1) Prisoner of Azkaban is dark in a good way, in a children-have-to-grow-up-sometime way but also a they-don’t-have-to-lose-the-joy-and-wonder-of-childhood way. The world of Harry Potter is a world of magic, but perhaps more important in a thematic sense is that it is also a world of students – the characters and the readers are learning together, so even though the story becomes progressively more complicated we are able to keep pace, only ever as lost or confused as the main characters themselves are. This pacing is more difficult to convey in a film that must condense hundreds of pages into a few hours, and consequently PoA glosses over some crucial details – Cuaron has taken the liberty of assuming, perhaps rightly so, that his audience is already quite familiar with the story. Hermione’s impossible schedule and sudden appearance in class is not as emphasized in the film besides a few idle comments from Ron, so when she whips out the time-turner it seems like a very sudden, very convenient bit of ‘godmoding’, or deus ex machina for the literary crowd… unless you have read the story, of course. Similarly, Remus Lupin’s existence as a werewolf is foreshadowed much more heavily or at least frequently in the book rather than the film – Hermione somehow knowing that their professor was a werewolf ever since Snape assigned the essay also comes across as a rather abrupt revelation. Sacrifices are inevitable in a film adaptation of such a lengthy source novel, but Cuaron chose some major plot points to hurry us through. PoA is mainly about conquering one’s fears in order to find the truth amidst the wickedness of deception, but some of this is unfortunately lost to the time constraints. If you can get past the spectacularly poor acting from most everyone under eighteen, the story and the setting still make for a very entertaining adaptation.
2) The “Owl Post” and “Grim Defeat” chapters present the full version of events that are missing from the film adaptation, and in addition to certain missing details the book presents a more endearing Harry Potter than Daniel Radcliffe is able to convey on the big screen. In the first chapter, we are reminded that Harry is a skinny, almost goofy looking adolescent who works hard at his studies and cherishes his owl, his friends, and his magical life, amazingly optimistic and resilient to the horrible relatives who made his childhood a nightmare completely devoid of love. He is cheered by the birthday messages from his friends and happy for the Weasleys’ sudden good fortune, looking forward to the beginning of the school term. The film, however, opens with a frustrated Harry trying to keep his wand lit and completely cuts out the humorous memory of Ron’s failed attempt with a Muggle telephone as well as any mention that it is Harry’s birthday at all. The “Grim Defeat” chapter introduces Cedric Diggory, an important character in the next book but entirely left out of the third film. The only Quidditch scene in the film is cut short, cropping out the team dynamic and the sense of how much the sport means to Harry, both of which are emphasized in “Grim Defeat”. The book relies not only on the spectacular magical world or the dramatic events in the wake of the Boy Who Lived, rather being more character-driven and intimately connected to the readers. In a film adaptation of such a popular series, there is always the risk of disappointing the fans who have already formed a mental picture of the characters and scenery – to balance out this risk, the film seems to rely on the action and making the picture as visually striking as possible, notably through the darker settings and continuously grey skies.
3) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tx1XIm6q4r4 Not even remotely related to either the book or film version of PoA but one of my favorite Harry Potter links nonetheless. An example of the extent to which fans have expanded the Harry Potter-verse and a more affectionately humorous tribute to a series that becomes devastatingly dark for some of us who began reading them as children – I was actually Harry Potter’s age in the first book when it came out.
http://www.hp-lexicon.org/wizards/sirius.html Sirus Black’s page on the Harry Potter Lexicon
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/HarryPotter/HarryPotterAndThePrisonerOfAzkaban?from=Main.HarryPotterAndThePrisonerOfAzkaban List of tropes in the book and film
All three links are interesting, the last two being the most informative and the third link the most beneficial in seeing how much effort people have taken to dissect PoA, not only on blogs and in reviews but on pages that serve as a sort of unofficial wiki. Diehard fans often like to consider themselves experts, and certain aspects of fanon have almost become canon by virtue of how popular and widely accepted they are amongst these fans.
4) Perhaps more so than other Harry Potter films, in Prisoner of Azkaban Harry seems to be having “daddy issues.” What are they and how does this relate to the theme of growing up and learning to be a man? How does the feminine fit into this process?
Harry’s “daddy issues” are triggered when he learns (or thinks he learns) that Sirius Black is the one who betrayed his parents and led Lord Voldemort to their home, and from then on his main goal while Black is on the loose is to confront his godfather and get revenge for his parents’ murders. Professor Lupin’s presence is a comfort to Harry since Remus was good friends with James and Lily in school, and Lupin starts to adopt a fatherly role when he teaches Harry the Patronus charm and looks out for him even against the wary watch of Professor Snape. When the crowd of dementors surrounding himself and an unconscious Sirius are dispelled, Harry at first believes that his father was the one to save them – later he realizes that it was future-Harry’s Patronus (the form of which is never explained in the movie but has definite connections to his father in the book), and finally having been able to save himself as well as others seems to be a huge step for the teenager who must grow up rather quickly from here on out. Growing up without a mother and finding few female mentors in the wizarding world apart from Mrs. Weasley and Professor McGonagall, Harry’s feminine influences come chiefly from Hermione, who does frequently play a motherly role to both Harry and Ron when her friends are either on the verge of doing something stupid or recovering from a previous stunt.