Everyone has that one big cultural touchstone they missed out on. I have friends who shrugged off Pokemon, or Star Wars, or the Marvel Movies. They just never got on the train with everybody else and now they feel weird and out of the loop whenever those things come up in conversation. My pop cultural blindspot is Harry Potter. But not for any longer. To celebrate the release of the next chapter in the Harry Potter canon, I have decided to go back and watch all the Harry Potter films, none of which I have seen before. Hopefully, by the end of this eight part series, I will go from someone who couldn’t give less of a shit about the students of Hogwarts to someone who loves them as much as everyone else seems to.
Welcome to week three, where I’m starting to get on board. But like, just a little bit.
Ok, so this one is supposedly great, and I’m likely to believe that because Alfonso Cuarón directed it. I never got around to Gravity but Children of Men is friggin’ awesome.
Two hours and twenty minutes is BETTER, movie, but lets get it down to an even two ten for next time.
The movie starts with Harry at the Dursley’s house, as is tradition. Harry’s been practicing magic at home, which is discouraged, but he’s keeping it a secret. As it turns out however, Papa Dursley’s sister is in town and has come to visit. Also turns out she’s a complete asshole like her brother. Who’da guessed?
So Auntie Dursley starts going off on how much Harry’s parents were just the worstest, which understandably pisses Harry off. All the lights start flickering as Harry starts to go full on The Omen which I would be totally down for. Seriously, these movies have so far been subtly building the idea of Harry being a potential big bad dark lord and while I know he doesn’t go that way, if that concept just gets dropped like a hot potato in future movies, I’m gonna be super pissed.
But instead of executing Auntie Dursely like he’s a blood covered girl on prom night, Harry goes a… different route with it.
So first of all, that has to be EXTREMELY painful, right? Like, pass-out-from-the-experience painful? Feeling your skin stretch because of a pimple hurts, this must be unimaginable.
So she bobbles around the house before floating out the back door at up into the sky.
Where she dies.
I mean, eventually, right? Either she hits the upper atmosphere and freezes to death or she deflates and punches pavement. Not lookin’ too good for her either way.
In other words, we are now following the adventures of Harry Potter, murderer.
Papa Dursley asks Harry to bring her back, to which he responds “No, she deserved what she got.”
That being, you know, death. Ooooookay.
MOVING ON. Harry just sorta leaves the house with all his stuff and starts wandering the streets. Fortunately for him, a large triple decker bus pulls up. This is the Knight Bus.
It is one of like thirty different methods of Wizard transport we’ve seen so far. Also, the extremely bored conductor is this movie’s MVP. Not as good as Ron’s dipshit owl from Chamber but really close. The Knight Bus tears off through the city, taking Harry to his eventual destination. Also, it is driven by an elderly man and uses a shrunken head as a GPS. I LOVE THIS.
But I have a question. What is the Knight Bus’s business model? It doesn’t seem to take bus fare. And it doesn’t appear to be city funded public transportation. Do wizards pay special wizard taxes to fund shit like this? In addition to regular taxes? Because that would suck.
Harry eventually arrives at the Leaky Cauldron Inn and Pub, where Ron and Hermione are for reasons (yay Ron, yay Hermione). Harry gets all his school supplies, including a special book.
This is the monster book of monsters. Now, I try really hard not to make jokes that I assume other people have made a bunch about these movies. And I assume that the statement I’m about to make has been made by hundreds of other people but please indulge me as I ask the following question:
WHAT FUCKING BENEFIT IS THERE TO A BOOK THAT TRIES TO MURDER YOU? HOW IS THAT IN ANY WAY BETTER THAN A NORMAL NON MURDERY BOOK?
And even more in depth, how did this book come to be? Is it a book-shaped creature that had a book forcibly printed on to it? Was it a normal book brought to life by magic? Is it a creature that naturally has a book inside of it? None of these are any more logical than the others.
Fuck it, next scene.
Ron’s parents show up and Mr. Weasley pulls Harry aside and informs him that his life is in danger and apologizes if this information is shocking to him. It isn’t. Nor should it be. At this point, Harry NOT being in mortal danger would be shocking. This time, the danger comes from a man named Sirius Black.
He seems sane.
Sirius was supposedly an ally of Lord Voldemort, and was responsible for betraying Harry’s parents, contributing to their death. He also annihilated Peter Petigrew another childhood friend which bull-shit, he’s not dead.
Let me tell you about a little rule we comic book fans have: If you don’t see the body, they ain’t dead. So Petigrew’s finger being the only thing left tells me he’s alive and kicking.
Harry and his chums get on the train, where they share a cabin with our new Defense Against the Dark Arts Teacher Professor Lupin. While in transit, they are accosted by a Dementor. Dementors are, as the film explains, somewhere between prison guard and law enforcement for the wizard world. So of course this one opens the compartment and tries to eat Harry’s soul.
I hope wizard taxes don’t also pay for them.
