“I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.”
—Harry Potter, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, page 192
Previously on Adapt or Die: Harry Potter Edition:
I remember being really worried that the books after Chamber of Secrets weren’t going to be made into movies when Prisoner of Azkaban didn’t come out in 2003, as the other two had come out within a year of each other. I started to get worried that the kids were going to get too old and that they wouldn’t be able to do all the books. I was very happy when I started seeing trailers for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the movie this review is about. If you haven’t either read the book or seen the movie, I’d suggest you do at least one of those things before reading on. As always, I will do my best to mark spoilers, but I might slip up. For information on grading and spoilers see here.
Harry is once again with the Dursleys, who have oh so graciously allowed Hedwig out of her cage to hunt at night. Harry wants his uncle to sign his permission slip to go to Hogsmeade, but the Dursleys are busy preparing for Uncle Vernon’s sister, Aunt Marge, to visit. Aunt Marge hates Harry, and while she is with the Dursleys she spends a lot of her time insulting Harry. After an incident with Marge, Harry runs away and, after a ride on the Knight Bus, ends up with the Minister of Magic, who allows him to return to Hogwarts. Harry learns that this year at Hogwarts could be even more dangerous than years past. Shocking, I know. It turns out that Sirius Black, one of Lord Voldemort’s most devoted followers, has escaped from Azkaban and is coming to kill Harry. But, wait! There is yet another obstacle this year: the Dementors. The Dementors are the guards of Azkaban, and now also the guards of Hogwarts castle, and they have a terrible effect on everyone, especially Harry. So, Harry, Ron, and Hermione again overcome various obstacles as they learn the truth about Sirius Black and what led to the death of Harry’s parents. Well, that was a mouthful.
We shall start with the biggest flaw in this movie:
The Feud, or Lack Thereof
A pretty big subplot in Prisoner of Azkaban is this feud that Ron and Hermione get into. Harry is in it too, usually on Ron’s side, but to a much lesser extent. It all starts when Hermione get Crookshanks, her cat. The cat jumped on Ron’s head in the pet shop, so they are already off to a bad start. But worse, Crookshanks appears to have it in for Ron’s rat Scabbers. This causes a lot of tension within the trio. This is way, way downplayed in the movie. I have a few specifics, but in general, Ron and Hermione just didn’t seem to be nearly as mad at each other in the movie as they did in the book, and Hermione didn’t seem that upset about it in the movie either.
The Firebolt (Book Spoilers, and Movie Ending Spoilers)
“Because I thought—and Professor McGonagall agrees with me—that that broom was probably sent to Harry by Sirius Black!”
—Hermione Granger, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, page 232
The book makes this huge deal about Quidditch because it’s Oliver Wood’s last year at Hogwarts, so it’s the last year he has to win the house cup. In one of the matches, the Dementors come out onto the field, which causes Harry to faint and fall of his broom. Dumbledore manages to magic Harry slowly to the ground, but Harry’s Nimbus 2000 is blown by the currently raging storm into the Whomping Willow and destroyed. So, now Harry has to use one of the old school brooms, a Cleansweep, I believe.
Anyway, for Christmas Harry receives a mysterious package. He opens it up to find that someone has sent him a brand new Firebolt broomstick. It’s the best broom out there, and even professional Quidditch teams lust after it. Strangely, there is no card or note, so Harry has no idea who sent it. Ron and Harry are both really excited about the new broom and can’t wait to try it out. That is, until
buzz kill Hermione finds out and decides that Sirius Black must’ve sent Harry a jinxed broom and tattles to tells Professor McGonagall, who promptly confiscates the broom to run a bunch of tests on it. This makes Harry and Ron very angry with Hermione. Harry does get the broom back before the Quidditch finals. In the movie, Harry receives the Firebolt in the Great Hall at the very end. He then rides it toward the camera. The end. No conflict. No fighting. Nothing.
To the credit of the filmmakers, even on re-watching the film, I forgot about the Firebolt until it was introduced at the end, at which point I was annoyed that it had been left out.
