When you have a pile of Bertie Bott's beans you pick and choose which ones you want, depending on your mood. Some days you might feel like sampling peach or green apple. Other days, you're more in the mood for peanut butter and grape. And you'll rarely crave vomit, or worse, buttered popcorn.
Adapting a book into a movie is like eating jelly beans. You can't chow down on 'em all, or you'll feel ill and bloated: you have to pick and choose what parts of each character you want to portray on screen. So what aspects of Harry's book personality shine through?
Hmm. Maybe "shine through" isn't the best turn of phrase. Because Cuarón focuses on the darkest parts of Harry's personality and life experience. At the Dursley house, we see Harry's capacity for revenge when he inflates Aunt Marge up to giant size. (Not that she doesn't deserve it.)
We're also subtly reminded about everything Harry has been through before he even reaches the age of thirteen. When beastly Aunt Marge asks Harry if they "use a cane" at the boarding school he allegedly attends, he reflects on how much hurt he's been dealt:
HARRY: Yeah. I've been beaten loads of times.
Canes? Canes?! Harry has 99% problems, and a cane ain't one. Harry's had to face a basilisk, a three-headed dog, and a man with a face on the back of his head. A cane wouldn't even faze him.
Once he gets to Hogwarts (and away from that aggro train dementor), Harry's primary conflict in the movie is more of an internal one. He has to learn to face his fears. And one of his biggest fears is that of his own godfather, escaped convict Sirius Black.
A normal person would be scared if a psychopath broke out of jail for the sole purpose in killing them. But, as we've established, Harry Potter isn't a normal person. If Harry was a normal person he would say things like:
HARRY: Mr. Weasley, why would I go looking for someone who wants to kill me?
…and mean it. Harry Potter? You better believe he wants to go looking for Mr. Black.
Harry wants to meet Sirius Black…so he can kill him. Remember how we alluded to Harry's capacity for revenge?
But let's check out Harry's motives for a quick second. What drives Harry to want to kill? The fact that he believes Sirius Black to be responsible for the deaths of his parents. Harry's identity is still super-wrapped up in his parents' lives (recall how his happiest memory is of his smiling mom and pops).
Not only that, but Sirius' sudden appearance is like a knife in the heart for poor ol' (or rather young: dude is only thirteen) Harry—now that Hogwarts is back in Black, Harry can't forget for even a moment that his parents were murdered.
Of course Harry learns that Sirius didn't kill his parents, and you know there's a part of him disappointed that he can't get revenge, if only for a second.
But this also proves to be a moment for a Life Lesson. Harry learns that Peter Pettigrew is the actual culprit…but instead of killing him, Harry decides to do the right thing and turn him over to the Dementors.
Of course, this decision allows Pettigrew to escape. (No one said life was fair.) So the Boy Who Lived is left wondering which is worse: revenge or mercy. It's a bit of an existential pickle…and one that Harry's going to have to muddle through in the next few films.
But it's not all gloom n' doom for Harry—it's only approximately 96% gloom n' doom. After his encounters with Dementors, a werewolf, and an Animagus, Harry gains a godfather named Sirius (and the world gained an additional Harry Potter character crush).
But he also earns something more important: self-confidence.
In the first two HP films, we see that Harry's more than a little haunted by his parents: he is, in fact, overshadowed by them even after their death. Harry's constantly told that he is like his father, and as a result he starts to wonder if he's special at all in his own right. But in the encounter at the lake, Harry proves that he can rely on himself to be his own savior.
He thinks his father is the person who conjured the massive Patronus and scared the Dementors away, but it's actually Harry who Patronuses the snot out of those raggedy old ghouls.
HARRY: I knew I could do it this time because, well, I had already done it. Does that make sense?
Time travel wise, this doesn't make a lick of sense. But it does show us the cyclical nature of self-confidence. By believing in himself, Harry is able to accomplish something great. And by saving Sirius, Harry believes in himself even more.
And although Harry will always miss his parents, he now realizes he can be the source of his own salvation.
Yep, our Harry's definitely wise beyond his years.
Like Harry, Hermione's also finding her strengths in this installment. Or rather: she's finding more of her strengths. (She was already pretty set when it came to getting it done, academia-wise.)
She's more than just cool clothes and amazing hair. As a thirteen-year-old girl who's smarter than, well, pretty much everyone else, Hermione is subjected to bullying. We expect it from Draco Malfoy, who would harass a toddler to make himself feel better. But Hermione is also insulted by her teachers—adults who should really know better.
One memorably mean instance comes from Snape during the lecture on werewolves. Hermione, who must be the only member of the entire student body who has seen An American Werewolf in London, knows all about werewolves, and she shares her knowledge with the class.
SNAPE: That's the second time you've spoken out of turn, Miss Granger. Are you incapable of restraining yourself or do you take pride in being an insufferable know-it-all?
