Sunday, June 06, 2004

.:A Primer:.

Yes, I watched “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” yesterday, and I must say that the experience before actually seeing the film was pretty unique. You see, I was with the whole family and Grace in Galleria instead of going along with Sacha, Carl, Pan-M, and a few others in Megamall. Before going there, my younger brother, Francis, was on the phone with his girlfriend. My stepdad asked him to invite her to watch with us, and the girl kept on declining...

Dad: Bigyan mo na nga lang iyan ng VCD ng Harry Potter at umalis na tayo.

In any case, we then headed out to Galleria, where we kept on running into different people, and then saw starter decks of RAW Deal in Courtside. There was a starter for Stacy Keibler already... and John Cena, even...

We had dinner at Mr. Choi, and there weren't too many Chinese people who were easy on the eyes throughout the day at all... except for one or two, but one of them was prolly just fourteen. Grace was doing as much girl-watching as I was... heh.

When we finally lined up for the film, Angelika dela Cruz waltzed past us and bought tickets for... “Sinful Nights”, some R-18 flick. I wonder if we'd see blind items about that soon? She was with some guy, even. Ah, well.

We all know the drill, neh? SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

.:Film Review: Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban:.

Just like Sirius, I was captivated by this film.

Alfonso Cuaron takes the reins from the not-so-well-liked director of the first two films, Chris Columbus, for the third film installment of the Harry Potter franchise. As each book goes by, Rowling's books get markedly longer and longer, so seeing this film clock in well under three hours is quite an achievement that came at the price of certain storytelling elements.

We all know the story: Harry Potter goes to his third year of school while a madman named Sirius Black escapes from the wizard prison Azkaban. He is reputedly in search of Harry, as he was believed to be the right hand man of Lord Voldemort, having killed twelve men with a single curse, including one of his best friends, Peter Pettigrew. At the same time, a new Defense Against The Dark Arts teacher comes around, in the person of Remus Lupin, who tries to help Harry overcome his weakness against the prison guards of Azkaban who suddenly surrounded Hogwarts, in search of Black. Known as Dementors, these dark creatures that suck happiness out of all they come close to.

All through this, Ron and Hermione have a severe gap because Hermione's new pet, a cat, naturally goes after Ron's old pet, a rat. Little do they know that the rat is actually Peter Pettigrew.

Meanwhile, Hagrid becomes the new Care For Magical Creatures teacher, and he shows his students a Hippogriff named Buckbeak. After Harry successfully befriends Buckbeak, Draco, not wanting to be upstaged, unwittingly provokes Buckbeak into attacking him. This leads to a trial that calls for Buckbeak's execution.

At one point, Harry, Ron, and Hermione discover the truth about Sirius: he is Harry's godfather. Harry then overhears how Sirius betrayed Harry's parents, leading them to their deaths. Their search for answers leads them to Black, who, as an Animagus taking the form of a dog, was seen many times over in the film without being recognized as Black. Lupin shows up shortly thereafter and actually sides with Black, to the shock of Harry. Hermione reveals that Lupin is actually a werewolf (Shouldn't the name give a hint already?), and they then proceed to explain things.

Scabbers, as they knew by the time they read the Marauder's Map, is Peter Pettigrew. He was the one who betrayed Harry's parents, and not Black. When Black confronted Pettigrew, Peter blew up a whole street with people and faked his own death, thus framing Black for the crime. Not even Snape's attempt at interrupting them could faze Harry from realizing the truth. Unfortunately, in their attempt to bring Pettigrew back to the castle, they forget that there is a full moon, which leads to Lupin's turning into a werewolf. This gave Pettigrew enough time to escape, and enough confusion for Black to be caught and likely receive the Dementor's kiss, a kiss that sucks out the victim's soul.

To change this foul turn of events, Harry and Hermione had to use a Time-Turner to go back in time and retrace their steps to save Buckbeak. Buckbeak would be their key later on to rescue Sirius from one of the towers in Hogwarts and help him escape.

It would be quite easy to say that this film is the best among the three shown so far, which goes to show how much better the franchise is in the hands of Alfonso Cuaron. Most of the characters played their roles out quite well, and there was just this twinge of mischief that Cuaron incorporated into the film.

The special effects were top-notch. I have no idea why they still couldn't do anything about showing Peeves in the film, but their special effects in this film was quite a step up from what I last remembered. I really don't think they could top something like LOTR: ROTK, but given the smaller scope of their storytelling, the special effects employed more than sufficed.

The new characters were incorporated nicely in the story. However, Remus Lupin looked far too robust for me to believe that they got their characterization of the man right. At the same time, when he scolded Harry about the Marauder's Map, he raised his voice, which I believe was out of character. Sirius Black was portrayed by Gary Oldman, so I really have no gripes about his character. The new Dumbledore, Michael Gambon, sounded way younger than the Richard Harris Dumbledore. The difference in voices is thankfully glossed over by a dialogue that is obviously more apt for Gambon than it would've been for the late Harris.

You see, what makes this installment way different from the first two films is the fact that the story was significantly changed to fit within the time. While the film was good overall, the little things that they neglected to clear up do tend to cause problems for those who never read the book. I'd be more forgiving of liberties with the story (Compared to Grace, who was nitpicking every single difference between the book and the film.) as these changes were necessary, but I cannot overlook the fact that they did not answer some questions in the film that should've been answered. Chief among those questions would be: who are Mooney, Padfoot, Wormtail, and Prongs? Those who read the book know. What about those who didn't? If they explained this, it would've made much more sense as to why Lupin and Black knew so much about the Marauder's Map.

I could go on with more questions, although because the story didn't seem to end with the end of the school year, a sweeping reply of “It would've been answered before the year ended” could be used (Consider that we never knew who won the Quidditch Cup.). Despite that, I really don't like the faulty characterization of Lupin, of all people. Moreover, during the start of the film, the pacing of the story was way too fast. I was relieved that it started slowing down once Harry learned the Patronus Charm.

More asides: My mom wasn't too fond of Snape, but I think Snape's demeanor is just perfect. And Harry's eyes are blue in the film... but that's nitpicking.

The kids are growing too fast. Either that, or they're shooting the films too slowly. Hermione is beginning to look like the hot chick we all predicted her to be. Malfoy looks less and less like an evil bishounen. Neville lost a huge amount of weight. All these changes may indeed be unavoidable due to puberty, but that never stopped people like Renee Zelwegger from looking fat or Eddie Murphy from looking humongous, did it?

What saved this film for me though was the final sequence where Harry and Hermione used the Time Turner to go back in time. The sheer ingenuity of using their point of view to explain how things that seemed tragic during the first run was splendid, as it allows us to view who the first Harry saw when he and Black were being overrun by Dementors, and so forth. Hagrid still reminds me of Rupert from Survivor. If we took this final sequence alone, I would gladly have given it an A+ for its sheer ingenuity and innovation of what appears to be an old and cliché time-travel scenario.

I'd love to catch this film again. This is the best in the film franchise so far, and I'm saddened that Cuaron won't be directing the fourth installment. One would have to wonder though how the cast would hold up by the fifth film because all indicators point to the fact that by Film 5, the current child cast will be way too old to be credible in their roles. Even Film 4 as is is already dubious.

Marcelle's “Fun” Rating: B+/A-
Marcelle's “Critical” Rating: B+

No comments: