Chris O’Mahoney

ENGL329B

Professor Byrne

Adaptation Paper

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

            Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is written by British author J.K. Rowling.  The third installment of the seven part series, Azkaban revolves around the mysterious Sirius Black.  Little is known about how Black escaped from Azkaban, however once he is on the run the wizarding world is left aghast and terrified at where he may appear next.  It is believed that Black is after Harry Potter because it is rumored he is a servant of Lord Voldemort, and he wishes to fulfill his evil master’s plan.  It is soon figured out by Harry, Ron, and Hermione that Black is actually Harry’s godfather and he is actually after Peter Pettigrew, a friend of Harry’s father at Hogwarts who leaked his whereabouts to Lord Voldemort.

In the entire Harry Potter series there are a number of reoccurring themes Rowling plays with and one such theme is the top heavy and unjust nature of the wizarding world.  In Azkaban one such example of this is the unjust handling of Buckbeak the hippogriff.  In the book Hagrid has been appointed the new professor for Care of Magical Creatures and in his first ever class he decides to introduce the class to hippogriffs.  During this class Draco Malfoy is scratched by Buckbeaks’ talons and he is rushed to Madam Pomfrey.  Normally this would not be a big deal but due to the Malfoy’s standing in the wizarding world, Hagrid fears he may have already lost his job.  He tells Harry, Ron, and Hermione,

 

 

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“`Spect it’s a record,” he (Hagrid) said thickly, when he recognized them. “Don’ reckon they’ve ever had a teacher who lasted on’y a day before…”But’s only a matter o’ time, i’n’t it, after Malfoy…”(Rowling 120)

 

Hagrid is fearful for his job, not because of what Buckbeak actually did, but who he did it to.  One theme that is present in every single Harry Potter novel is the idea of social classes, and the superiority of pure blood wizards over everyone else.  The Malfoys are a proud pureblooded family, meaning that all of their ancestors have been wizards and they have no muggle blood in their veins.  For families like the Malfoys, they use this as a way to abuse those below them in the social ladder.  This is why Hagrid is so distraught after Draco is hurt, he knows what kind of power a family like the Malfoys will have in determining Buckbeak’s future.

Just as in the real world, the wizarding world has many social prejudices that seem to dictate individuals place, or standing, in society.  Being a half giant, Hagrid is already harshly judged and discriminated against and he is already on a short leash or as Ward puts it,

“Muggle, squib, werewolf, and so on. In the wizarding world, as in our own, these identity

position categories exist within a hierarchical system established and perpetuated by an elite

minority who have access to positions of power (people such as Dolores Umbridge), or who,

because of their wealth, have influence over those with power (people such as the Malfoys).” (Ward 2)

 

Since the Malfoys have access to the power structure within the wizarding world, they are able to pull strings and unfairly decide a lot of people’s fate.  These problems exist within the wizarding world and they are something that Harry deals with in almost every single novel, especially Azkaban.

Another important theme in Azkaban, as well as every other Harry Potter novel, is loyalty and friendship.  There is no denying that friendships play a major role in every movie,

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and Lennard even argues that the Harry Potter books can be used in religion classes to teach the values of friendship and loyalty (Lennard 54).  In Azkaban, Harry uses his friendships with Ron and Hermione to get to the bottom of the Sirius Black case.  They are willing to follow him to the end of the world and back, often without even questioning him.  These two are Harry’s best friends and they stay loyal to him throughout the series.

Harry also develops friendships with many of the professors at Hogwarts and these friendships help Harry to figure out his past and his future.  In Azkaban, Harry is introduced to Professor Remus Lupin on the Hogwarts Express after a dementor attacks Harry.  Not only does Lupin save Harry from the dementor, but he also forms a close bond with Harry as he teaches him the Patronus charm.  Through this friendship Harry gains a lot of knowledge about his parents for the first time.  Lupin was one of James and Lily Potter’s closest friends at Hogwarts and he is able to tell Harry some stories about the two of them.  One of the things Lupin always seems to emphasize in the novel to Harry is how loyal his father was to him and he always stuck up for his friends.  Lupin tells Harry that after he told James and Sirius he was a werewolf, instead of abandoning him or chastising him, his father and Sirius figured out how to illegally become Animagi so they could protect Lupin from himself when he turned into a werewolf.  It’s these types of selfless acts of friendship that repeat themselves over and over again in Harry Potter, and through these acts of friendship they are able to overcome every obstacle that comes in their way.

