1. Analysis of the Book
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is the third installment of J.K. Rowling’s of her globally popular children’s fantasy series. Although it is under this genre, Rowling’s novels appeal to and have been wildly popular with teen and adult audiences because they manage to tackle more adult issues like disloyalty, world war, death, and racism. This novel particularly takes a darker turn in the Harry Potter series as Harry is now 13 and has to face the traitor(s) who led to the death of his parents and now he thinks seek to kill him as well in order to finish the job they started. Rowling also introduces darker magical creatures such as the bogarts, dementors and werewolves that all feed on people’s fears and seek to harm people in some way. Rowling also touches on classism, racism, and animal rights with the Buckbeak/Hermione/Malfoy conflict occurring amidst the Harry and Sirius main plot. This novel is one where Harry goes through more psychologically harrowing trauma with dementors, a possible brutal murderer after him, dealing with his dark family history, and trying to perfect the Patronus charm to save the day.
2. Analysis of the Film
This third film of the Harry Potter series is the first to go in a different direction with Alfonso Cuarón directing instead of Chris Columbus. Where Chris Columbus seemed to be more concerned with making the movies more literal to the source text, light, and childish as befits the characters’ age, Cuarón makes this film feel darker and more mature as Harry has grown into adolescence. With a new Dumbledore and darker visual styles, this film looks and feels a lot more heavy and mature as Harry has to take on darker magic and even shadier characters like Sirius Black and Peter Pettigrew. The plot is fairly straight forward, suspenseful, adds a new setting for audiences to see (Hogsmeade), and delves more deeply into Harry’s past. Cuarón vividly brings to life certain aspects of magical world like the Knight Bus and new magical creatures to ogle at. He also manages to throw some comic relief here and there so that the film is not too heavy or totally unappealing to younger audiences who have read the book.
3. Analysis of the Adaptation
The plot and general feel of the novel are ultimately captured in this film. With any Harry Potter film, the difficulty in filming it is deciding what to keep and what to throw out of J.K. Rowling’s very expansive fictional universe and keep the movie under three hours. Many things are usually cut from the films that were not deemed immediately important to the story but Cuarón manages to do this successfully and change the feel of Harry Potter from child’s fantasy to a more serious coming of age story. Things such as Quidditch, which goes into great detail in the novels don’t branch out as much in this film simply because there isn’t enough time to present it or wouldn’t be interesting for movie goers interested in a good, fast-paced plot. The fear inducing nature of the dementors and werewolves are conveyed in their grotesque and menacing looks and the imminent danger they present to Harry along with Lupin, Sirius, and Pettigrew. Harry Potter’s emotional and internal struggle are presented well although Radcliffe’s acting kind of short changes the full power and effect it’s supposed to have in the story.
4. Online Research
- A wikipedia entry dedicated the differences between the film and novel versions of Prisoner of Azkaban.
- Roger Ebert reviews Prisoner of Azkaban and compares some of the themes and differences with this movie and the previous two.
- A.O. Scott reviews the film and discusses how Cuarón’s version may come off the viewers who have grown up with the Harry Potter series and those who are new to it.
5. Critical Analysis
To many critics, Alfonso Cuarón did a good job in the film in steering the Harry Potter series in a darker direction. How is Prisoner of Azkaban “dark”? And how does this relate to the growing maturity of both the main characters and the actors?
Prisoner of Azkaban is darker in the subjects and themes that J.K. Rowling chose to tackle in this book and subsequently Cuarón translated to film. The movie and book centers around the consequences of disloyalty, dishonesty, fear, and death. Sirius Black is renowned for allegedly performing one of the most brutal murders and betraying his best friends and godson, leading to the death of Harry’s parents and his near death. Harry, being older, reflects more on his feelings about barely knowing his parents, missing their presence in his life, and knowing that they died for him. It is something that is emotionally harrowing for him and is constantly rehashed especially in this book and film because he constantly hears about or sees their alleged killer, Sirius, plastered all over the news and wanted posters. We see that it is an emotional trauma that impedes him from properly performing the Patronus charm when Lupin tries to teach him for his own protection. Peter Pettigrew’s dishonesty is what ultimately caused the death of Harry’s parents, as he betrayed the Potter’s location in exchange for petty power.
There is also the introduction of dementors, bogarts, and werewolves, creatures who feed off of people’s fears. Harry and multiple characters have to confront their fears with the bogart in Lupin’s class and focus greatly to overcome the hurdle of paralyzing fear. This is ultimately displayed at the end as Harry finally musters up the courage and strength the summon his patronus to save himself.