Chris Columbus was out and Alfonso Cuarón was in. So began the rejuvenation of the Harry Potter film franchise. Of course, only two films had been made, and for the most part they weren’t bad, but there’s no denying the series needed a kick in the pants to get itself out of a generally inartful funk. Hiring a new director, and one with such directorial flare and independent instincts, did the trick. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban completely redefined what could be expected stylistically from the series. It’s too bad the film itself is a problematic mess of tone, plot and creative confusion. Click to read more
Archives For July 11, 2011
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is an all around amazing book, but perhaps my very favourite thing about it is its inclusion of time travel as a plot mechanic during the final act. I love time travel more than is probably healthy, so to see it show up in my favourite series of novels is a dream. But I love time travel for more than just its ability to provide crazy plots. I have long stood by time travel as a form of communicating depth and emotion through a variety of means. I find that time travel provides the perfect mechanic for allowing characters to reflect on themselves, their pasts or their histories. Back to the Future, for example, is a time travel movie, but the time travel is mostly used as a device to let Marty see what his parents were really like as teenagers, as well as discover some of his own courage. Similarly, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban uses time travel to create an emotional climax for Harry.
Rowling begins to weave in her third act time travel twist right from the start. Hermione is taking more classes than logic allows. She disappears and re-appears at random points before, during and after classes. It doesn’t make any sense, but in reality this is Rowling setting up the device she will properly introduce later. Amazingly, she doesn’t just limit the set-up to pure foreshadowing. Hermione is using her Time Turner to get to all her classes, but it takes a huge toll on her. She has always been a girl striving to learn as much as possible, and some of that might be overcompensating for not coming from a magical family, or maybe its just that her lack of magical background makes her that much more interested in that world. Whatever the motivations, Hermione is a major overachiever. In the real world Hermione might just take extra classes, night courses, summer courses and do all kinds of extra-curricular activities to soak in all she can. In Rowling’s universe time travel enables Hermione’s personality; she incorporates magical concepts to explore facets of Hermione, and later she uses the same concepts get into Harry’s mind. Click to read more
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was, for many years, my favourite in the series, and reading it again gave me a newfound appreciation for what Rowling accomplished with it. It’s with this third book that Rowling begins the weighty process of moving Harry into adulthood and preparing him for his own mortality. She maintains many of the childish elements of the series while pushing it more into the realm of serious suspense, drama and emotion. I really believe that Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is one of the best novels ever written. The prose isn’t War and Peace, but the depth of humanity in the book is astounding, particularly for what is still ostensibly a book for kids. Click to read more