Another is when she's insulted by Professor Trelawney, which is like having a Oujia Board spell out "UR DUMB" even though you're the only one using it.
TRELAWNEY: You may be young in years, but your heart that beats beneath your bosom is as shriveled as an old maid's, your soul as dry as the pages of the books to which you so desperately cleave.
Saying these comments are harsh doesn't even begin to cover it.
These kinds of comments really hurt, especially because they explicitly insult Hermione's intelligence. From other jealous students, comments like these would still be obnoxious, but understandable. Teachers, however, should be encouraging her smarts…not demeaning her for being bright.
But the movie doesn't explore how these affect Hermione. She takes Snape's comment stoically—maybe because she doesn't expect anything else from Snape. And she simply quits Divination, which she thinks is a crock anyway.
Unable to lash out at teachers, Hermione's able to vent some of her frustration by punching Malfoy in the face, one of everyone's favorite moments in this movie. Everyone wants to cheer when Malfoy crumples like a piece of paper.
Hermione's almost the hero of this story, actually. It's Hermione who uses the Time Turner to go back and save Buckbeak and Sirius. Harry just tags along. Hermione even casts the spell that blows open Sirius's cage. Either she's super powerful, or they should have put someone who has already escaped from the most secure wizarding prison in a sturdier cell.
Hermione's intelligence, quick thinking, and perseverance pays off. Before Sirius flies away on Buckbeak, he gives her a huge compliment.
SIRIUS: You really are the brightest witch of your age.
It doesn't seem like a lot, but it's a priceless remark for Hermione. She is used to being made fun of because of her intelligence, not being praised for it. Like Harry, Hermione also ends this movie with a big boost in confidence and self-esteem. That's something magic alone just can't do.
Poor Ron is a total non-factor in this installment. Harry gets a burst of self-confidence. Hermione gets to save the day. And Ron…gets dragged into a tree by a dog, loses his pet rat (who turns out to be an evil traitor) and spends the rest of the movie in the infirmary.
RON: What the bloody hell was that all about?
That's Ron's reaction after Dumbledore sends Harry and Hermione on a time-travel adventure, but it might as well be how he feels after being useless for the entire movie. On top of not getting to tag along, Ron isn't even told what happened:
HERMIONE: Honestly, Ron. How can somebody be in two places at once?
Hey: we thought these guys were the fearsome threesome. Why the need to keep Ron in the dark?
However, Ron at least gets one scene that might just be one of the most normal and humanizing moments in the entire film series. Upon returning to Hogwarts, Ron and Harry reunite with their friends in Gryffindor. The boys experiment with some magic candy that enables them to make realistic animal noises.
It's the wizarding equivalent of seeing friends after a long absence and spending a night catching up while eating candy or ingesting other sorts of real-world substances. (Like soda. We're talking about soda.) This is one of the rare times we're reminded that in addition to being a boy who will change the world, Harry Potter is still just a kid, too.
And Ron is there to be his best buddy.
Defense Against the Dark Arts teachers don't have a long shelf life at Hogwarts. They expire faster than a sliced apple in the refrigerator.
But out of all the DADA teachers Harry has had so far—Profs. Quirrell and Lockhart—Lupin is the best for Harry because he serves as the mentor figure he needs.
Unlike Dumbledore, who speaks in cryptic riddles, Lupin, while still uber-secretive, gives Harry practical support. He tells Harry memories of his parents, builds up his confidence to face his fears, and teaches him the Patronus charm, which might be one of the most important spells Harry knows.
Also, chocolate. Lupin loves giving people chocolate, which makes him amazing.
Almost as important as chocolate is moral support. Harry feels pretty dejected at the end of the movie, but Lupin talks him through it:
HARRY: None of it made any difference. Pettigrew escaped.
LUPIN: Harry, It made all the difference in the world. You helped uncovered the truth. You saved an innocent man from a terrible fate.
Harry's dad is dead. His godfather is on the run from the law. So Lupin steps in to be the father figure Harry needs, if only temporarily. Thanks for the pep talk, Remus. Now where's our Snickers?
Sadly, Lupin's reward for being a loyal helpful is being forced into resigning from Hogwarts. What gives?
LUPIN: Well, it seems that somebody let slip the nature of my condition. This time tomorrow, the owls will start arriving and parents will not want, a, um, well, someone like me teaching their children. […] Besides, people like me are... Well, let's just say that I'm used to it by now.
Because this is a kid's fantasy film, Lupin's losing his job because he's a werewolf. But his forced resignation has overtones of homophobia—in less advanced times, teachers were routinely encouraged to quit because of their sexual orientation.
In fact, Cuarón even gives Lupin and Sirius' relationship some homoerotic undertones. They share a lingering embrace, and Snape comments upon how close they are:
SNAPE: You two, quarrelling like an old married couple.
