so, as the lights dimmed and the trailer for The Polar Express came to an end, I sat back, took a breath, and tried my best to open my mind.

The Bad

First off, there were a few major problems with the PoA flick, mainly to due with the story. Now, before I go any farther, don’t misunderstand me: I understand what it takes to make a major motion picture, and I have no problem with the screenwriter and/or director taking out parts of the book that are not integral to the main plot, or rearranging events so as to make the movie more understandable. That being said, although I was sad that the Quidditch Cup Finals didn’t make the cut, it didn’t affect my opinion of the movie. I did, however, have some complaints. And, of course, I welcome feedback on my opinions, but remember, these are MY opinions, and I have no problem with anyone disagreeing with me.

I’ll be blunt: I did not like Michael Gambon as Dumbledore. Dumbledore, as portrayed in the books, is a loving, grandfatherly-type headmaster, kind yet somewhat mischievous. The late Richard Harris exuded a caring, affectionate aura that made me, from the first scene of the first movie, trust him. He lacked, however, any kind of sarcastic or playful demeanor. Gambon, on the other hand, certainly was a mischievous character, however I personally did not see the “twinkle in Dumbledore’s eye” that I felt Harris showed much more effectively. By the third movie, Dumbledore and Harry have a great relationship, and due to the plotline adopted by the movie, we didn’t see much interaction between the two.

My other major problem is, of course, the story. While I am quite happy that the Sirius Black story was set up very well, there were certain facts left out that certainly bothered me. For instance, why does Snape hate Sirius? How, moreover, did Lupin know that the piece of parchment Harry was carrying was a map? If you went with friends who haven’t read the books before, ask them: who were Moony (NOT MOONEY), Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs, and how did they relate to Sirius, Lupin, James, and Peter?

The Good

This list is quite a bit more extensive than the bad list. First and foremost, PoA was one of the most visually stunning movies I’d ever seen. The darker, mysterious lighting and muted colors were effective beyond what anyone could have imagined. Cuaron’s eye for cinematography was extraordinary, and his cinematographer did an exceptional job of giving PoA a fluid and momentous feel that I believe blew the first two movies out of the water. The soundtrack as well is a masterpiece, and I cannot remember being so moved by the music throughout any movie as I was during PoA. The Knight Bus music, a jazzy, big-band-sounding piece was pure gold, and the “Window to the Past” music during Lupin’s first talk with Harry during the Hogsmeade weekend is reminiscent of invoking the same emotion as the LotR score.

As the movie opens, we see Harry sitting up in bed, practicing a spell. After the title sequence, the story shifts to the Dursley’s hallway, where Harry is letting Aunt Marge in the house. He says almost nothing until they are all having a meal in the kitchen. Marge asks Harry if they use a cane at St. Brutus’s, and when he answered, I almost died. When the hell did Dan Radcliffe learn to act?!? To be honest, I was not thrilled with his performances in the first two movies…the acting was okay, but his interaction seemed too…forced. For the first time, I got the feeling that these kids, all the kids, were really friends…Harry’s interaction with the Hogwarts students is so much more realistic and normal than the first two movies. There’s nothing proper or rigid about their dialogue, and their facial expressions and tones gave off an impression of much more flexibility in their acting ability.

David Thewlis, in my opinion, was a good Lupin. Not a great, amazing Lupin, but he did it well. The relationship between Harry and Lupin is told intricately and effectively, and the scenes with the two were the emotional crux of the film. Gary Oldman, taking up the role of the title prisoner of Azkaban, Sirius Black, was nothing short of brilliant. Oldman is a versatile actor who slid into this role without any problem. Peter Pettigrew’s Timothy Spall is…well…weird, but an interesting choice for Wormtail.

This movie was loaded with comedy, and I don’t think anyone will ever be able to see Ron jump up in bed screaming, “Spi-spiders, they want me to tap dance!” without bursting out into fits of laughter.

I really enjoyed this movie. It was dark, funny, scary, and above all, a great Harry Potter movie. It lacked some important points, and that’s why, if I had to give it a rating, I’d give it four out of five stars. Any questions/complaints/etc, feel free to use the feedback form.

This week’s Owl Post had to be shortened, as this week’s sender, Jewal, wrote me a wonderful and very long email! Thank you Jewal! (Not to deter any of you from sending me long emails, but I cannot post them in their entirety on the column). So, here goes:

Dumbledore said “only a true Gryffindor could pull the sword of Godric Gryffindor out of the hat”. At the time I was wondering just how literally he meant that. I remember thinking as I watched the movie, was that a hint? So, after watching the COS movie the other day I suddenly thought, what if Harry is actually descended from BOTH Gryffindor and Slytherin, ultimately inheriting power from both lines. Another thought that came along separate from that… What if somehow Hermione is a descendant of Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff? (I know that is far fetched but wouldn’t her parents have to have some wizard blood in them somehow to have a wizard child? Even though they are considered Muggles? I don’t fully understand the dynamics of that whole thing. Do full on Muggles actually give birth to wizards? Just out of the blue?) Well, Jewal, first off, there is one problem with your theory: Tom Marvolo Riddle was, as Dumbledore states in the end of CoS (the book, not the movie), the last descendant of Salazar Slytherin. Moreover, personally, I don’t think Hermione is the heir to either of those two houses…if she was, why would she be in Gryffindor? And finally, I actually do think that Muggles just give birth to wizards…if there is an explanation, we have yet to hear it from Jo, as far as I know. Thanks again, Jewal!

As always, feel free to email me any theories/ideas/questions you have about the HP world. Please include where you’re from so I may have something more to call you by than just your first name. Take care everyone, and until next week, you tell those spiders! !

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