It just keeps getting better. “Harry
Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” is a feast of visual invention, a grand
delivery of a rollicking good book to the screen.
Watch for the blue bus that shrinks in order to pass between two big red
ones – and the Hogwarts stairway whose portraits come to life.
Enjoy the “noble art of Divination” as practiced by Emma Thompson,
the shrieking shack, the magic of the wands – all of it unfolding in the
sublime landscape that surrounds the now renowned school of wizardry.
Friendship is the core of the movie – betrayal and loyalty, the measure
of the stuff. This in turn is
tested in some fine performances by some of England’s best:
Michael Gambon trying gamely to fill the shoes of Richard Harris as
Dumbledore, David Thewlis, creating a wonderfully loopy Professor Lupin, Alan
Rickman as the ominous Snape, and the endearing Timothy Spall as a monstrous
Peter Pettigrew. The strong
presence of Gary Oldman as Sirius Black stirs the pot.
And then we have Daniel Radcliffe,
Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint. They
started together in movie #1 as young innocents, and here they are, quite wise
and wonderful at thirteen. Their
ability to grow with the roles as they grow up themselves is one of the things
we think about as we watch. The
three actors have grown in confidence, and their faces have become more
chiseled, more adult. These kids
seem like friends who have known each other for a long while, as indeed they
have. It is J.K. Rowling’s
extraordinary invention that her characters begin at the beginning in Hogwarts,
grow through their four years there, probably will move on to college, and who
knows what after that. They are
adolescents now, and in just a few symbolic minutes, they will be adults.
And then our minds skip to the
author. It is impossible not to
marvel at Ms. Rowling who wrote her first book on a yellow pad in a café
accompanied by her baby in a stroller. She
is now richer than the queen, and deserves to be.
She has created not just a phenomenon, but an entire world that has
captured readers of all generations. Hers
is an imagination that conjures delight, fear, suspense, and appreciation and
takes all of us along for the ride.
There is a lot of honesty here,
and no feeling that Rowling’s visions are diminished by the filmmakers.
They are instead, enhanced. Chris
Columbus did well by the first two when the public clamored for literal
renditions; Director Alfonso Cuaron has made this one in all shades of
emotional light and dark; and it is probable that Mike Newell, who will direct
the next book, will also bring a light heart to the task. Harry Potter has become a team effort in the best of ways,
but the big salute still goes to J.K. Rowling whose mind continues to turn in
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