In the movie, Hermione is mostly annoyed/angry about how Harry and Ron (mostly Ron in the movie) are treating her over the Crookshanks/Scabbers business. In the book, however, Hermione gets pretty upset about it. Hagrid is the one who tells Harry and Ron how upset Hermione is after the trio believes that Spoiler Crookshanks has killed Scabbers. End Spoiler She feels really bad about the whole incident (and she’s also really stressed about how many classes she’s taking), and this makes Harry and Ron start to forgive her.
Hermione also acts differently when the trio goes to Hagrid’s hut Spoiler before Buckbeak’s execution. As in the movie, it is Hermione who finds Scabbers in the Hagrid’s kitchen, but in the book, she is really happy to have found him, whereas movie Hermione is kind of bitchy and demands Ron apologize to her for acting like a jerk about Crookshanks killing Scabbers. End Spoiler I like the book reaction better.
Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter: Daniel now has full-on deep man voice. Go him. His acting improves again, though his “He was their friend!” face is a little weird. He’s definitely getting taller.
Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley: Is it strange that the more I watch Rupert, the more I like Ron? Well, strange or not, it’s true. He does a very good job again, and he’s also getting taller, which is good because Ron is supposed to be tall. I would have liked more focus on the feud for the dynamic between Rupert and Emma, but oh well.
Emma Watson as Hermione Granger: She is still getting better. She punches Malfoy in the face, which is pretty awesome. For some reason in the early films, Hermione is kind of annoying even if she isn’t in the books so much. That starts to turn around in this movie. Her hair looks pretty normal in this one rather than the bushy mess it’s supposed to be. I had a teacher in high school who was really annoyed that Emma’s hair wasn’t bushy in the third movie because it took away from her “transformation” in the fourth book/movie. Personally, I don’t care all that much about the lack of bushiness. Actually, the lack of bucky beaver teeth is what should annoy people, as that, to me, seems more key to her transformation to being relatively pretty. Bad hair is textbook Hollywood Homely. Even bucky beaver teeth wouldn’t be that detrimental to her appearance (I wouldn’t think) because she doesn’t have her mouth open all the time. I read that she tried wearing false teeth for a few scenes in Philosopher’s Stone, but she did not continue for whatever reason.
Michael Gambon as Albus Dumbledore: Richard Harris is the best Dumbledore they could have possibly cast, but Michael Gambon isn’t a terrible choice or anything. He has a good look for Dumbledore, and I actually kind of like how his Dumbledore looks a little different than Harris’s Dumbledore because it acknowledges the change. I really prefer Harris’s voice for Dumbledore, but Gambon’s is fine too I suppose. Gambon seems a lot less paternal than Harris did, I think. He doesn’t seem like the warm, always calm grandfatherish type. It doesn’t show as much in this movie, but it’s there. Anyway, for taking over for someone else, Gambon does a pretty good job. I still like him anyway. Fun fact: Ian McKellen (Gandolf) was offered the role of Dumbledore after Harris’s death, but he turned it down because he thought it would be inappropriate because Harris had called him a “dreadful” actor. Harris’s family kind of wanted Harris’s friend Peter O’Toole to take over the role, but in the end, Gambon was cast.
David Thewlis as Remus Lupin: He is a really good Lupin in my opinion (though based on comments on the last article, I think I’m in the minority there). He is a little older than Lupin, but since Lupin looks older than he is that isn’t really a problem. They did a good job with the scars on his face. Thewlis had originally auditioned to play Professor Quirrell in the first film, but the role went to Ian Hart instead. Thewlis did not have to audition to play Lupin, however, because he was director Alfonso Cuarón’s first choice for the role. Cuarón also thought that Lupin was gay. Anyway, it was Ian Hart who encouraged Thewlis to take the role because Hart told him that Lupin was “the best part in the book.”
Gary Oldman as Sirius Black: He is also a little old for the role, which again works here because Azkaban ages people. In fact, Oldman might even look too good, as Sirius is supposed to look “corpse-like” in the novel. He does look pretty messed up in the film, though. He has a lot of tattoos in the movie, but the book never says if he has tattoos or not. In my opinion, tattoos fit okay with his character, so I’m not bothered that they added them. Movie Sirius also has brown hair and blue eyes, rather than black hair and grey eyes in the books. His acting is very good also. Oldman took the job because he needed the money, and as his kids were fans of the books, they were quite happy about his participation in the series.