 

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            The film on the other hand, while I believe it is a faithful adaptation, leaves a lot of parts from the book out.  Jake Sproul believes that the new director and screenwriter for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban did a good job of taking out unnecessary parts of the novel,

 

“This meant that the faithful adaptations crammed with every single piece of dialogue and every minute subplot that audiences had become accustomed to had to go. Screenwriter Steven Kloves does a good job excising the unnecessary fat, while keeping the meat of the story.” (Sproul)

 

I believe that this is what makes Azkaban such a good adaptation of the novel because the director Alfonso Cuaron, who is well renowned director in Hollywood, was able to tell the story of without boring the audience to death with every single detail that Rowling has in her novel.  This is done for a number of reasons whether it is budget constraints, the overall importance of a scene to the movie, or simply whether or not the director believes it needs to be in the movie or not.  One example of this is the Marauder’s Map.  In the book Lupin and Sirius explain to Harry, in great length, about how Lupin came to be Moony, Sirius to be Padfoot, James to be Prongs, and Pettigrew Wormtail.  While having this in the book may be important for both explaining the friendship between Sirius, Lupin, and James Potter while also laying the groundwork for storylines in future books, it is not a necessary caveat to have in this film.  It does not really advance the plot of the film or add anything more to the film.  While die-hard Harry Potter fans may have wanted it in the film, Cuaron knew that he did not really need it for the purposes of his film.

Another example of something that was left out of the film was when Sirius bought Harry a brand new Firebolt broom after his Nimbus 2000 was destroyed by the Weeping

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Willow.  Quidditch is always as much bigger deal in the novels than in the films.  Rowling always seems to have two or three Quidditch matches per book, which works fine because they offer an exciting chapter or two that has the reader frantically turning the pages in anticipation.  The matches always have suspense, drama, intrigue, and the chase for the Snitch is always a fun; however having multiple Quidditch scenes in the films would prove to be too tall of a task.  In the film Harry plays one Quidditch match, which is always one of the highlights of the film for me, and he is injured when he faints.  When he comes to, Ron tells him that his broom was smashed and that’s more or less the end of that.  In the novel however, a mysterious person who we learn to be Sirius sends Harry a brand new, top of the line Firebolt broom.  However teachers confiscate the broom because they believe someone who wished to injure Harry sent it.  They all perform dozens of tests and curses on the broom before they ever let Harry fly it.  Again, while parts like this may make for an interesting read in the novel, they do not add a whole lot to the overall plot of the film.  This is why the Alfonso Cuaron decided to “trim the unnecessary fat” found in the novel and the result was a very concise, streamlined film.

All in all I loved this movie and I thought it was as good of an adaptation of the novel Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban that could have been done.  Cuaron did an excellent job of taking out parts from the novel that were not 100% necessary for the plot of his movie, which made the film fun and exciting to watch.  I think the film was a box office success because Cuaron knew which parts were necessary to include and which parts were not.  And in this day and age, if the film does well in the box office than it can be viewed as a success.

 

Bibliography

Lennard, Anthony. “Harry Potter and the Quest for Values: How the Boy Wizard Can Assist Young People in Making Choices.” Feb. 2007. Web. <dlibrary.acu.edu>.

Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. New York: Arthur A. Levine, 1999. Print.

Sproul, Jake. “Review: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.” Angelfire: Welcome to Angelfire. Web. 24 Jan. 2012. <http://www.angelfire.com/film/yourmovieconnection/harrypotter3.html&gt;.

Ward, Renee. “Shape-shifting, Identity and Change in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of

Azkaban.” Web. <http://accio.zymurgy.org/proc/AccioProceedings/reneeward.pdf&gt;.

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