Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Trailer Review by Kelly M. Grosskreutz
Director: Alfonso Cuaron
I normally don't review the trailers to movies, but I just watched the trailer to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and instead of doing a snippet-by-snippet analysis on IRC for two or three other people, I have been encouraged to write it up as a review instead. Thinking that a great idea, I rewatched the trailer bit by bit and have written an analysis/commentary of the events depicted within. I will be spoiling the plot of this movie, and may bring elements of all five Harry Potter novels into play, so if you have not read the Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban novel, I would advise you to read no further. I also chose not to rate this like I would a typical review because it is, after all, only a trailer.
* * * S P O I L E R S AHEAD! * * *
As we know, Prisoner of Azkaban is a darker novel than the previous two, and the very opening of this trailer hints at this darker nature. The Warner Brothers logo appears amidst dark blue smoke and mysterious music. My first instinct was to go, “Oooh, this looks interesting. Looking good so far.”
The logo fades to black, and we are shown the Hogwarts Express sitting on a bridge, steam billowing from the front of the train. At first glance, it appears nothing more than a glimpse of the train on the way to school. Actually, it is very reminiscent of the scene from the Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets movie showing the train on the way to school right before Ron erratically drives the Ford Anglia underneath the bridge.
But all is not what it seems, as I noticed when I watched this trailer piece by piece. The train is not moving. Yes, that’s right, it is sunny and beautiful, and the train is halted on a bridge. This is the first hint that this movie might diverge more dramatically from the book than the previous two. In the book, the day got steadily darker, clouds thickened, and by the time the train is forced to stop, it was raining and so dark that the lanterns were turned on in the train.
Okay, so far it appears that maybe I’m being a severe nitpicker. Bear with me. In the book, the train stops, and then Ron says he sees something moving around outside and thinks that whatever it is is coming aboard the train. No problem with this, except that in the movie, the train is stopped in the middle of an extremely high bridge. The same bridge from the Chamber of Secrets. So how do the dementors accomplish this?
We know from the books that the dementors don’t walk or run; they glide. We also have known them to just appear and disappear, so we can deduce that they can Apparate and Disapparate. Using this, one could say that the dementors Apparated into the Hogwarts Express. After all, it has never been said if it is possible to Apparate into the train. But if this is what happened, then why is the train stopped? Did they order the conductor to stop the train? Even if the conductor was terrified just because they were there, that is no reason to stop the train in itself.
Sticking with the Apparating hypothesis for one more minute, that also throws out Ron’s comment from the book about seeing them coming on board the train from outside. One other way this could have worked would be for the dementors to Apparate outside the train and be able to just hang in midair. But then they would have to be able to somehow stay alongside the train, which at this moment would still be moving at quite a rate of speed.
In short, the only way for this scene to plausibly work in the context of the movie would be for the dementors to fly to the train and force it to stop from the air. But to the best of my knowledge, we have never seen a dementor fly. They haven’t needed to fly in the books. They are scary enough just by showing up and gliding towards their victim. In short, instead of continuing to think this movie looks really good, I am already questioning how faithful it will be to the books just by seeing the very first snippet in the trailer. Not a good sign.
Next we see the same blue smoky background, only this time the words "On June 4th" replace the WB logo. The next snippet shows what appear to be a boy and a girl out in a deserted wintry area looking at a small, dilapidated house off in the distance. They are separated from it by a barbwire fence. We don’t get a good look at these kids, but I would guess they are Hermione and Ron. I think I can be safe in saying that they are looking at the Shrieking Shack.
This scene looks good. I can picture them, along with the majority of Hogwarts, walking up to take a look at the Shrieking Shack during one of their Hogsmeade visits. It’s a little smaller than I had envisioned it, but it does fit the part. I do like how it sits alone in a snow-covered wasteland. It looks spooky and forbidding.
We then return to the blue smoky background to see the words Something Wicked This Way Comes. Following our first glimpse of the Shrieking Shack, it manages to reengender a feeling of foreboding and anticipation in me. It definitely reinforces that each book (in this case each movie) is getting darker. That phrase is also one I’ve always liked.
