I don’t know if this is happening in other places, or if Seattle is just particularly crazy for Potter this fall, but our local IMAX is showing films 3 through 6 for a week each leading up to the release of HP7 Part 1 (so named because no one can remember the title of the seventh book.)
I was pretty excited to have the chance to see my favorite Potter film, The Prisoner of Azkaban, in the theater again. I love it for a lot of fangirl sorts of reasons, which I will spare you, but also because it was a game-changer in terms of the look and feel of the Potter films.
The previous two, The Philosopher’s Stone and The Chamber of Secrets, presented audiences with a very candy-colored magical world, a place where magic was a thing to be showcased: we must all stop and be aware that Magic Is Happening. It was Hogwarts as a Disneyland ride.
Cuarón changed all that with Azkaban, working from a more muted palette, with handheld cameras, and letting magic just happen in the background. The magical world is overgrown and dusty and lived-in, moving pictures are not surprising, and housekeeping spells are done with a wave of the hand and hardly a thought. Which is as it should be. Plus, added moments of everyday life at the castle are fantastic: Harry & Seamus complaining about the Fat Lady’s singing, all the Gryffindor boys hanging out in the dormitory eating magical candy, and Ron’s spidery dream when Harry is investigating the map in the middle of the night. This is a Hogwarts people actually live and play and study and work in. This is a Hogwarts where students paint their faces and carry homemade signs at Quidditch matches and where the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher incorporates swing music into lessons. It’s fabulous.
Finally, a bit of heresy in the Potterverse: I firmly believe that Michael Gambon is the superior Dumbledore. There, I said it. He’s darker and more interesting than Richard Harris, and I don’t think that’s solely the result of the directorial change. He’s more restrained, less flippant, and far more in keeping with the Dumbledore of the books.