It's also been remarked upon that Cuarón subtly uses Lupin's lycanthropy as an allegory for HIV/AIDS.
Yup: it's reasons like these that we think that Cuarón's Harry Potter film ranks among the best of 'em…and why Remus Lupin is one of the Potterverse's most enduring and fascinating characters.
Sirius's so determined to get what he wants, he's like a dog with a bone—or maybe we should say he's like a dog with a shape-shifting rat.
Until we see Sirius in the flesh (instead seeing him in the fur), he exists as a mystery surrounded by rumors. Check out some of the goss surrounding Mr. Black:
STAN SHUNPIKE: That is Sirius Black, that is. Don't tell me you've never been hearing of Sirius Black. He's a murderer. Got himself locked up in Azkaban for it.
RON: Except no one's ever broken out of Azkaban before and he's a murderous, raving lunatic.MCGONAGALL: Sirius Black may not have put his hands to the Potters but he's the reason they're dead.
Quick recap: dude betrayed the Potters. He wants to kill Harry. And he's escaped from Azkaban to do it.
But only one of those is true, and only partially. Yep, Sirius wants revenge, but not on Harry Potter. Sirius wants to catch the true traitor: Peter Pettigrew.
Sirius's judgment as a dog is very, very poor. He frightens Harry early on in the park by looking like a snarling, growling mongrel. (Doesn't he know the meaning of puppy dog eyes?) And instead of just biting Scabbers from Ron's hand, killing Pettigrew instantly, Sirius drags Ron about half a mile through the base of a tree, injuring him in the process.
Bro, you need to work on your critical thinking skills.
In human form…well, Sirius still doesn't plan things out very well. He promises Harry that his godson can live with him, and then soon reneges on that promise:
SIRIUS: One day, perhaps. For some time, my life will be too unpredictable. And besides, you're meant to be here.
After finally escaping, Sirius makes it up to Harry by purchasing him a broomstick. We know from later installments that Sirius and Harry will grow closer, but just judging from this movie, Sirius isn't a very good guardian.
But we'll give him the benefit of the doubt. Being imprisoned for so long would make anyone impulsive and desperate, and Sirius is looking out for Harry the best way he can. We won't put him in the doghouse just yet.
Snape is extra Snapey in this movie. He's his classic rude self to Harry, Hermione, Lupin and Sirius. He's not here just to be cranky, though. Snape provides us with a bit of contrast and perspective on Harry's parents, especially his father.
Whereas Lupin shares fond memories of Harry's parents with Harry, Snape has a different opinion on the late, great James Potter:
SNAPE: He, too, was exceedingly arrogant, strutting about the castle.
(You know your self-esteem is low when you're jealous of a thirteen-year-old.)
Snape redeems himself a little bit by pursuing Sirius into the Shrieking Shack. He believes the rumors about Sirius Black, and wants to capture him, even if it means reluctantly saving Harry Potter in the process.
But Snape gets lost in the movie's climax. After being disarmed by Harry and knocked aside in the werewolf/dog-Sirius battle, we don't see Snape again.
The book goes into more depth on Snape, if you're interested…but if you've had enough of Snape's snipes for a while, we totally understand.
Even though Hagrid's hut is in a different location—Cuarón had it moved to somewhere more scenic—his heart's in the same place. Hagrid cares for Harry and pals, and he cares for animals. He's a gentle giant with a heart of gold, even when it comes to magical creatures who could gut you with one claw.
That makes him a great new choice for Care of Magical Creatures teacher…but it also makes him a bit of a liability:
HAGRID: Look at him. Loves the smell of the trees when the wind blows through them.
That's Hagrid's opinion of Buckbeak—he sees the inner beauty of the animal, and ignores the sharp beak and talons. Hagrid has a blind spot for anything dangerous, maybe because he himself is so huge that it's hard to hurt him…physically, at least.
Emotionally, Hagrid is much more fragile. Insecure about his new teaching job, he turns to Harry for support.
HAGRID: How am I doing me first day?
Harry is, of course, there to support his friend. And he even saves Buckbeak. Sure, he probably wouldn't have if Sirius's life hadn't depended on it, but Hagrid doesn't have to know that. We won't tell him if you don't.
Malfoy may be older, taller, and maybe even blonder—but he sure isn't any nicer.
Malfoy is at it again with his classist attitude and sneering expression. Bullying Hermione, Harry, and Hagrid for not pureblood aristocrats, Malfoy is like a booger you just can't seem to get out of your nose no matter how hard you blow.
Overall, he inadvertently has a big impact on the plot of the film. He acts impetuously, getting himself injured by Buckbeak, and turns it into a scheme to get Hagrid fired and Buckbeak executed. Just listen to what a melodramatic jerk he is:
MALFOY: I consider myself lucky. Madam Pomfrey said another minute and I could've lost my arm.