The next thing we see is the carriages on their way to Hogwarts, accompanied by the music I best associate with the Harry Potter movies. Magical, mysterious, and somewhat sad, the music is a good fit to the dismal looking night that Harry returns to what he considers his true home. The castle looks impressive, as always, and this scene is pretty much how I had envisioned it when reading the book. I do wonder if the bird that lands on the road signs is anything to which we should be paying attention.
Continuing with the theme of homecoming, we hear Dumbledore welcoming the students back to Hogwarts before we are shown our first glimpse of Michael Gambon playing Dumbledore. From what little of him we see in this trailer, Gambon appears to be a good choice to replace the late Richard Harris. He looks and sounds enough like him to carry the part. Hopefully seeing the entire movie will bear this out.
I’d just like to comment on a few other things about this snippet before moving on. I absolutely adore the candleholder that is in front of Dumbledore. It is gorgeous and perfect for him. I also find it fascinating that the director chose to have Snape and Lupin sit next to each other for the Welcoming Feast. I just don’t see the two of them sitting by each other, but perhaps that was the only seat left for Lupin after his trip on the train. I can’t wait to see how Rickman and Thewlis will play off of each other.
Immediately after his welcoming pronouncement, we are treated to a quick glimpse of a choir of students standing in front of the great hall, singing the chant the three witches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth first uttered, “Double, double, toil and trouble, cauldron burn and cauldron bubble.” I have always liked this line, and all of Macbeth in general, but I do have to wonder what William Shakespeare would think of his words being turned into a song for a hit movie that really isn’t related to Macbeth. I also have to wonder just when did Hogwarts get a school choir? Granted, I have always wondered what other recreational activities Hogwarts offered aside from Quidditch, and Rowling did hint at other activities with the mention of a Gobstones Club, but this would be the first actual presence of something outside of classes and Quidditch at Hogwarts.
Immediately following this is a very brief glimpse of the Knight Bus speeding down a street, presumably to pick up Harry, who we see sprawled on the ground looking up in amazement. The Knight Bus itself looks pretty much how I had pictured it from the book, but not how it goes down the street. I could not tell from the trailer whether or not the other cars were aware of the bus heading towards them at all, but the bus itself appeared to be swerving all around the traffic, reminding me somewhat of an insane video game where the player must avoid all the obstacles in the road. In the book, it is mentioned more than once that the obstacles magically leap out of the way of the Bus, which always seemed to me to travel more or less a straight line from Point A to Point B. In other words, not swerving madly around the road. The cars and building automatically moved out of the way of the unswerving Knight Bus. But Harry here is how I had pictured him. So I am mixed about the thought of the Knight Bus scenes. It will fit pretty close, but yet the difference in the way other objects react to the Knight Bus does concern me.
We quickly segue into seeing a swelled Aunt Marge floating into the air. Any person who has read the book once or twice will recall that this entire scene took place in the Dursleys home. Storywise, it makes more sense for it to take place in the house, since the Ministry only has to Obliviate Marge. Having it take place outside means that other Muggles may have seen, making the Ministry’s job harder and it even more surprising for Fudge to be so willing to sweep Harry’s use of magic under the rug. But for some reason, I find myself willing to overlook this small thing, most likely because the rest of the scene looks pretty close to what was written in the book.
The next snippet we see bears some discussion. It shows Draco, Crabbe, Goyle, and another boy sitting in a class. Draco is blowing an origami bird across the room while the other boys watch. Draco’s sling is also present, showing that this scene takes place after his encounter with Buckbeak.
At first glance, one might wonder what is supposed to be going on in this scene. According to an interview I read with the boy who plays Crabbe, Draco is supposed to be blowing a drawing he did of Harry fainting in front of the dementor across the room to Harry. They are all supposed to be in Defense Against the Dark Arts at this time. The rings we see on the boys’ hands are supposed to be a gift to all the Slytherins from Lucius Malfoy.
With this background knowledge, the scene doesn’t seem so out of place as it would first look. Some interplay between Harry and Draco would have to be scripted, since in the books they don’t have DADA together, and Draco would do something like this to Harry in a class taught by a teacher he does not respect. The addition of the rings is also somewhat cool.
