Monday, August 9, 2010

"When One Only Remembers to Turn on the Light"

Here's a movie formula for you: take Alan Rickman, with his delicious penchant for diabolical characters; Gary Oldman, whose barely-below-the-surface craziness is tempered by his (usually) quiet delivery; Emma Thompson in a spectacularly over-the-top role; Alfonso Cuaron, whose visual style is absolutely to die for; all sorts of whimsical and fantastical details; and AN EFFING TIME-TURNER; and you have the makings of a classic.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

The accuracy of the adaptation is debatable, but given the challenges of translating part of one of the biggest pop-culture phenomenons of our time, I think that the movie is, ultimately, a very admirable piece of work. As far as I'm concerned, it's the first "real" film of the series; the first two, while capturing the spirit of the early books, are really, ultimately, movies for children, both in subject matter and visual style. Starting with Prisoner of Azkaban, though, we get a series that everyone can enjoy without feeling (too) guilty: kids, teens, adults, film buffs, and fans of the books.

Plus, Prisoner of Azkaban works as a transition piece: it is the last Harry Potter film (as of right now) with a happy ending, and it is also the beginning of Harry having something real to fight for--his family, which starts to form  here with the continuing help of Ron and Hermione, increased guidance from the Weasleys, mentoring offered by Lupin, and revelation that he has a godfather. Up until now, Harry only had some vague idea of what it meant to be willing to put your life on the line. Now he knows for sure, and that understanding pushes him toward adulthood and the events of the next films/books. (There is also a spectacular amount of foreshadowing in this film, but I won't go into detail.)

Of course, there are more stunning effects in the later films, such as the dragon chase (Goblet of Fire), the duel between Voldemort and Dumbledore in the Ministry of Magic (Order of the Phoenix), and pretty much every Death Eater entrance/exit (Half-Blood Prince), and both parts of Deathly Hallows are sure to blow our minds, but for now, and maybe for always, I will prefer Prisoner of Azkaban. Which film is your favorite?

Buy through Best Buy for $12.99.

Photo via here.


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