Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

Hogwarts Choir: [singing] In the cauldron boil and bake / Fillet of a fenny snake / Scale of dragon, Tooth of wolf / Witches, mummy, maw and gulf / Double, double, toil and trouble / Fire burn and cauldron bubble! / Double, double, toil and trouble / Fire burn and cauldron bubble! / Double, double, toil and trouble / Fire burn and cauldron bubble! / Something wicked this way comes!

This third installment stops being a kiddie adventure when new director Alfonso Cuaron makes Prisoner of Azkaban a gloomy, emotional journey for Harry as backstories of his past begin to haunt him.  The wizarding world is warned of the fugitive on the loose, Sirius Black, who is said to be a loyal ally of the Dark Lord and is out to get Harry too. In the meantime, moviegoers are introduced to David Thewlis as Remus Lupin, the cool, new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor who teaches Hogwarts students how to fight a boggart, and most importantly, coaches Harry to successfully make a Patronus to ward off the dementors that make his waking life a nightmare. Black has finally infiltrated the school grounds that terrifies all students and professors alike, and eventually our three protagonists find themselves face to face with the vicious black dog they’ve grown to fear. Sirius transforms into human form and the great Gary Oldman brilliantly displays the madman who was unfairly incarcerated in Azkaban for a crime he didn’t commit. Lupin and Black are reunited like long-lost family, and the rage they both show against the then-rat Peter Pettigrew is tangible in these scenes. The truth is set free, and Harry is relieved and hopeful to know of a caring godfather in his life. His happiness is short-lived, however, when Pettigrew escapes and Sirius is captured and scheduled for execution. Dumbledore comes to the rescue, and another crucial point of the story is revealed…well, you know what happens next.

J.K. Rowling’s narrative skillfully deceives and reveals, and its movie screenplay is just as good. Dumbledore’s lines are always memorable, and he has quite a handful of quotable quotes:

A child’s voice, however honest and true, is meaningless to those who’ve forgotten how to listen

But you know happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, when one only remembers to turn on the light.

But know this; the ones that love us never really leave us. And you can always find them in here.

The essence of time and memory are amply emphasized in the movie, and it is but fitting that this chapter in Harry’s life has started to eclipse the sunshine in Hogwarts. Evil is at hand.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)

Chamber of Secrets is a vast improvement from Sorcerer’s Stone (see previous entry). CGI effects are now seamless and believable, and all the characters are starting to develop their personalities. Again, I will present the best and worst of all the movie adaptations up until I’m done with Deathly Hallows (which I will be watching today, as of writing).

Best:

  • The flying muggle car as opening sequence is a good preview of the adventures to come. The Quidditch chase between Harry and Draco is very exciting, as if on a roller-coaster ride. Props also to the Weasley ‘howler’ mail, the amazing polyjuice transformation, etc.  All the CGI effects till the very end are great!
  • Ron’s character is starting to be really funny, and Rupert Grint excellently portrays the goofball sidekick. Cheers also to the actress who played Moaning Myrtle, Shirley Henderson, who’s really irritating and psycho scary at the same time. I was pleasantly surprised then that Voldemort is an extremely attractive boy, and Christian Coulson as Tom Marvolo Riddle is just handsome (can’t say much about the acting intensity though ‘coz he wasn’t terrifying for me).

 

Ain't he a handsome Dark Lord?
  •  I didn’t expect Kenneth Branagh to be typecast as the dumb blonde professor, but his ‘clueless’ man portrayal of Gilderoy Lockhart is satisfactory enough.

Worst:

  • Daniel Racliffe’s shaved eyebrows. Now what were they thinking??? It was just too obvious.
  • Richard Harris’s last movie as Dumbledore. Loved his raspy voice and gentle presence.

Now, on to Prisoner of Azkaban, where the cloud of gloom will start descending…

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)

Everybody’s in a rush ‘reviewing’ all the Harry Potter movies before watching Deathly Hallows part II, and I’ve started my own marathon too. Why? An end always make people nostalgic. Forgetting feels like such a crime, and even I am guilty of reliving happy memories to soften the blow of pain left when someone or something is gone.

