He Said/She Said | PostIndependent.com

He Said/She Said

Editor’s note: The Post Independent today introduces a new Options feature, “He Said/She Said.” While new to the GSPI, “He Said/She Said” previously appeared in the Summit Daily News, where its two authors were previously coworkers. Today marks the resurrection of their side-by-side reviews.

By Dan Thomas

The biggest battle in the newest Harry Potter movie isn’t good versus evil or wizard versus Muggle, but the epic conflict between book and movie.

That’s certainly not to suggest director Alfonso Cuaron and scriptwriter Steven Kloves did anything less than a stellar job in adapting “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.” In fact, it takes the virtues of the first two movies ” a great story, magical atmosphere and the best casting job I can think of ” along on a bolder, darker, more entertaining adventure.

The only problem is “Azkaban” ” the book ” contains what I think is the best twist in the series. At least as far as the ratings board is concerned, I’m an adult (and one who batted about .750 on “The Da Vinci Code”) and this twist about three-quarters of the way through sent me flipping backward through J.K. Rowling’s children’s book for the clues.

The movie, though, sprints right through the twist ” one on par with, I think, the surprise of “The Sixth Sense,” ” leaving no time for the magnitude of it to set in.

At least there’s a good reason for Kloves and Cuaron’s swift-moving “Azkaban.” At 142 minutes, it’s only nine minutes shorter than “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” and 18 fewer minutes than “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” but it feels much shorter ” the result of nimble pacing in adapting the longest of the three books.

The rich world Rowling created was starting to shackle Chris Columbus ” he probably bloated the first two entries with so much Hogwarts argle-bargle to do justice to the depth of Rowling’s work. Without Cuaron buzz-sawing the script, though, No. 3 risked being “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of His Own Mythology.”

In addition to slimming the script, Cuaron creates a darker, scarier, more art-house world for Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and his cohorts. The more mature themes and the new pace go well together. It reminds me of something Norrie Epstein wrote about Mel Gibson’s 1990 “Hamlet” ” It’s not so much Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” as it is an action movie set in Denmark with a protagonist named Hamlet.

And that, in turn, reminds me of a thought I had the last time I reviewed a Harry Potter movie: The only drawback to the movies being so good is that these books were a reading revolution, and wouldn’t it be a shame if children (and adults) stopped reading them because they knew the movies were so good?

So I suggest letting J.K. Rowling surprise you ” and your parents ” with “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” then rewarding yourself with Cuaron’s vision of Rowling’s world.

Mischief managed. Nox.

Dan Thomas, an assistant copy editor for the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, is the former arts and entertainment editor at the Summit Daily News.


Director Alfonso Cuaron creates a darker, more menacing version of the Harry Potter books in “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.”

And the first dark force the teenage wizard contends with is his hormones.

The third installment shows a rebellious Potter (Daniel Radcliffe, 14), content to make a dinner guest bloat up like Violet Beauregarde from “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” and let her fly into the London sky.

Since Potter has learned to play with his wand (which the opening scene pokes fun at), we see another side of the boy.

He and his cohorts are maturing, and it’s more fun to watch than a game of Quidditch.

Cuaron strips away childish uniforms, dressing the teens in more trendy clothes, including Hermoine’s (Emma Watson) hip-huggers.

He teases the audience with snippets of romance between Hermoine and Ron (Rupert Grint) that slip out in petty arguments and a quick hand-hold.

Meanwhile, Potter must face threatening prisoners, soul-sucking Dementors and vile secrets.

All of the enchanting aspects of previous Potter movies remain ” intriguing professors, whimsical portraits, fantastic spells, menacing forces, plot twists and adrenaline-producing Quidditch games.

But the most satisfying element is its underlying depth.

I didn’t read Harry Potter books after the first one because I thought it lacked spiritual and psychological substance.

I can’t say whether the third book has more depth, but I know the movie does.

In it, Hogwarts students learn to transform their worst fears into ridiculous figments of their imagination. Potter discovers his own power to save himself rather than relying on a parental figure. And he decides to trade revenge for fair judgment.

The most disappointing part of Potter III occurs at the climax, where secrets unravel. Cuaron rushes the scenes, bringing in characters too quickly and not allowing the weight of the situation to settle before proceeding.

And, though rated PG, it’s a movie I would caution parents with young, sensitive children to avoid. It took producers six months to create the Dementors, but it might take me years to repress the haunting memory of the ghostly black creatures.

Kimberly Nicoletti is arts and entertainment editor at the Summit Daily News.

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