Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: A Real Disappointment

I’m a little behind in the Harry Potter arena, and instead of having seen The Goblet of Fire, I’m still stuck with the Prisoner of Azkaban. But, after seeing what the movies do to J.K. Rowling’s wonderful and witty prose, I’m not sure if I want to continue seeing the Harry Potter movies. One always expects the movie to be different from the book, but you can at least salvage something of the book, yes?

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, a movie based on J.K. Rowling’s book of the same name, disappoints the viewer, as movies based on good books so often do. The audience is left with unsatisfying plot devices, and the book’s dialogue is disappointingly discarded in favor of what passes as “creative license.” And it really is a pity. The book itself was creative enough that “creative license” could only make it worse. It just seemed like someone was trying too hard.

Steve Kloves, the screenwriter, gives away too much, too soon. The result deprives the audience of the pleasure of surprise. Harry sees Peter Pettigrew’s name on the map, giving away a surprise plot twist. The viewer guesses the truth long before Harry, who, in the movie, is too stupid to figure it out himself. This is too bad, too, because Harry really is a clever lad. He probably should have had a bit of an inkling before the end, when the plot twist only affected him, and not us.

Even though I was already in on the plot twist, due to the fact that I had read the book, it still annoyed me that the twist was given away. I was looking forward, I guess, to the pleasure of a surprising plot twist for my husband, who does not read the books.

Rather than use engaging dialogue found in the book, Kloves invents a saccharine infused conversation between Harry and Professor Lupin. Lupin tells Harry about his mother: “I recognized you immediately, not by your scar, by your eyes. They’re your mother Lilly’s.” Harry and Lupin both are on the edge of tears. Sure, we want a sensitive young hero, but this is a bit silly.

Rowling’s dialogue is brilliant, but Kloves, apparently, doesn’t agree. His only use of Rowling’s dialogue in the screenplay comes from Hermione while riding the train to Hogwart’s: “Ouch, Ron, that was my foot.”
The movie, with less “creativity,” and more cues from the book, would have been much better.

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