A decade of waiting is coming to an end. The books make up a third of my existence, and its contribution to my joy of reading texts very significant. Harry has made a dent in literary and pop culture history, and the growing up pains of our younger generation were echoed by the coming-of-age of the three British actors themselves in the movie adaptations (who play characters undergoing the same stages in life too–meta narrative of the third level?).  So how did the first movie fare for me?

Best parts of the movie:

  • Innocence of all the actors – Everybody looked really adorable. They all had squeaky voices and some still had bunny teeth! They really characterized the wide-eyed new kids of Hogwarts.

  • Life-sized Wizard’s chess board match – Highlight of the entire movie.
  • Richard Harris as Dumbledore – He is perfect for the role of the fatherly mentor, and it’s such a tragedy that he wasn’t able to finish the series. God bless his soul.

Worst parts of the movie:

  • The Quidditch CGIs were really bad.
  • The movie narrative was too episodic, bereft of any storyteller to help in the smooth transitions of events. The concept of time was not given much thought, and because it’s episodic, it feels more like weeks than a semester spent at Hogwarts.

The movie was lackluster for me, but I still had a lot of hope for the next few ones then. Understandably, the Harry Potter movie franchise had a lot of expectations to satisfy given its cult following. In the meantime, let me leave you with Lucy Knisley’s illustration that perfectly summarizes the book. Till my review of Chamber of Secrets!

The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan

This is the second book in the Kane Chronicles, the first being ‘The Red Pyramid,’ wherein two siblings, Sadie and Carter, discover that they are descendants of Egyptian pharaohs with powerful magic who have to combat evil Egyptian gods unleashed in the modern world. This adventure led them to face Set, god of the deserts, and worse, the god of Evil. Their battles at the Great Pyramid led them to discover that Set is working towards unleashing the serpent god Apophis, god of Chaos. The book ended with them mourning their losses and wondering how they could buy time and save the world from being swallowed by darkness and evil.

In The Throne of Fire, the story opens with a mission to get the first of three parts of the book of sun god Ra, the god of light and Ma’at (order), the yang that will defeat the yin that is Apophis (chaos). Readers are introduced to new characters, Walt and Jazmine, trainees of the House of Life. The second book alludes to the success of the Kanes in recruiting descendants of the magical families across the country to train in the House, but with adolescents in the army trying to save the world, you would probably be skeptical about their chance at success. This subplot displays the emotional journey of Sadie, as her birthday trip to visit family and friends opens the spectrum of danger wider in their lives, and as Anubis finds a romantic rival in Walt with her, the poor girl swallows her heartaches with Adele music.

The book’s comic relief is their new god chaperone, Bes, a dwarf god fond of Hawaiian shirts and Speedo swimwear as bottoms. Their previous guide, Bast, the elegant feline goddess and daughter of Ra,  is off on a mission herself as she revived her battle to keep Apophis secure. Bes is crucial to their success in their trip to the underworld, and he provides much of the leading clues and connections, but most importantly, he is protection and friendship that makes the siblings grounded in their decisions that involved life and death.

Riordan goes up a notch in immersing Egyptian mythology in modernity, but am not sure if scholars would find it funny that the Kanes finds Ra in an underworld retirement home and turns out to be, not an ageless wonder, but a senile, toothless gramps (I’m kinda reminded of His Dark Materials here).  The comparison of heroes and villains are more than contrasting.  The antagonists are portrayed gloriously (Set’s designer suits and groovy looks, Vladimir ‘the ice cream man’ Menshikov’s terrifying power, and Apophis’ spectacular proportions). However puny, how the save-the-world army looked still was redeeming, as protagonists Sadie and Carter have grown more powerful too and more controlled of the magic that flows through their veins. The kiddies in their team fought well too, and improbable as it may have seemed in the beginning, their innocence and pure hearts actually have a shot at it. The series is a fun way of hooking young adults (and young ones at heart) into reading and learning about Egyptian history. It’s action-packed and pop-culture infused, and it’s a beacon of hope to make younger generations still read and be knowledgeable in history. Grab a copy! It’s literally a hell of a ride.

*There is a proofreading error at page 319. I caught a previous one but forgot to write down the page. I’ll re-read it again sometime and look for it.