You know, there's nothing more off-putting in HP fandom than a few of the fans. Good god. If you were any more stupid, I would have to water you three times a week. Please put that deleted post back online so I can watch the sharper knives in the drawer eviscerate you with their customary elegance.
Yesterday I went to see The Prisoner of Azkaban.
For a little background: when I went to see Chamber of Secrets, I left before the end. I'd read reviews that said the last 10 minutes or so was self-congratulatory bunk and I was about to be late for work, so I left. I didn't like the film so much, thought it was amiable but cartoonish and lazy. My expectations were not high for the follow-up. I've not been so pleased to be wrong for a long time.
The Prisoner of Azkaban is an enchanting film, in every sense of that word.
It feels long, in the way that Return of the King feels long -- you know that you've been there a while and your arse is starting to ache but it's okay because you're fascinated. Not engrossed -- or I wasn't anyway, possibly because it was a full cinema of kids who were moving about and talking -- but fascinated. When I go to see it tomorrow (long story), I plan to focus on the details.
Cuaron has gone for a very different look -- a decision which works splendidly. Everything is a bit scuffed and battered and every inch of the frame is packed with detail. His locations aren't set in some Hollywood fantasy of what this country looks like. London *looks like* London. Hogwarts *looks* like Scotland, rather than some bizarre Ruritania. It looks real. It has verisimilitude.
As you can tell from the trailer, his directorial palette is murkier, in greens, blues, browns, burnt oranges. The performances are more realistic and there's less cheerful mugging for the camera. There's a sense that outside the parameters of the film, these people-who-are-not-Harry have lives that encompass pain and joy and all the emotions in between and they have relationships that are deeper than what we see. The jokes are not Hollywood jokes, they arise out of situation and character. And in one case, the malicious desire to maim.
Alfonso Cuaron has put Ian Brown, ex-lead singer of the Stone Roses, in the scene at the Leaky Cauldron. I almost clapped with delight.
I wondered whether there'd been a fair bit culled from the end of the film because at the start the pace is a little more leisurely, with time to linger over jokes and a great bonding moment in the Gryffindor dorm rooms, but by the end, Cuaron is piling one event on top of another, to the point where I am not sure it would be entirely comprehensible to someone who had not read the books.
Some of the cuts change towards the end. Cuaron is fond of the old fashioned fade to black, edges inwards (I'm sure there's a proper name for it, but I don't know what it is), and I thought that there were fewer of those towards the end of the film. That could be a pacing issue, or it could be Cuaron doing last-minute trimming to cut the running time. I am going to hope for the latter, if only because the idea of more MWPP on a DVD is irresistible
MWPP get short shrift, and from the credits on IMDB (not the most reliable source, I know), I would have imagined that there would be more of James at least. Sirius is entirely different to the figure I expected but he's perfect. Snaggle-toothed, tattooed and feverishly unhinged, Sirius is played as a man on the very edge of darkness by Gary Oldman. it's a shame he didn't have more to do.
And as for Remus -- well, I was dubious before, because I wasn't sure that Thewlis had the necessary sweetness and the moustache was upsetting, but Thewlis absolutely inhabits the role. He's ever so slightly broken but ever so slightly hopeful and a great teacher. And he listens to *swing* music.
Both were the embodiment of the adage that it's not the despair that kills you, it's the faint hope.
After those two, Timothy Spall was a disappointment as Peter Pettigrew, who felt like he came from one of the earlier Columbus films. Too broad a performance, but there's too little *there* to make anything of the part. I almost hope that Peter reappears in book 6 or 7 to have a major role, because Spall is one of my favourite actors, and capable of suggesting shade and depth with very little. Just not here.
Of the younger cast members, they're all improving hugely and Dan Radcliffe suits an angrier Harry. Or vice versa. Rupert Grint has been reined in a bit, so now it just looks like an exuberant Ron, rather than a young actor who's been told a bit too often how funny he is. Hermione is wonderful though. It's made absolutely clear that she's the one who's worked out the solution to save the day and Harry is her willing accomplice. Harry's Patronus saves Sirius, but the overall plan is Hermione's. You finally believe that she's living up to the promise made in the second film that she's "brilliant but scary".
(Julie Christie is in the film. Who knew? Certainly not me when I was watching it. When it got to the credits at the end I was all "She was? *Where*?")
There are great reviews that explain this better here, byAJ Hall and Fialka