Emma Thompson as Sybill Trelawney: Emma Thompson certainly doesn’t look like Emma Thompson. I had to go to her Wikipedia page to make sure that I was thinking of the right person; I was. The transformation is really remarkable here (I think it’s mostly due to the glasses), and I would have never guessed that Trelawney was being played by Thompson. Other than her appearance, Thompson’s acting is very good, and she really captures Professor Trelawney’s way of speaking and how she’s somewhat aware that she’s full of crap most of the time. Thompson does a really good job during the prophecy scene.
Tom Felton as Draco Malfoy: Felton did a good job in the Hippogriff scene. He whines very well. Even though Felton is older than the other main kids, he doesn’t really look it, so it’s okay. He does a good job in this movie, and his acting continues to improve.
James and Oliver Phelps as Fred and George Weasley: They’re still amazing as the twins. I added them again because they give Harry the Marauder’s Map, which is pretty important.
Timothy Spall as Peter Pettigrew: Ending Spoiler Spall has a rather rat-like appearance in the film, which works very well. I think he’s a bit fatter than Pettigrew is supposed to be when he transforms because he is said to have lost weight due to the stress of Black’s escape while he was a rat. I wasn’t bothered by his weight, though. The acting was very good. Spall does look older than Pettigrew is, like Thewlis and Oldman, which again can be explained away by his harsh life (living for years as a rat). End Spoiler
Robert Hardy as Cornelius Fudge: He has no lime green bowler hat. Instead, it’s black. Hardy does well as Fudge, though he doesn’t have a huge part.
Pam Ferris as Marge Dursley: I think she’s supposed to be fatter (more Vernon’s proportions), though she is plenty fat when Harry blows her up. Anyway, the acting was good, even though she wasn’t in the film for long.
Wood’s Last Year
It is Gryffindor Quidditch team captain Oliver Wood’s seventh and last year at Hogwarts. For this reason, he is intent that Gryffindor win the Quidditch cup, as it is his last chance. This is at least a medium-sized subplot in the book. There are a lot of extra Quidditch practices, and the Quidditch matches have added importance and emphasis.
Wood also has a tendency to put winning above the safety of the players, particularly Harry. Spoiler When Harry falls off his broom and loses the match against Hufflepuff, Wood does not immediately show up by Harry’s bedside in the infirmary like the rest of the Gryffindor team does. He is more upset about the loss and the loss of Harry’s prized broomstick, though he does realize that it wasn’t Harry’s fault and does care about Harry’s wellbeing. Oliver is also right alongside Harry in pestering McGonagall to give back the Firebolt, though she scolds him about not caring about Harry’s safety. End Spoiler
Helping Hagrid (Minor Book Spoiler)
After Malfoy gets Daddy Dearest to threaten everyone at the Ministry into signing Buckbeak’s death warrant, the trio goes to visit Hagrid to try and comfort him. They all promise to help him prepare Buckbeak’s defense. Well, in all the other chaos, Harry and Ron forget to do this.
Hermione continues to help Hagrid off-screen, which Harry and Ron find out about when they go to visit Hagrid. This is when Hagrid tells them to be nicer to Hermione because she’s really upset. Then the trio all work together to help Hagrid with the appeal.
Lavender, Parvati, and Trelawney
The book mentions several times how Lavender Brown and Parvati Patil are obsessed with and greatly admire Professor Trelawney. They also begin to sort of dislike Hermione because she does not get along with Professor Trelawney.
The Marauders (Book and Movie Spoilers)
Messrs. Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs
Purveyors of Aids to Magical Mischief-Makers
are proud to present
THE MARAUDER’S MAP
—The Marauder’s Map, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, page 192
The Marauders are not really a huge plotline. They are the creators of the Marauder’s Map, which Harry uses to sneak into Hogsmeade. The movie does explain that Lupin is a werewolf, and Sirius, James, and Peter became animagi to keep him company. There is a little more emphasis on the Marauder’s Map in the book than there is in the movie.
The movie leaves out the identities of the Marauders:
Moony is Remus Lupin, so called because he transforms into a werewolf during the full moon.
