PG, and now we're really stretching the truth for what makes a valid PG movie. I know, the PG of my youth was way worse than this. But it wasn't as super subjective as it is today. This still has violence and scary things. Dementors! DEE-MENTORS! They suck out your soul. Also, there are werewolves in this. I feel like that can get pretty gory. It's still a Harry Potter movie. Oh, Harry kinda sorta kills a person because she gets on his nerves. The Knight Bus is also very spooky. PG.
DIRECTOR: Alfonso Cuarón
He made the movie on a dare! That's right. At least, I've read that headline a half-a-dozen times without reading the article. Before I get too deep into my Harry Potter whining, let me put this out there. I hate typing on this computer. To get my projector working, my aspect ratio is all screwed up. It never used to be like this. I used to be able to split the monitors into two. But now, I have to just deal with almost a mobile version of this website. I know. My life is the hardest. I just needed to vent. But I suppose that I should get used to writing like this if I want to keep writing.
I remember thinking, when I first entered the Wizarding World, that maybe the Harry Potter franchise wasn't that bad based on this one. Here's the backstory, and I've probably provided this story before. When I first started teaching, even before certification, in the halcyon days of Harry Potter worship, I promised my students that I would read all of the books if they all did really well on their final presentations. They did, and I binged the books in about three weeks. I always have to put this disclaimer on everything Harry Potter-related because everyone should know that I'm not a Harry Potter fan. After reading them and watching the movies, I suppose that I get why people like them. But I can only give the franchise the glowing review of "It's fine." I think Harry Potter fans, at least the level-headed ones, tend to be amongst the better fans out there. Now, I think there's a lot of snobbery influencing my choice here. I probably watched this in 2008 or something. I read the book around the same time. When I found out that Alfonso Cuarón directed this, of course I said that it was my favorite. I told people that I really liked it. So when I came to the rewatch, now that my daughter is deep into the Harry Potter universe, I was really looking forward to something. Do you know how hard it was to not fall asleep during this movie? It was tough. Now, I'm going to forgive myself a bit. Cuarón's entry is way better than Columbus's entries into the series. If you read my comments on the first two films, I'm very forgiving of Columbus. He's setting up a lot and that's why his movies look the way they do. But Cuarón pushes the franchise forward. It still feels very much like a sequel to those movies, often referring to Columbus for the tone, but they do seem to be slightly riskier than the first two movies. Harry doesn't really feel like a tiny little kid in this movie. Cuarón understands that kids aren't just one thing. That might actually be a big improvement over Rowling's choices. When I look at the illustrations, I still think of Harry as this tiny child. I know that the Potterheads (that's their nickname, right?) would probaby fight me tooth and nail, but I really get the vibe that Harry is younger in the book of The Prisoner of Azkaban than he is in the movie adaptation.
But I still found The Prisoner of Azkaban film kind of boring. Not a little boring, but actually quite dull. Perhaps my philosophy of investment might be more complicated than I've admitted in the past. I tend to believe that to invest in something often leads to a greater appreciation of that thing. I want people to watch Doctor Who season five with such openness because I want them to get the same experience I had. In my mind, there's no doubt that it would happen. But like those head/heart cartoons I keep seeing on Facebook should remind me, the head and the heart like two very different things. I'm always secretly terrified to recommend stuff because I can't handle when people don't like things that I adore. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban really invests in its own mythology. It assumes that the people who are reading / watching the third entry of the series are fans already. There's very little in terms of slowing down the story. Nor should they, I guess. I don't think I want another pile of Harry Potter exposition or character development for its own sake in this one. For Harry, plot is king. He's fundamentally the same character in book one as he is in book seven, with the exception of self-esteem and age. Yeah, he gets into some pretty dark stuff by the end of the franchise. But we have no harder time relating to him in the first book than we do in the last. My apathy of Harry Potter has always been that, if you took a summary of the arc of the entire series, stressing the mythology, you'd have a pretty good story. It's just that there's a lot of junk in there that gets in the way of the story allowing itself to be told. Azkaban is my Evidence One that Harry Potter is about plot over character. This one gets pretty nerdy pretty fast. We have to accept a lot about the Wizarding World of Harry Potter to get this story started. But can I complain about that? The reason why Avengers: Endgame works so well is that everything is about the fans at this point. I can't imagine going into Avengers: Endgame without caring about the Marvel movies one bit. That's kind of the point. I'm not mad that they made that decision to start diving deep into Potter mythology. It's what needed to happen. It's just that I don't care. The only real takeaway I got from that movie is the stuff in the Shrieking Shack with Peter Pettigrew. That's fun. I can get behind that.
