The Prisoner of Azkaban

Warning: spoilers ahead.
Note: this is a wallaby-free zone.

Veronica has been found, so we went to see Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Thursday night. As I’d expected, the movie was visually stunning but a bit weak on the plot side. Since I’m pretty much the only one in the blogiverse who hasn’t read the book, I’ll be tossing spoilers right and left. Don’t make me say I warned you…

I can see why people say this movie is darker than the previous two, but I wouldn’t put it that way myself. I would have said that the Potterverse is getting more unjust. This is a separate moral inadequacy from the one I noted in The Sorcerer’s Stone and HP as Star Wars - Harry is still a problematic character, but he’s overshadowed now by a problematic society.

The movie begins with Harry being excessively cruel to his aunt - the proper response to snark is snark, not helium. It’s understandable as a spell of passion, but even in his post-meditation Harry has no regrets. Maybe he’s never regretted abusing his abusive guardians, but now that his power over them so obviously exceeds theirs over him he seems out of control - and yet the magical authorities are surprisingly disinterested in this offense.

Next up we have the discombobulators (pardon me for munging the technobabble), who try to suck the life out of Harry at every opportunity. The trouble here is that they’re supposed to be helping the good guys. Instead they’re a nightmare of quis custodiet ipsos custodes? With friends like these… but more on them later.

Hermione is clearly up to no good being in two places at once, even before she goes for Draco’s throat and nose. But breaking the laws of physics is a minor offense in the new lawless Potterverse. I’m more interested in the cruelty to hippogriffs. Poor Mr. Ed did nothing wrong - certainly he did no more damage to Draco than Hermione’s right hook, and with more provocation - so why the death sentence? Why the exceedingly baroque reprieve, in lieu of simple justice?

Next in the hit parade, Harry takes down Snape for no good reason, indirectly allowing the escape of Bubonic Pete. At this point I suppose he has good reason not to expect a fair hearing for godpapa from Dumbledore, Slayer of Innocent Beasts, but he doesn’t handle the situation any better himself. By the time the moon comes out - oops - the whole situation has degenerated into farce…

…relieved only by the return of the discombobulators, in force. Again I have to ask, what use are guards who attack only the good guys? What kind of people would hire them to watch a school full of defenseless children? And who uses vicious demonic creatures to carry out cruel and unusual death sentences on criminals…

…never mind on innocent men? The most disturbing bit of PoA is that godpapa has been locked up for twelve years with the discombobulators despite his innocence, and even though Dumbledore knows it he’s sentenced to death by discombobulation. The great Oz needs a couple of children with a souped-up pocket watch to set an innocent man free - another exceedingly baroque reprieve - and even then his name isn’t cleared. He and Mr. Ed are fugitives from injustice.

If this is the wizarding world, Harry was better off with his inflatable guardians. Better life under a staircase than Azkaban. I’ll have to read the book to see if the world is really supposed to be this out-of-whack. Someday.

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