‘Harry Potter’ Retrospective (Part 3): Films 3 & 4

OK, here is the third part of The Lantern’s 5-part “Harry Potter” series by contributing author William Buhagiar. Here, Buhagiar takes a look at the 3rd and 4th installments of the franchise — “Prisoner of Azkaban” and “Goblet of Fire” respectively. The 5th and 6th films will be included in Part 4, and the series will conclude with an insightful look at select cast members of the Harry Potter films. I think this is an exciting series, and I am certainly enjoying reading from the perspective of someone who absolutely loves (and knows) the books. As for myself, I am working on getting through the films — I have the third film at home ready to watch. So far, in my humble opinion, I adored the first film and thought it to be quite charming. The 2nd film (“Chamber of Secrets“), I thought was painfully slow and not nearly as good as its predecessor. I am however looking forward to seeing the newest film on the big screen in July — I will be all caught up by then. — P.E.

Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban

Director:                  Alfonso Cuaron
Writer:                     Steve Kloves
Released:              2004
I Saw It:                   Four Times
William’s Rating:  

Upon beginning “Prisoner of Azkaban,” audiences are, at this point, relatively familiar with the logistics of the Wizarding World. “Quidditch,” “Muggles,” and “Hogwarts” are all words casually utilized by characters and audiences are no longer puzzled when wands are directed, potions are brewed or broomsticks mounted.

Alfonso Cuaron, director of A Little Princess and Children of Men brought a noticeably distinct style to the world of “Harry Potter,” with richer visuals and a slightly darker overtone than Chris Columbus’s previous films.  Michael Gambon, after the passing of Richard Harris, was re-cast as the iconic Headmaster Albus Dumbledore, much to the outrage of fans.

The third novel was a fresh introduction to new layers of the story, and this adaptation called for many sacrifices, much to the dismay of loyal fans. In the novel, the story of Harry’s parents is a crucial element in the current plot – and unfortunately, much of it is ignored by the film; some of it blatantly disregarded. Thus began one of the boldest flaws of the ‘Potter’ films: vital information used to shape the story was ignored, leaving the films watered-down, shallow, and even confusing to audiences who haven’t read the book.

Azkaban” was also an introduction to another of Rowling’s spectacular, but terrifying, inventions: the Dementors, the guards of Azkaban, stationed at Hogwart’s to hunt for Sirius Black. Dementors create an atmosphere of fear, anxiety and depression, and force human beings to mentally revisit their darkest and most horrific memories. In the case of Harry Potter, whenever a Dementor is near, the disturbing screams of his mother pleading for Voldemort’s mercy reverberate in his head. The Dementors in the film could have been disappointing, as I expected a more harmless adaptation of the soul-sucking, nightmarish creatures – but the film certainly exceeded expectations, delivering eerie, chilling hooded figures that made the audience silently breathe a sigh of relief when Harry, at last, performed his successful Patronus charm.

Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire

Director:                  Mike Newell
Writer:                     Steve Kloves
Released:              2005
I Saw It:                   Four Times
William’s Rating:  

We all knew that 734 pages of story would have to face a serious compromise to be adapted into a two-and-a-half-hour movie. Hermione’s beloved Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare was to be deleted completely, we were told months in advance. Our initial outrage faded shortly, as we ultimately came to the conclusion that it wasn’t vital in the progression of the main plot — the plot concerning the many omens, steadily unfolding, that the Dark Lord was plotting his second rise to power.

Being the most pivotal and unpredictable of the novels yet to be adapted for the big screen, I was beside myself with excitement during the months prior to the release of this installment. Having been assigned the first PG-13 rating of the franchise, I was semi-confident that the filmmakers abandoned their desperation to maintain their appeal to younger audiences and embrace the more adult tone the books had evolved towards.

In “Goblet of Fire,” not only was I certain to see the staging of the Quidditch World Cup, the Yule Ball, the Triwizard Tournament and each of the riveting tasks involved – but personally, the most breathlessly-anticipated event: the rebirth of Lord Voldemort. Having Ralph Fiennes cast as the infamous “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named” was probably the best piece of news regarding the adaptations I had received prior to any of the films’ releases, and at age fifteen, it was a joyful slap in the face that left me dizzy, and constantly imagining the look, the performance, and the first and most shockingly terrifying event yet to take place in the series.

Sadly, the finished product didn’t meet or satisfy my expectations (which were most likely impossible to meet, anyway). Having been familiar with a book so rich in detail, so mesmerizing in plot, and so brilliant in scope, I expected, I suppose, to receive the same awe-inspiring and arguably brutal slap in the face that the book, being so wildly unpredictable and so perfect in execution, had given me. The Goblet of Fire” was my first real introduction to Harry Potter book-to-film casualties that only, sadly, had just begun.

Brief note: the film does have a few strong points; I feel that the filmmakers were focused in delivering plot points that were vital to the proper progression of the main story arc. These events, of course, were heavily filtered, but hey, at least they were there.

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One Response to ‘Harry Potter’ Retrospective (Part 3): Films 3 & 4

  1. Pingback: ‘Harry Potter Retrospective’: A Breakdown of the All-Star Cast « Magic Lantern Film Blog

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