We wish. And without Malfoy's interference, the whole Time-Turner-save-Buckbeak plot wouldn't need to be nearly as complicated.
Like almost every bully, Malfoy crumbles instantly in the face of real confrontation. In Azkaban, this comes from Hermione, who does what everyone wants to do after three movies of Malfoy's malfeasance: punches him in the schnoz.
That's enough to get him out of her hair for the rest of the movie. If only it were that easy to get rid of him for good.
If Yoda and Gandalf had a baby, it would be Albus Dumbledore. Dumbledore wouldn't be able to tell anyone a straight fact if his life depended on it. He only speaks in riddles, like a Magic 8 Ball.
Here are a few examples:
DUMBLEDORE: If you succeed tonight more than one innocent life may be spared.
DUMBLEDORE: Oh, and by the way. When in doubt, I find retracing my steps to be a wise place to begin. Good luck.
DUMBLEDORE: For in dreams, we enter a world that's entirely our own. Let them swim in the deepest ocean or glide over the highest cloud.
Dumbledore is just speaking in memes at this point, and that last one doesn't even apply to anything Harry does in this movie—he must have accidentally used the Time Turner to go to the movie where Harry uses the Pensieve for the first time.
One reason Dumbledore's role is a little diminished in this film is that the previous Dumbledore actor, Richard Harris, died in 2002. Gambon plays Dumbledore like a wise old hippie wizard who ties his beard—at least he isn't giving Harry any grooming tips.
The most subtle thing about Peter Pettigrew is his name. We're surprised he isn't named Sketchy McTraitorface, in all honesty. The true betrayer of Harry's parents is in disguise as a rat, traditionally not a very honorable animal. (No offense to the adorable rat from Ratatouille.)
And when Pettigrew returns to human form, he still looks like a rat. (No offense to actor Timothy Spall.) Everything he does just seems oily and greasy. He even tries the tactic of comparing Harry to his father.
PETTIGREW: You look so much like your father. Like James.
It works when Lupin does it, but not when Pettigrew does. Maybe because his sniveling nature. Or because he uses Harry's dad's first name, as if Harry forgot it.
Pettigrew serves two purposes in Azkaban. One, he escapes, which makes us look forward to his capture in future books. Two, and more importantly, he allows Sirius to demonstrate his true nature. Sirius declares that Pettigrew is the true betrayer:
PETTIGREW: I didn't mean to! The Dark Lord. You have no idea the weapons he possesses! Ask yourself, Sirius! What would you have done?
SIRIUS: Died, rather than betray my friends!
And right there is the moment when Harry accepts Sirius as his godfather. Because Harry would do the same for his friends, too. He's no rat.
Hermione believes her to be a total hack…and her wild behavior doesn't convince us any differently. But this doesn't stop her from delivering an eerily accurate prophecy:
TRELAWNEY: Tonight, he who betrayed his friends, whose heart rots with murder shall break free. Innocent blood shall be spilt and servant and master shall be reunited once more.
Hey, even a stopped clock is right twice a day.
Neville, before growing up and getting hot, served mainly as a source of comic relief in the early Harry Potter films. He falls over at random times and makes funny faces.
But we can't ignore a sly bit of double entendre Cuarón sneaks into the movie. After Neville is almost devoured by his textbook, Ron gives him a bit of advice:
RON: You're supposed to stroke it.
Uh-huh. "Stroke it." What teenage boy hasn't heard that one?
Mercifully, we don't spend too much time with the Dursley clan in this film. If only Harry were so lucky. Neither Aunt Petunia (Fiona Shaw) nor Dudley (Harry Melling) get any lines of note. In fact, Dudders doesn't get to speak at all. (Not that we're complaining.)
The Dursley dinner is dominated by large Aunt Marge (Pam Ferris) who slanders both of Harry's parents in about three minutes. If we were in Harry's shoes…well, we're not magical. So we'd slip some laxatives into her dinner. But we don't blame Harry for lashing out at her.
Her mind is wiped after being inflated to four times her size, so she'll be back to her own vile self in no time. Isn't there a spell to make her permanently mute?
We also get appearances by other Harry Potter supporting characters, some of whom factor in more in later stories. Madam Rosmerta (Julie Christie) mans, or we should say womans, the Three Broomsticks pub in Hogsmeade where Harry eavesdrops on her and Professor McGonagall (Maggie Smith), who sadly gets no good lines in this one.
We also meet Stan Shunpike (Lee Ingleby) of the Knight Bus, Cornelius Fudge (Robert Hardy) the Minister of Magic, and a quick appearance by a few Weasleys, including the twins who give Harry the Marauder's Map. And that's about it.