Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

1. As a whole, the Harry Potter series follows the adventures of a young wizard and his friends in their ever-growing battle against the most dangerous dark wizard of their time, Lord Voldemort. However, Prisoner of Azkaban does not include Voldemort; instead, it features a disturbed prisoner, Sirius Black, who escapes from prison to hunt Harry down. He is believed to be the reason that Harry’s parents are dead. However, we find that the opposite is true–he tried to save Harry’s parents, and only seeks Harry out so that he can know the truth. The book ends with his flight of freedom, thanks to Harry, who grows to see him as a father figure. The book’s literary merits are undeniable–the whole series is universally appealing, to people of all ages, and is one of the world’s most beloved series.

2. The film version was directed by Alfonso Cuaron, who we now know as the Oscar-winning director of Gravity. Cuaron directed only this Harry Potter film, though; the other seven were directed by a total of 3 others, and the previous two were directed by Chris Columbus. Though the book version was darker than the previous two books, the contrast is more notable between the films; under Columbus, the first two were mostly bright and fun, while Cuaron’s style allows for more intensity and darkness. He also used different filming and editing techniques, giving the film more of a sense of urgency than the other two. Overall, the film keeps up the momentum of its predecessors.

3. The film version faithfully follows the plot of the book, as well as most of its characters, and it follows the tone of the book as the series begins to darken in content. The previous two films were pretty light and fun by comparison, but Prisoner of Azkaban takes a darker turn, both with the trajectory of the series as a whole and with the introduction of dementors. The embodiment of these soul-sucking creatures onscreen makes them even more terrifying by putting a ‘face’ (a decrepit mouth-hole) to the concept. The main problem that many critics have with the film is that, though it is a great film in its own right, it may not necessarily be a great adaptation of the original text. The main obstacle facing the movie’s creators was, of course, the huge and vocal fanbase of the books, including a large number of fans who want the films to be an exact replica of the way they imagined the books. Of course, this couldn’t be done, and many scenes had to be cut or shortened, but Cuaron also added in some subtext that may not have existed in the original stories. He introduced a new element to the character of Remus Lupin, a werewolf, equating his struggles to those of a gay man. (JK Rowling has said that she meant Lupin’s condition to be an allegory for AIDS and the discrimination that its patients face, so he was not far off the mark.)

4. http://www.timeout.com/london/film/harry-potter-and-the-prisoner-of-azkaban This article addresses the way Prisoner of Azkaban delves deeper into the personalities and motivations the central characters, especially Harry and Hermione.

http://www.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=980DE2D81431F930A35755C0A9629C8B63 This article from the New York Times is a review, but it expands on the differences between Cuaron’s film and the first two Potter installments. The author points out that the first two movies were more similar to the books, but that they watched like ‘staged readings’ of the source material. In contrast, Cuaron achieves a trickier ‘translation’ in his adaptation; he sacrifices a more faithful adaptation for something that packs more of an emotional punch.

http://www.infoplease.com/spot/harrymovie4.html This article is unique in that it addresses what might happen with the future films in the series. (It’s honestly just eerie as the author speculates whether or not the main actors will return for the fifth movie.)

5. The way to defeat a boggart is to turn it into a figure of fun, using the spell “Riddikulus!” In a similar way, how does the film use comedy to keep our darkest fears at bay? Does this make the film escapist entertainment?

The film does use comedy to lessen our fears, but this does not make it an escapist film–far from it. Almost all media with this degree of action and intensity supplies some sort of comic relief, and Prisoner of Azkaban is no different. Humorous moments are thrown in to keep viewers from getting too wrapped up in the action, providing little bursts of light to an otherwise dark film. This does not make it an escapist film–in fact, it does the opposite. The fact that comedy is used to banish the fearful boggart is a testament to the power of humor and positivity; it doesn’t merely distract us from our fears, it helps us to banish them. The “riddikulus” spell is a deliberate and powerful tool in the fight against fear. The spell gives its users the ability to consciously overcome what it is they fear, not run away from it. To quote Professor Dumbledore, “Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”

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