The only thing that doesn’t look cool in this scene is Draco himself. For one thing, the hair doesn’t suit him. The slicked back hair of the past two films was more fitting to his character. The Malfoys are always described as looking perfect in every way. Draco’s hair is far from perfect, but instead looks like he got up two seconds before class and ran his comb through it once. Also, Draco Malfoy is supposed to be 13 years old in this film. This kid looks to be at least 15. Granted, the other kids are close to the same age as Tom Felton, but he is showing his age more so than the others, in my opinion.
Next we see a shot of some of the students going down some stairs outside on a sunny day, followed by another shot of the brand new Hogwarts choir. For some reason, almost every student in the choir is holding a huge frog in his or her arms. The reason for this escapes me. Actually, the reason for taking the time to show Hogwarts having a choir escapes me.
The one good thing about that choir is that they served to make an excellent transition into the next snippet. We hear them sing, “Something wicked this way comes,” just as we shift to Snape walking menacingly into a room. On one level, I find it intriguing that they linked that line with Snape. On other, it makes the viewer think something nasty is about to happen.
But instead, as we see from the rest of this scene, it’s not really Snape at all, but the boggart. Yes, we get to see Neville confront the Boggart Snape. I think this was the best bit in the entire trailer. It starts off so menacing, we see Neville looking nervous and afraid upon seeing Snape, and then Snape is forced into drag. The look on Rickman’s face when this happens is priceless.
We then move into Hogsmeade, where we see the Wanted posters for Sirius Black. I like the way we see his picture move, but I am still trying to figure out why they had Sirius looking furtively around him and screaming. This does not coincide with the descriptions of him in the book, either at his time of arrest or any of his Azkaban tenure. Unless the cameras caught him just as he discovered he was being sent to Azkaban without any sort of a trial. I have to say, though, I think they could have come up with another way to show that Sirius looked sinister without making him look like a raving lunatic. For example, they might have, oh, I don’t know, actually used the description of Sirius that J. K. Rowling came up with when she described what he looked and acted like in Azkaban.
At about this same time, we hear a male voice saying, “Sirius Black has escaped from Azkaban Prison.” This is interspersed with a terrified-looking Ron and Hermione on the Hogwarts Express. Great stuff here. They make it appear Sirius is the one menacing them. I also like how Crookshanks is hissing and spitting and that Ron is actually going for his wand. I can see him doing that if he thought for a minute that Hermione were in danger.
Quick flash next to Harry and Snape in a dark corridor. Snape whirls quickly around like he heard something. He is holding a lighted wand, and Harry (dressed in Muggle clothes) is holding a piece of parchment. I am guessing that this is when Snape caught Harry returning from Hogsmeade. I am unsure why he appears to be startled, but in this case it is intriguing because it leaves me wanting to know why he’s startled, and just wondering how they plan to change this scene (which mainly took place in Snape’s office in the book).
Following this are two more quick flashes: one of Harry standing in a courtyard while an owl flies towards us, and the other of Sirius sitting on a floor in prison. On top of this, we hear the same male voice (Arthur Weasley) saying, “Swear to me you won’t go looking for Black.” As he finishes saying this, Sirius turns his head to face us with an expression on his face that just tells me that Gary Oldman was a great choice to play Sirius. Perhaps he doesn’t look quite like I had pictured Sirius, and looks a little more well-fed than Sirius is described, but the expression wins it. He appears alert, but yet sorrowful, almost hopeless. Just like I imagine Sirius being/feeling when in Azkaban. May I also mention that I think it wonderful that they are actually going to show us Sirius in Azkaban to begin with? It gives us hope that they will show us other things we were only told in the books. A flashback to the aftermath of that fateful night in Godric’s Hollow would be nice to see.
We then hear Harry ask, “Why would I go looking for somebody who wants to kill me?” and switch to see Harry asking Arthur Weasley this very thing. It appears they are having this discussion in the Leaky Cauldron, which makes sense that Arthur would tell him there. Good way to shorten up that scene a little bit.
