We packed up Peter with a very kind baby sitter yesterday and saw Harry Potter and the Prisoner Of Azkaban, third in the Potter movie series. Liked it quite a lot, and think it's definitely the best movie of the three. Although I enjoyed the first two while watching them, somehow they were so featherweight that the movie was barely over before I started forgetting them. They were slick and professional, but somehow, they felt like, as Avril put it, documentary versions of the books. Too reverent to be substantial. Director Alfonso Cuaron put a very nice spin on "Azkaban," probably my favorite of the series anyway. It's hard to pin down what the different between Cuaron and the director of the first two movies, Chris Columbus, is, but in the end it boiled down to "tone" for me. This movie truly felt magical, and I felt sucked up into Harry's world so it was real to me, rather than as if I was riding a theme park ride like with the first two films. The scene where Harry joyfully rides a hippogriff over a soaring sky and lake was possibly the moment that summed up the gleeful feelings of the book better than any part of the films so far has.
Cuaron was smart to make this a "movie," rather than obsessing over keeping every line of the books intact. As with "Lord of the Rings," I think a better film is made when the director and writer keep true to the spirit of the original work, rather than slavish fidelity to every line. I know there's a lot of Internet fanboy complaining about what was cut here and what was cut there from "Azkaban," but these cuts didn't ruin the movie at all for me. The books are still there. Abbreviated though it is, "Azkaban" is purer to Rowling's visions than anything else onscreen so far.