Wormtail is Peter Pettigrew, so called because he can transform into a rat at will.
Padfoot is Sirius Black, so called because he can transform into a large dog at will.
Prongs is James Potter, so called because he can transform into a stag at will.
I’m sure I missed some of them, but oh well. Feel free to point them out in the comments.
Happy Birthday, Harry
In the book, Harry receives birthday presents from his friends and Hagrid, as well as his Hogwarts school list and Hogsmeade permission form. It is the first time he has ever gotten real birthday presents.
In the book, Fudge has Harry stay at the Leaky Cauldron until it’s time for school to start. Harry is able to do all his homework in Diagon Alley, and he even gets free ice cream and history lessons from one of the merchants. He also does all of his school shopping well before the others do. When the Weasleys and Hermione show up, there are more scenes where the twins are pranking Percy, and Harry overhears a conversation between Mr. and Mrs. Weasley. There is also an actual scene where Hermione buys Crookshanks rather than just having him.
Animagi in Transfiguration
In the book, Professor McGonagall has a lesson about animagi, where she shows the class how she can turn herself into a cat. She comments on the lack of enthusiasm during the demonstration, which is usually quite popular. The class apologizes and says that they are stressed about what I can’t quite recall.
Christmas at Hogwarts
In the book, the trio stays at Hogwarts over Christmas. There is a scene where they open their presents, and there is also a scene where they and a few other students eat with the remaining staff in the Great Hall. Professor Trelawney decides to join them, but then is afraid because it will make a group of thirteen, and that means that the first to get up will die. She freaks out because both Ron and Harry get up at about the same time, so she wants to know who got up first and who will die since she’s already predicted Harry’s death several times.
Sirius’s Second Break-In (Book Spoiler)
After Sirius breaks into the school the first time, he attacks the Fat Lady, causing her to be replaced by Sir Cadogan. Sir Cadogan makes up a bunch of passwords that the students have to memorize. Neville even keeps a list of the week’s passwords, which he loses. Sirius finds the list and is let into the Gryffindor common room by Sir Cadogan for having the correct password. He then goes into the room that Harry and Ron share with the other Gryffindor third-year boys. Ron awakes to find Black standing over him with a knife. Hagrid tells Harry and Ron that this incident really upset Hermione, especially since Ron wasn’t talking to her at this point.
There are scenes in the book where the students take their final exams. They have to keep slugs alive in Care of Magical Creatures, and Defense Against the Dark Arts has an obstacle course as a final. Hermione’s greatest fear here is revealed to be failure.
The Train Home (Ending Spoiler)
On the way home from Hogwarts, a very small owl comes to the window of the trio’s compartment with a letter for Harry. It is from Sirius. This letter also includes a written permission form for Harry to be allowed to visit Hogsmeade, which will be good enough for Dumbledore because he knows Sirius is innocent, and Sirius is Harry’s godfather. There is also a note saying that Ron can keep the small owl that delivered the letter since because of Sirius, Ron no longer has a pet. He does, and Ginny names the little owl Pigwidgeon.
He’s not extremely important in Prisoner of Azkaban, so this isn’t a major thing. Wood just mentions him when he’s talking about the Gryffindor team’s strategy against Hufflepuff. He also leads Hufflepuff to a victory over Gryffindor, which makes Ron dislike him. His inclusion mostly just sets up his existence for the next book, and lets the audience know that he’s two years older than Harry (I thought he was three years older until I reread the book).
She’s also not that important, and is basically just the Cedric of the Ravenclaw team. She is a little more important than Cedric, though, because Harry starts to show that he has a crush on her. Another point about age: I thought Cho was Harry’s age, when she actually a year older, not that it matters much.
Small Changes That Don’t Really Matter
The movie opens with Harry performing Lumos under his blanket to do his homework. Underage wizards are not allowed to perform magic outside of Hogwarts, and I believe this includes even minor spells like Lumos, so he does not do this in the book. I added this minor change only because I’m pretty sure it’s illegal for Harry to do this.
In the book, Harry receives The Monster Book of Monsters from Hagrid with the rest of his birthday presents while still at the Dursleys and must subdue it in his bedroom, while in the movie, he buys it with his school supplies and must subdue it in his room at the Leaky Cauldron. He ties it up with a rope in both versions.