Upon reaching Hogwarts, Dumbledore announces that the Dementors will be posted around the school for safety until Sirius Black is caught. Y’know, if you’re trying to keep Harry safe from Sirius, you could do better than hire creatures who keep trying to eat his soul as campus security. Just sayin’.
Harry is then told that the Dementors don’t distinguish between targets. They seem like a terrible police force. But never mind that because Hagrid’s a teacher now. No degree required. No wonder Hogwarts has such shitty faculty. Hagrid teaches the monsters class, the book for which we talked about earlier. He explains that you can safely open the book by gently stroking the spine. Ooooooooooh, that makes sense. Not as much sense as PRINTING YOUR BOOK ON FUCKING NON MURDEROUS PAPER, but sense, nonetheless.
Also, meet Buckbeak.
Buckbeak is a Hippogriff. He is very proud and made of rage murder. So of course Hagrid asks Harry to go pet him. Harry does safely and then Hagrid slaps him on the creature’s back and lets him fly off into the sky.
So, forgetting how insanely dangerous this is, does every student get to do the same? Because there’s like twenty kids, and I doubt this class is long enough for them all to get a turn. Oh, and that night there is a full moon. I’m sure that won’t came back in some huge way later on.
The next morning, Snape substitutes in for Lupin in his defense against the dark arts class and starts a new lesson on recognizing werewol–
Oh, Lupin’s a werewolf.
I mean, like duh. It’s gotta be somebody, and that motherfucker’s name is LUPIN so I’m guessing it’s him.
Next we get more godamn Quidditch because of course we do. The game this time is being played in a thunderstorm which seems– y’know what, I’m not even going to acknowledge when things seem incredibly dangerous anymore. Because it is constantly.
So Harry flies too high and the Dementors come after him. Jesus fuckchrist, they really are terrible security guards. Who posted them there? Why are they a thing? So many questions. Also, by this point we’ve learned that Sirius is most likely inside the castle so why are they still guarding the exterior. They’re obviously really bad at it. Maybe if they didn’t spend all their time trying to eat that Potter kid’s soul, they’d have noticed a wanted criminal sneaking in. The next day during class, Buckbeak fucks Malfoy up.
Unfortunately, this means Buckbeak has to be put down because Malfoy’s dad is, as we established last movie, a massive prick. Oh no, the violent animal that regularly attacks people when you don’t bow to it is going to be put down. How surprising.
A bit later Ron and Hermione and the other students get to go to Hogsmeade, while Harry doesn’t because his parents are dead and therefore can’t sign a permission slip. Sad, Harry runs into Fred and George Weasley who give him a strange new item: The Marauder’s Map.
The map allows him to see where everyone is all the time.
A couple’a things: First, this 100% confirms my theory about the Wizard NSA from last movie. The wizarding government is full-on tracking all wizards and I want to know why. And second: if there is tracking technology on all wizards, even if it’s JUST wizards inside the Hogwarts campus HOW CAN THEY STILL NOT FIND SIRIUS BLACK?
Fine, whatever, so Harry uses the map and his invisibility cloak to sneak out of Hogwarts and find his friends. He winds up sneaking into a meeting Professor McGoneGirl is having with some ministry of magic members about Sirius Black. It turns out Sirius was James and Lily Potter’s best friend and is Harry’s godfather. Harry gets super pissed and runs off, having concluded that Sirius is the real bad guy here. You know, like Snape was trying to steal the Philosopher’s Stone and Hagrid opened the Chamber of Secrets.
But never mind that jumped-to conclusion, because Buckbeak is about to be executed.
Harry, Ron, and Hermione come down to see Hagrid to make sure he’s going to be okay, but after being hit by rocks thrown from somewhere and noticing the executioner’s arrival, they run out the back door. Hermione thinks she notices something, but ignores it as they go to leave. As they look back… the axe comes down.
Oh, and then Scabbers the rat bites Ron so he definitely has rabies now. Ron chases Scabbers with the others in pursuit before he runs into a large black dog that is definitely Sirius Black.
C’mon, his name was “Sirius Black” this isn’t surprising, let’s keep it moving. The dog drags Ron and Scabbers down a deep hole and Harry and Hermione follow, after dealing with the murder tree.
They arrive in the Shrieking Shack, where they find Ron and the dog, who turns out to be… Sirius Black, shock and awe. At this point Lupin shows up, clearly working with Sirius. They begin pointing their wands at Harry and company and talking about finally needing to kill “him”. They also hug, and Sirius calls Lupin by his first name, Remus.
REMUS? FUCKING REMUS LUPIN? AS IN REMUS THE MYTHOLOGICAL ROMAN CHILD RAISED BY WOLVES AND LUPIN AS IN LUPINE AS IN WOLFLIKE?
Honest question, was Professor Imma Wulfmin just TOO obvious?
