Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Re-reading and Re-watching: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

If you missed my previous posts, I've been re-reading and re-watching the Harry Potter series in order.  Mostly because I wanted to read it again from the perspective of my Pottermore assigned Ravenclaw House, but also because now I'm a full-blown adult with a home mortgage and I was curious to see how the series has held up.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is notable in my opinion for expanding the Harry Potter world to include Harry's father James' generation and for also developing Hermione into a stronger, passionate character.

(Warning - Spoilers)

Hermione is amazing as f**k, in this, although her character is put on a painful journey through a majority of the book.  She tries to genuinely protect Harry and yet is sworn to secrecy about having a time turner. Thus she has to resort in tattling on her friends and is shunned by Ron for most of the book.  I would argue that Ron isn't really unfairly harsh to Hermione since he cannot know her motivations and really reacts as anyone normally would but not even Harry suffers as much as Hermione in the third book.  Hermione undergoes a fantastic hero's journey that could rival Harry's own.


As far as any further mentions of Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff students, Book Three introduces the Quidditch Seekers of each house, Cedric Diggory and Cho Chang.  I guess it's not really all surprising in retrospect that both are described as handsome/attractive and kind.  It's the kind of blah, generic, friendly personality that most of the "red shirt" characters get suited with.

Another point of contention that I wanted to bring up, is the size of the Hogwarts student and staff body.  In Book Two we learn that there are five second-year Griffindor boys, at least up to this point in the series, Harry, Ron, Neville, Seamus and Dean.  Following this line of logic, there must five Griffindor second year female students, of which Hermione, Lavender, Parvati are specifically named.  That would make each year of each House roughly 10 students, which would be 70 students per each of the four houses for a total of 280 students, rounding up we can assume the total student body may be 300 students.

In Book Three, we learn that the Slytherin Cheering Section during the Quidditch Cup Final numbers around 200 peoples and represents 1/4th of the school.  Now author J.K. Rowling herself has mentioned in interviews that she imagined Hogwarts as roughly having 1,000 students.  By those numbers each house would have 250 students, and each year within those houses having approximately 35 or 36 students.

There is no way Snape is teaching 70 kids in double potions.

That said, I would believe that there are probably at most 20 kids per year, per house.  I think it's reasonable to believe that there are probably many more students in years younger than Harry's especially if their parents believed Voldemort was vanquished and umm...celebrated.  So 20 per year, for 7 years, for 4 houses is approximately 560 total students, which we can reasonably allot 10 more students per house for a grand total of 600.  Add in 100 teachers and 300 house elfs (remember they do all the cooking and cleaning) we get a grand total of 1,000.

The reason I care at all is that my high school graduating class had 642 students.  In some instances that's more that the ALL the students in Hogwarts combined.  Let that sink in a bit.  Now it suddenly make sense to me why Hermione is the smartest, Harry is the best all around, and why students marry each other in later years.  The wizarding world must be INCREDIBLY small.  The most wizards you will ever see in one place is clearly at that school, and to think I didn't date in high school because there wasn't anyone I liked that liked me back.  Boo.  Aziz Ansari is right, having too many choices is paralyzing.

Lastly, Snape. (shakes head) Snape. Is. A. D*ck.

I get why he acts the way he does with Harry, but that in no way absolves him of his abuse of Hermione, Ron and Neville.  Especially Neville.  Snape's the kind of bully to Neville that could seriously have him wind up in the suicide watch prevention category.  There in NO REASON for Snape to be as nasty as he is to his own pupils and Neville's suffereing baffles me, frankly, since Neville's grandmother has some type of influence in the wizarding world and doesn't look after Neville as well as Malfoy's father does for him.

Snape motivations in the third book towards the Marauders aren't even to keep up his cover as a Death Eater.  He just wants Lupin and Sirius dead because they made fun of him.  Sirius?  Okay, maybe, that's a mixed bag.  Snape has no way of knowing Sirius was framed and maybe even blames him for Lily's death but Lupin?  WTF, dude?  All he knows of Lupin is their childhood grudge and STILL hopes for Lupin to be given the dementor's kiss.  He even keeps up his disappointment within Dumbledore's presence, like.... Dumbledore asked you to chill, dude.  Plus he's working for Dumbledore as a spy,  he doesn't have to keep up appearances and pretends he wants murder/ harm all Harry Potter related former Griffindor students in front of Dumbledore.  Like, drop the act, you know, but he doesn't because he actually wants these people dead.  Not for Harry's sake, but for his own.  D*CK MOVE, MAN!


Initially, I remember thinking the third film was quite a radical departure from the Harry Potter series, thus far.  We see the Hogwarts students wearing contemporary clothing around the school, rather than their school robes for much of the film and the grim-dark look is introduced in this film which the rest of the series adopts.  Hogwarts is much larger, looks darker and has funky touches added such as the Frog Choir, a new Dumbledore and a new Flitwick.

Flitwick 2.0 - still played by the same actor, Warwick Davis

Michael Gambon takes over for Richard Harris, whom had passed away.

Dawn French as the new Fat Lady is hilarious.
Watching it a second time, I can still see the traces of the Christopher Columbus directed first and second movies.  Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron, does retain the core Harry Potter actors, themes, music and settings but still manages to open up the Hogwarts castle environment as a true, interactive setting just at the book thematically expanded into the past generations of Hogwarts students.

Again, screenwriter Steven Kloves does an incredibly admirable job of condensing the plot.  Cuts must be made and really the only thing that really suffers is the elimination of the Quidditch Cup side plot.   Trelawny's classes, Buckbeak's trials, and the trips to Hogmeade are significantly reduced but done so in a truly organic manner, plus Kloves pens one of the most quotable lines in the film series which is deftly performed by Michael Gambon with a bit of real life sleight of hand magic trick.  Beautifully done.

Cuaron shoots film with action going on in both the background and the foreground, resulting in breath-taking, painterly-like compositions.

Visually, any shots with the Death Eaters or the Whomping Willow as it cycles through the seasons, are my favorite.

I did appreciate the inclusion of more POC students, but kind of got disappointed when the only black student with any lines resembled more of the stereotypical Magical Negro trope, especially because he just reveals exposition and is listed as simply Student 1 in the credits.

I did like the decision to tone Snape's dickishness from the book waaaay down. Rickman's Snape still gets onto to Harry and Hermione in class but says nothing to Neville and is shown during the climax of the film as trying to protect the children from Lupin's werewolf form.

He is also cut from the hospital scene where Dumbledore suggests to Hermione to re-do the day's events, so we don't even see his childish disappointment that Lupin and Black weren't immediately rounded up and attacked by the Dementors.  This Snape goes down much, much smoother.

Lastly, this film seems to support the 10 students, per year, per house theory that I was running the numbers for above with the book series.  Hagrid's first class for Care of Magical Creatures clearly shows about 20-21 kids, which we see both Slytherin and Griffindor third year students attend. The scene for  Lupin's class for Defense Against the Dark Arts seems to be about 40 students and makes sure to show class robes for all four houses, as the kids line up to face the boggart.

Next up, Book Four.


  1. We rewatch the Harry Potter series every Christmas break! I need to reread the books though.

    1. That's awesome! I think the movies do a really great job of condensing the plot and ratcheting up the tension in the action scenes.