We went to see the third installment of the Harry Potter series last night. Some spoilers ahead.
This is the best movie of the three, in terms of cinematography. This movie looks VERY different from the childlike, colorful world of the first two Harry Potter movies. There’s good reason for it, too: this is the first really serious book of the series. While the first two were just children’s books, the third is the first one that adults can read and enjoy seriously.
You see the darker side of magic all throughout this movie. There is clear danger is many aspects of magic for the children now. One example is the Whomping Willow, which was silly funny in the 2nd movie. In this third movie, it’s a thing not to be triffled with; from its severe treatment of the children, to even the smallest details of the birds that fly into the tree, only to be turned into a puff of feathers.
The children are getting better with each movie, and really shine in this one. Malfoy is marginalized, but the three main heroes get plenty of screen time and seem very comfortable in their wizard robes.
Gary Oldman rocks as Sirius Black. Since we’ll be seeing him again in future movies, I hope he stays on board in the role. Emma Thompson as Professor Trelawney is hilariously spot-on.
The special effects are very well done. Everything looks seamless, especially the Hippogriff flight scene with Harry. The camera work is excellent, although at times a bit nauseating (Knight Bus especially).
The story is somewhat disjointed, because it only covers roughly 25% of the book. For example, we have only one Quidditch match; none of the wonder and dismay about Harry’s new Firebolt, either, since it’s given to him at the end of the movie instead of after the first match.
Similarly, Lupin knows about the map, but Harry never thinks to ask him why. There’s an entire set of exposition about the four friends that’s just entirely missing as a result (and mind bogglingly so, since it would’ve taken perhaps 60 seconds of screen time at most).
There’s none of the sense of urgency in the final time twisting scenes; none of the irate confrontations of Snape at the end. In fact, Snape has virtually no screen time; just enough to bludgeon us into the understanding that Lupin is a werewolf. The “hints” from Dumbledore feel similarly heavy handed. Professor Trelawney’s prediction has practically no weight in the story.
On the whole, a very good movie, and easily the best of the three. I’m sort of hoping (although not expecting) that the DVD release will contain a director’s cut with many of the oddly missing pieces of the story restored. This was a new directory, and the 4th movie will have yet another new director, so it’s hard to say what this bodes for the future of the series. I will definitely buy it on DVD, though, and enjoy it many times to come.