Also, is it just me or is Harry kind of an unlikable character? I want to specifically talk about the exposition sequence of Azkaban where Harry is okay with the probably death of a human being. I get it. It's for laughs. Rowling will Horcrux away an explanation for why people are so terrible to Harry in book seven, but it is bizarre how muggles treat Harry. Like, everyone hates him and tells him to his face about how terrible he is. Like, everyone. I don't know why Harry hasn't just started using his abilities like this left and right, but it does kind of paint him in a negative light. After getting ripped apart on a really bizarre tirade, Harry turns a person into an inflated balloon? Like, she floats away. What is Harry's play here? The best case scenario is that the lady makes it down safely and now is well-keyed into Harry's magical ways. I know. The Ministry of Magic took care of it, but realistically, that lady should be dead. Like, honestly. While the best case scenario is that she makes to the ground okay, she should be dead. Like, super dead. Anything could have popped her. Or, she could have just starved to death up there. It's not like Harry went chasing after her to bring her down. No, he just runs away on the Knight Bus, leaving her to her fate. I get that's not the thought process we're supposed to have. We're supposed to be looking at the annoying bully who just got her comeuppance. But Harry just walks away from that like a gangsta who just murdered someone. I can't be like, "I can't wait for Harry's adventure in this one" after he murders a lady. I don't know why I like the exposition of a lot of fantasy stories. I am the same way with Middle Earth. I want to hang out in the Shire the entire time. I'm kind of the same way about the Dursleys. When Harry, a magical kid, goes to a magical world, I get bored. When everything is special, nothing is special. But I'm really intrigued by Harry the magical kid in a world where no one has magic. It's why X-Men is cool, especially when we get that lone mutant storyline. But this one kind of just gets dark. I wonder if that has to do with Cuarón. I mean, he got the Dementors movie out of all of them. I guess he knew what he was signing up for.
I can't feel too bad for Cuarón because he signed up for this, despite the fact that he didn't want to do it. I loved this movie because he directed it. At least, I said I did. But this movie seems so restricting for him. I'm thinking of his other pictures and how there's such a strong message to those films. Cuarón feels like he's just marching to a corporate beat. Yeah, I can kind of tell that he's not Chris Columbus, but he's not exactly stretching himself artistically. After watching the rest of his ouevre, this one feels kind of soulless. (Hey, that's what the Dementors do!) I want something deeper. Also, I know that I'm not the first person to mention that the Time Turner is such a cop out, especially considering that it is barely alluded to beforehand. (I know, Hermione is at two places at once often.) But it really reads like Superman spinning the world backwards on its axis. The damage has been done. I don't know why everyone gets another chance, especially considering that the time turner is one of those tools that just completely the loop. It's so easily put back together. The movie isn't really about second chances. If it was, Sirius Black would have stayed with Harry. I never really understood why Sirius didn't get to be Harry's dad. He's this character that we're meant to bond with, but he doesn't really get to stick around, does he? He feels like a TV character that doesn't have enough of an arc to justify paying that actor to show up all the time. I'm looking at you, John Wesley Shipp on The Flash. Also, John Winchester, same deal. Yeah, putting Sirius into the story would have gotten rid of my favorite element of the Harry Potter films, but I don't even care. I just want something different. Which kind of leads me to my least favorite things about these movies...
...please stop making them take place over the course of a year. Rather than have organic realizations and growth, the movies feel really disjointed. A lot of time passes between moments and it just drags. I don't need to see Hogwarts in its various seasons. Just exist in the moment. I don't really understand if Goblet of Fire follows those rules, but it feels less broken apart. I don't like that movie either, but that's a story for another day.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.