The next thing we see is the one snippet I’ve been wanting to address ever since I saw a picture of it on a website prior to the trailer’s release. Here we see a frightened-looking Hermione, Ron, and Harry cowering behind Professor Snape. Just when does this ever happen? In any of the books? The caption given with the picture at the time read something like, “Professor Snape protects the students from a werewolf.” Uh, excuse me, but by the time Lupin became a werewolf, Snape was unconscious and only woke back up after Lupin had run away somewhere. All danger from every quarter had passed.
There is only one explanation I have seen anywhere that makes some sense. Some people have speculated that we are seeing Snape’s version of events. This would be the story that Snape told Fudge about what happened, making himself look good and making Fudge want to give him an Order of Merlin. If this is the case, I have hope that we will get to see other flashes like this, like the aforementioned Godric’s Hollow flashback. If this is not the case, and this is actually supposed to happen in the movie, then, to put it bluntly, I greatly fear that this movie just might suck after all. Although, taking this picture completely out of context, I actually see Snape doing this. He’d do it reluctantly, grudgingly, cursing Harry’s name every second, but he would do it.
We next see Sirius standing in what I’m guessing is the Shrieking Shack pointing a finger at something. I think this is the part where he tells Ron that his rat is Peter Pettigrew. Again, Oldman looks wonderful. The eyes look freaky, but that is perfectly in character, since he is doing his utmost to commit murder at this point. That, and he hasn’t been away from Azkaban long.
Next glimpse is of Harry underneath bedclothes with some parchment. It appears to be getting brighter in this scene, which I don’t understand, since I would guess this is taking place at the beginning of the movie, when he is doing homework at night at the Dursleys’.
The next thing we see are Ron, Hermione, and we would guess Harry, although we don’t see him, running down a hill past some tall stones. Looking closely, I do see Hagrid’s hut in the left-hand corner. This could be a few scenes, but I’m guessing it’s one of the ones towards the end involving the rescue of Buckbeak.
Going along with that theme, we next see the trio hiding behind some engorged pumpkins by Hagrid’s hut, with Hermione looking worriedly behind her. I can picture these two scenes happening something like this, although I’m wondering if the Invisibility Cloak will be making an appearance here at all.
Jumping from the ending part with Buckbeak, we go to the beginning of that storyline next, as we see students running away from something coming their way. Hagrid is standing close to us, looking concerned, arms upraised as if warding something off. Not too bad for the Hippogriff scene, I think.
We next see Dumbledore causing a candle to light by waving his hand by it, an aerial glimpse of Hogsmeade, and McGonagall standing in a corridor looking around worriedly before we get to another scene worth talking about. Harry has his wand outstretched, and it looks like he’s having an anti-dementor lesson. This is another great-looking scene. Radcliffe is playing this like I picture Harry looking when battling dementors. It really looks like he is having an internal battle, like he is feeling that coldness inside him and those visions are creeping in…excellent!
This is followed by our first glimpse of the dementors as we see a scaly hand sliding aside a door (probably on the Hogwarts Express). The rest of the dementor is behind the glass, so it’s hard to make it out, but it does look scary. I am really looking forward to getting a good look at these guys. I am just hoping they don’t closely resemble the Nazgul/Ringwraiths from the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
The last shot before the bolt of lightning and the normal text finishes of a trailer is, once again, of the newly-formed Hogwarts chorus with their huge toads. Are these guys going to be so important that they merit three shots in the trailer? Why, why are they ramming this chorus down our throats? Show us more Snape, Lupin, and Black, I say!
Thinking about the trailer as a whole, I am torn. Parts of this movie look like they are going to be really good, whereas I have doubts about the other parts. For the most part, I was pleased with the first two movies. They were able to make entertaining films while staying true to the books. This movie looks like it will be entertaining, and it will definitely be darker, as it should be, but I am unsure how faithful to the book it will be. I had heard some rumors before the trailer came out that made me skeptical, but I kept hoping that things wouldn’t be as bad as I was making them out to be. After seeing this trailer, instead of feeling reassured, I find my doubts are justified. Now I find myself simply hoping that all their additions and “spicing up” of the plot will not ruin what is, in my opinion, the best Harry Potter novel to date.
© November 2003, Kelly M. Grosskreutz
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