Hermione calls Lupin on the fact that he’s secretly a werewolf, to which he responds “How long have you known?” Presumably since the first time she heard your first name and your last name in conjunction, Remus Lupin.
Also, like, Remus and Sirius are 100% totally a couple, right? Like, I’m not a shipper or whatever, but this isn’t even subtext, it’s just text.
The fact that this image was shockingly easy to find tells me the internet agrees.
At this point Snape bursts in and starts pointing his wand at Sirius and threatening him. Sirius and Lupin keep referring to “needing to kill him” which at this point is just needlessly vague in service of the plot. Harry senses that Sirius seems to be telling the truth and blasts Snape. Black obliges by grabbing Ron’s rat Scabbers who is actually…
Peter Pettigrew and I fuckin’ told you he wasn’t dead! Also, sidenote, I love Sirius Black so much, he is the best.
But um, can I just say poor Pettigrew? Like, the dude spent twelve years as a rat being passed from teenager to teenager. That must have been literally hell. Like, being slapped into Dementor custody does not sound that bad whatsoever in comparison. They drag Pettigrew out into the night, heading for Hogwarts when Sirius realizes it’s a full moon.
I blame this entirely on Lupin. Keep track of that shit, man. If I turned into a vicious wolf monster once a month I would have that day marked down on all my calendars. Sirius runs to Lupin and holds him tight while trying to help him reassert control. They’re a cute couple, I’m rooting for them.
But it fails and Lupin turns into a werewolf.
Sirius turns into his dog form and tries to protect the others from Lupin but fails. Lupin is eventually distracted by a wolf howl in the distance and wanders off. Harry goes to find Sirius, who’s been seriously (heh) hurt. The Dementors arrive and are immediately drawn to Harry and Sirius like catnip. Before they can die, they’re saved by someone casting a patronus, the spell that can banish Dementors. It seems like maybe the magic police shouldn’t have a secret magic weakness that just anyone can learn, but whatever, that’s just me.
The next morning, Harry wakes up to discover that Sirius is awaiting execution via the Dementor’s kiss for escaping. He panics that there isn’t enough time to save them, but Dumbledore and Hermione suggest otherwise.
Hermione reveals the Time Turner, a device that allows the user to travel backwards in time. Hermione’s been using it to take extra classes which is a wonderful character moment. So let’s go back in time, folks. And also say bye to Ron, because he, like usual, has to sit out the climax.
Maybe next movie.
So over the next chunk of time, Harry and Hermione fill in all the weirdness from earlier in the film, throwing rocks at their past selves to get them out of Hagrid’s house, luring Lupin away, and Harry even casts the Patronus that saved him earlier. During that time though, they also save Buckbeak even though Buckbeak pretty clearly died in the pre-time travel universe and that is not how time travel works if we’re operating on Bill & Ted rules, wherein everything you do in the past was always destined to happen, which this movie seems to be.
Buckbeak winds up saving Harry and Hermione from Lupin, giving them a chance to save Sirius and past Harry. Late that night, Harry and Hermione free Sirius from prison and let him escape with Buckbeak. They free him by magic-ing the door open. Seems a prison for wizards should have magic proof locks, but these are the same people who commissioned the Dementors, so whatever.
Harry and Hermione head back to see Ron, just as their past selves disappear. Ron has absolutely no idea what’s going on, and his friends just laugh rather than tell him. You know, like assholes. The next day, Harry visits Lupin, who is leaving the school before he can be fired for being a werewolf. Because werewolf racism is apparently a thing. And also probably because his boyfriend just escaped prison again and they’ve gotta go make up for lost time. Harry is gifted a new broom from Sirius, he flies up into the clouds aaaaaaaand FREEZE FRAME!
Wait really? We end on a freeze frame? Well that’s weird.
That, uh, that sure is something.
Also, if the time turner isn’t at least SUGGESTED as a solution to all future problems, I’m gonna be pissed.
The best one so far. Yes, Cuarón’s eye means that this is the most visually interesting film yet, but there’s far more to it than that. First off, while this is another movie without a ton of overall plot progression, it makes up for it with character development. Harry’s film-long arc of learning to overcome his deepest fears is typical, but feels like actual growth, and Hermione and Ron have their own mini-arc of learning to be better friends and stop sniping at each other all the time. Plus, this time Hermione gets to tag along for the big climax which is a great step up. Oh, and Harry blasting Snape so he can hear Sirius out is final payoff of his three movie streak of jumping to the wrong conclusions nonstop without considering alternatives.
But I also was surprised by how funny this one was. Yeah, the others had moments, but this film had a constant undercurrent of fun and humor that really strengthened it as a whole. It made all the characters feel more real and less like stock archetypes. Character development and charm really made this one feel necessary, and not like a wheel spinning movie, which it kind of is but I didn’t mind.
Well, that one was really fun, next week, we’ll talk about the OTHER one I’ve been told is totally the best Harry Potter movie.
Also LupinXSirius 4evr.