In the book, Uncle Vernon agrees to let Harry go to Hogsmeade if he behaves himself during Aunt Marge’s visit. In the movie, Uncle Vernon brushes Harry off when he tries to ask because he’s busy. The book version of events better develops Harry’s relationship with his uncle.
In the book, Aunt Marge stays for a week. In the movie, Harry blows her up the day she arrives.
In the book, Marge floats up to the ceiling of the Dursley house. In the movie, she floats into the sky outside, which seems much more dangerous, but doesn’t really affect the story.
In the movie, a talking shrunken head is added to the Knight Bus. He isn’t there in the book, but I rather liked him, and I would have liked it if he were in the book.
There’s more than one Hippogriff during Hagrid’s first lesson in the book, while in the movie there is only Buckbeak. Also, in the movie, Harry has an extended flight on Buckbeak, which he seems to really enjoy (which, as far as I can tell, was only added to make it more exciting or something). In the book, he just circles the pen and doesn’t really enjoy it. And in the movie, Malfoy just goes toward Buckbeak to be a snot, while in the book, he was supposed to be working with Buckbeak and insulted him.
There is no mention of taking care of slugs in Care of Magical Creatures in the film. All the films seem to really neglect Care of Magical Creatures, actually.
A lot of the things that the Bogart turns into are different in the movie than in the book. In Ron’s case, the Bogart turns into a spider in both, but the Riddikulus spell removes the spider’s legs in the book, but gives it roller skates in the movie. I think roller skates are funnier.
The other creatures the students fight in Defense Against the Dark Arts are left out.
In the book, Harry visits Hogsmeade a couple of times. The first time, Ron and Hermione are both okay with it, but the second time, Hermione has told him not to go. He goes anyway, and that’s when he invisibly throws mud at Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle while Ron is supposedly alone looking at the Shrieking Shack. In the movie, this all happens during the first visit to Hogsmeade, and Harry throws snowballs instead. This is how he makes himself known to Ron and Hermione in the movie. Also in the book, the trio are together in The Three Broomsticks when Harry learns about Sirius, but in the movie, the bar is closed to minors, and Harry goes in alone under the cloak to listen in.
When Snape subs for Lupin, he teaches the kids about werewolves in both the book and the movie. In the book, he asks the difference between a regular wolf and a werewolf, but in the movie he asks the difference between a werewolf and an animagus. This allows for the deletion of the scene in which McGonagall teaches the kids about animagi by knocking out both animagi and werewolves in one lesson. Also, in both the book and the movie, Hermione answers out of turn, causing Snape to call her an “insufferable know-it-all,” which really hurts her feelings. In the book, Ron is sympathetic to her, but in the movie, he mumbles something like, “You know, he is right.”
Spoiler In the book, Sir Cadogan replaces the Fat Lady when Sirius Black attacks her portrait and she is afraid to return. In the movie, Sir Cadogan doesn’t have a very big role and never replaces the Fat Lady for any length of time in the finished film, though he does in a deleted scene. End Spoiler
In the both the book and movie, Harry uses the first time he rode a broom as his happy memory during his Patronus lessons, and in both versions, this fails. In the book he then uses something like winning the House Cup, but in the movie, he uses a faint memory of his parents. I much prefer the movie memory to the one in the book.
In the book, Hermione slaps Malfoy. In the movie, she punches him, which is way more badass in my opinion.
