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I watched this last night because I had been at work all day doing horrid marking, and felt I deserved a treat. And for obvious reasons, I'm feeling fairly Potterish at the moment. No, wait, who'm I kidding? Fairly Snapeish.

I'll need to re-watch Order of the Phoenix when it comes out on DVD to be sure, but I'd be surprised if I change my mind - and certainly right now, I remain convinced that this is the best Potter film to date. It helps that it includes the best of many great Snapey moments filmed so far - the scene with Sirius and Lupin in the Shrieking Shack (closely followed, actually, by the 'Potter has porn!' / L'Oreal scene1 in the dark corridor). But it isn't just his moments. The sheer quantities of rich detail packed into every scene are exactly the sort of thing I love in any film. Like Percy pouring himself cups of tea from a floating two-spouted teapot in the background while Arthur Weasley warns Harry about Sirius in the Leaky Cauldron. Or the mystical writing carved into the walls of the Divination classroom - which you never get to read properly, but adds so much to the feeling that it is a real classroom that has been used for centuries. Or the dozens of carefully-worked-out moving portraits plastering the castle walls. I really ought to pause some of those scenes and scour them in fine detail some time - and the same goes for all that lovely Latinate writing around the edges of the Marauders' map!

Azkaban is easily a finer film (and book) than the previous two, because it's here that the plot moves beyond introductions and orientation and into a darker, more epic register. But it also has a natural advantage over the fourth and fifth films in that it's based on a shorter book. Between that and the tiny details which allow the director to convey so much with every shot, it does a great job of conveying the full extent of the material in the book without feeling rushed or missing out sub-plots - and this despite being the shortest film to date (I know, because I wanted an early night, so more or less chose this one on that basis). The only thing which felt slightly rushed in Azkaban was the sub-plot with Buckbeak, which seemed to go from Draco having his arm broken and muttering things about how his father would be furious, straight to Hagrid bursting into tears because Buckbeak had been sentenced to death. But that was pretty minor, really. By comparison, films 4 and 5 feel actively rushed throughout, and I don't see how the sixth or seventh can avoid the same problem (although there is a lot of room for hacking out tent-sulkery in seven).

That's not to say I won't be rushing out to buy film 5 on DVD the second it is released, of course! But Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban retains a degree of stylishness and panache that I just don't expect to see outdone by these films again.

1. For non-Potterites who are puzzled, this is what fandom has made of the scene where Snape discovers Harry wandering around the castle with the Marauders' map in the middle of the night.

Comments

( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
rich_r
Aug. 20th, 2007 08:48 am (UTC)
I'm just at the end of the tent-sulkery bit in seven, so that was lucky. I reckon you could chop that to about 5 minutes in the film, without harming the story.
And yes - I am aware that I'm reading particularly slowly at the moment, as I should have finished it by now!
strange_complex
Aug. 20th, 2007 09:46 am (UTC)
No, no - you must read and enjoy it at your own pace. I actually find the competitive speed-reading that follows the release of each Potter book a bit annoying - I mean, obviously we're all keen to devour it up, but there seems to be an unspoken rule that if you didn't manage to read the whole thing within 3 hours, you're Not A Real Fan. Which is just stupid.

And sorry - I don't think of that sort of reference as a spoiler, but I guess some people could take it as such.
rich_r
Aug. 20th, 2007 10:45 am (UTC)
I think it's because I keep forgetting to lug the huge weighty tome to work, so I only read it in bed for 20 minutes or so before going to sleep. Of course that does mean I have occasional odd dreams involving shouting spells at things...
strange_complex
Aug. 20th, 2007 12:42 pm (UTC)
Yeah, that's how I do most of my leisure reading, too. The result is that it takes me about a month to read an average book - which is rather depressing when I have people on my friends list who read 20 or more in the same time!
(Deleted comment)
strange_complex
Aug. 20th, 2007 10:46 am (UTC)
Yes, you're right about the broomstick - I had forgotten that. Pity. I wouldn't go as far as saying films one and two were bland, but certainly both they and the books are working on a more elementary level than three.

I'm still keeping an open mind about five, because it was certainly good and I've only seen it the once (whereas I've probably watched Azkaban about four or five times by now). But then again, I really like book five - much more than book four, for instance. So the fifth film in a way has a harder job with me.
(Deleted comment)
strange_complex
Aug. 20th, 2007 12:47 pm (UTC)
The third film was also lit completely differently

Yes, indeed - I remember that being really striking when I first saw it in the cinema, and all the more so because films 4 and 5, which are much the same, did not exist then.

