But it seems to be the creative license taken with the plot that has caused the most discomfort for die hard fans of this imaginative and playful series. This movie is easily the least faithful to the letter of the book so far, and many fans can't seem to get past that.
I say it is least faithful to the letter, but in spirit it is right on target. This is the story where Harry begins to really delve into his past, learning more than he ever knew about his parents. This is facilitated by the appearance of Professor Lupin, an old school chum of Harry's father, and the escape of Sirius Black from Azkaban, who's relationship to Harry I shall not divulge for those few who have been in a coma for the last several years.
In essence, this is a coming of age story, and Cuaron really hits the nail on the head in this respect. His treatment of Harry's reaction to learning the connection between himself and Black is brilliantly played (I love the shots filmed from under the invisibility cloak in the Three Broomsticks), and Harry's relationship with Lupin was also spot on. And let's not forget the clever asides displaying Ron & Hermione's budding romance (surely you can see that one coming?!).
The casting, as usual, seemed to have tapped into the collective imagination of the fans. Who better to play Professor Trelawney than Emma Thompson?! Pam Ferris actually WAS Aunt Marge and Gary Oldman played the dissheveled, slightly mad Black to a "T". It's like they were plucked straight from my mind and placed on the screen.
To top it all off, the entire atmosphere of the series has taken a turn for the better with this movie. As much as I love the first two films (and I love them dearly), they now seem a little rigid in comparison. Cuaron really captured the playfulness of Rowling's books. Whether it was the Whomping Willow batting a bird out of the sky to signify the coming of autumn or Hermione wondering aloud about how her hair looks from the back, this film at times seemed to be winking at the audience.
This also came across in the musical score, once again brilliantly composed by John Williams. From "Aunt Marge's Waltz" to "The Knight Bus," Williams deftly captured the mood of Cuaron's film, and it seemed to me that he opened things up a little and had a bit more fun this time around. I cannot recommend the soundtrack enough for those who listen to this brand of modern-day classical music.
There's only one real problem with this DVD (not the movie itself), and it's the same problem I had with the previous two: where is the director's commentary?!!! I'm dying to get the inside scoop on these films, but so far have been denied in this respect. Hopefully we'll eventually get some Special Director's Cut 6 1/2 Year Anniversary Edition or whatnot, although I'd rather they rewarded their loyal fans by including the commentaries in the initial releases.
So to all those who were disappointed with this take on Harry Potter, watch it again and see what you think upon further review. It took me a couple of viewings to really appreciate what Cuaron has done with this film, so don't give up on it before really giving it a go. It is, as Ron would say, "bloody brilliant!"
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