Minor Spoiler When the students begin crystal gazing in Divination, Professor Trelawney comes over to the trio’s table to help them. In the book, she starts to say that she sees the Grim, and Hermione, exasperated, says something like, “Not the Grim again.” That’s when Trelawney tells her that she’s the least gifted student she’s ever seen, and Hermione storms out, dropping her first class ever. In the movie, Hermione is the one who says she sees the Grim because she thinks Trelawney will be impressed and agree with her. This is when Trelawney tells her she isn’t gifted, and Hermione storms out of class. I prefer the book’s version of events because it’s more true to Hermione’s character in my opinion. End Spoiler
Spoiler In the book, Harry hears Professor Trelawney’s prediction at the end of his final, but in the movie, he just goes back into the classroom, or something like that, and hears is then. End Spoiler
Spoiler In the book, Harry, Ron, and Hermione are under the invisibility cloak near Hagrid’s house when they hear Buckbeak being murdered, but in the movie, they’re up on a hill overlooking Hagrid’s hut. End Spoiler
Ending Spoiler When Ron is pulled under the Whomping Willow in the book, Harry and Hermione are just hit with the tree’s branches when they first try to go in after him. In the movie, they are picked up and thrown around. I was actually disappointed that this part wasn’t in the book when I reread it. End Spoiler
Ending Spoiler In the book, Snape is knocked out by three Expelliarmus spells being cast on him at once, and he remains unconscious during most of the events that follow, even though he is being levitated behind the rest of the characters. In the movie, he is left behind inside the Whomping Willow. He later rejoins the others, after Pettigrew’s departure. He protects the trio from Lupin the werewolf until he runs away toward another howl in the forest. I really liked the scene where Snape protects the kids when I first saw it and was initially disappointed that it was not actually in the book; however, upon further reflection, I have decided that it shouldn’t have been done because it’s too much of a redeeming moment for our favorite jerkass. It works nicely in the film, though. End Spoiler
Ending Spoiler Sirius is imprisoned in Professor Flitwick’s office in the book and the Dark Tower in the movie. End Spoiler
Ending Spoiler In the movie, when Harry and Hermione use the time turner, they have to throw snails (I think they were snails) at their past selves in Hagrid’s hut because that’s what happened to them earlier. Hermione also howls like a wolf to get werewolf Lupin to leave their past selves alone. And finally, Harry has to cast Expecto Patronum at the Dementors that are trying to perform the kiss on Sirius and himself. Only the last of those three things occurs in the book, but I rather like the other additions of having to do things that have already happened. End Spoiler
The Damn Werewolf (Ending Spoiler)
“Can anyone tell me the difference between a werewolf and a regular wolf?”
“A werewolf looks like a long, thin CGI monstrosity, while a regular wolf looks like, well, a wolf.”
“Shut your ungodly mouth, Granger, you insufferable know-it-all. Fifty billion points from Gryffindor.”
…Or something like that.
In the book when Snape asks the differences between a werewolf and a regular wolf, it implies that the two look similar, but the movie changed this question to the differences between animagi and werewolves. The former question wouldn’t really work in the film because the werewolf looks nothing like an actual wolf, so you’d have to be an idiot not to be able to tell them apart. The wolf looks incredibly ridiculous when compared the other special effects in the movies. It’s inexcusable really.
What is with All the Muggle Clothes?
This one gets its own section. The book constantly talks about tucking things in their robes, but through most of the movie, it seems like everyone just wears Muggle clothes. Where do they put their wands? In their jeans pockets? There isn’t really a reason for this change, and though it doesn’t really affect the story, it does take a little bit away from the Wizarding World, and it takes away from the few times in the different books that they do wear Muggle clothes because in the films, they already wear Muggle clothes pretty frequently.
What They Did Right
The Knight Bus
The Knight Bus scene is really good. The way it shrinks up when it passes through the cars is perfect, and Ernie and Stan are cast very well. Even the beds on the bus are just right. I also like the edition of the talking shrunken head.
Buckbeak is also very nice looking. The flying scenes are very well done.
The Dementors were done extremely well. They looked great and were really creepy. I liked the way they were handled in general. How everyone reacted to them was great, especially with the chocolate. Minor Spoiler Harry falling out of the sky because of the Dementors was done very well. End Spoiler Even the screams of Harry’s mother whenever the Dementors are around were really good and intense. Also, the training scene with Lupin was good too.
Final Grade: B
This adaptation receives a B because it does stay true to most of the major events in the book, and it is true to the spirit and atmosphere of the book (mostly). Plus, it adds a few cool things. However, it also leaves out a few pretty important details as well a major subplot (the feud). The feud focused a lot on the relationships of Harry, Ron, and Hermione with each other, and its near omission is what mostly brought down the grade. It also changes/doesn’t develop other relationships in the series.
—George Weasley, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, page 194