Of course, the fact that it had a new director with a different vision explains a lot of the disparity between the first two films and the third one - as indeed between that and the latest two. I don't really know Alfonso Cuarón's work apart from The Prisoner of Azkaban, but on the basis of comparing that with the other Potter films, I am assuming that he is just more to my taste as a director than either Chris Columbus or David Yates.
(Deleted comment)
strange_complex
Aug. 20th, 2007 08:03 pm (UTC)
It's OK, I'm following! Yes, I think you're quite right about that - although of course who knows what Columbus would have produced faced with some of the darker, later books.
(Deleted comment)
davesangel
Aug. 20th, 2007 12:53 pm (UTC)
I remain convinced that this is the best Potter film to date

Most definitely, I absolutely love it. When I initially started watching it in the cinema, I was really struck by how different it was to the previous two films, and I wasn't sure if this would be a good thing or not, but it was a vast improvement on its predecessors. The style just really works so much better, particularly because as you say, everything is becoming much darker. In fact, I actually went to see it about 6 times in the cinema, which is a record for me for any film (and of course, this has nothing at all to do with the casting of David Thewlis and Gary Oldman as Remus and Sirius, respectively, oh no... :P).
strange_complex
Aug. 20th, 2007 01:33 pm (UTC)
Wow! Actually, I think I might well have done that if I'd been as much of a Potter fan when it came out as I later became. It really does reward repeated watching, with all its fine detail, and I wish I could see it on the big screen again now, so that I can see all that detail more clearly.

Plus, as you hint, it certainly has an unusually high hottie quota - although to be fair, film four does have David Tennant. ;-)
davesangel
Aug. 20th, 2007 02:37 pm (UTC)
Plus, as you hint, it certainly has an unusually high hottie quota - although to be fair, film four does have David Tennant. ;-)

Ooh yes :D And Robert Pattinson is also reasonably cute :)

That's the main reason I like the fifth film - Gary Oldman looks particularly lovely as Sirius. And he's totally fab, best thing about the movie...I do like that film a lot, but some of the drastic changes that were made to the plot of the book are totally unnecessary. Particularly the fact that Remus was supposed to be the first member of the Order that Harry sees when they arrive at Privet Drive, and he's not there until Harry's arrival at Grimmauld Place. I honestly can't see any reason to cut Remus from that scene, particularly as I feel it's pretty crucial to keep Remus as a major figure in light of events in books 6 and 7...
strange_complex
Aug. 20th, 2007 03:11 pm (UTC)
Yes, Sirius certainly looks rather better in film 5 than when he's just come out of Azkaban in film 3. Still a bit scruffy, but at least no longer teetering on the edge of a total mental and physical breakdown!
jurious
Aug. 20th, 2007 01:37 pm (UTC)
Excellent points. I went to see Azkaban once a week for 4 weeks on the trot when it came out, I was so impressed with it. The superior acting, the wonderful camera movements which glide you into the scenes (love it when we go through windows!), the fabulous soundtrack by John Williams using all those Medieval-esque instruments, and the intricate re-designing of Hogwarts - and the whole film series from then on - just astounded me. That's not to say that the plot flows as smoothly as I'd like, but overall, it's a beautiful film to watch. (I've spotted Anne Boleyn and King Henry VII on the walls in the stairwell at Hogwarts so far, which made me smile. I love that giraffe, too.)

Goblet of Fire disappointed me. It wasn't a bad film as such, I just wasn't pulled into it in the same way I was Azkaban. And since GoF is my favourite book, that added to the let-down factor - seeing an adaptation that far from met my expectations.

In contrast, I adored Order of the Phoenix. It's on a par with Azkaban as my favourite Potter movie so far. I think OotP flows better than PoA - they made that 700 page book into a very succinct story - and it was more in the vein of Cuaron's directing when it came to stylishness and attention to detail. David Yates did a great job. It was nicely edited, too. Perhaps there's not so much going on in the background in OotP as in PoA - I still keep discovering things I haven't seen before in Azkaban - but it was still an excellent movie. Far better than GoF. And with Half-Blood Prince having Yates back to direct it, I think we're in for another good film toward the end of next year. I can't wait.
strange_complex
Aug. 20th, 2007 04:02 pm (UTC)
Oh, yes, I absolutely agree with all the things you pick out in your first paragraph about Azkaban! It just all adds up to a really professional end product. Another aspect I liked, in a similar vein, was the lovely use of the Whomping Willow to denote the changes in seasons (leaves falling off it, snow settling, snow melting, birds fluttering). It drew attention nicely to the presence of the Willow in the grounds, which was important since it was going to play such a big role in the climax of the action, and also very neatly and unobtrusively conveyed the passage of time. Great stuff!

Goblet of Fire I wouldn't say disappointed me as such, since I hadn't been that impressed by the book, so my expectations weren't incredibly high. In fact, I'd say that film succeeded in making me enjoy the story more than the book had - but it still wasn't as good as the third film.

Order probably is pretty good, and I remember thinking the same thing as you about how successfully they had pared down the story when I saw it. But as I've said above, I can't fairly form a final judgement on it until it comes out on DVD, and I've had a chance to watch it properly at my leisure.
maviscruet
Aug. 24th, 2007 04:14 pm (UTC)
Totally of tangant....

I, Claudus drinking game....

Sounds. Well drunken.....

http://www.sepulchritude.com/suffer/volumethree/claudius.html
( 18 comments — Leave a comment )

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