I stopped watching the Harry Potter movies after the third one. Weirdly, this is the movie that others find most enjoyable, the most creative. I suppose that is kind of why I hate it.
Look, I’m not against creativity, even when it is being applied to a book series very close to my heart. The problem is when they go too far and cut out the thematic heart of the story. The problem is, I first watched this with people who hadn’t read the book, and they couldn’t tell what Harry’s Patronus is. Was it swan? Was it a deer? Was it supposed to be significant in any way?
At no point does the film tell us that this is Prongs. That it’s a stag, the form Harry’s father took when he became an Animagus. This film does not make clear in any way that at a point when Harry was desperate to see his father, he succeeded – just not in a way he expected.
That’s a hell of a thing to leave out. The emotional core of the Prisoner of Azkaban is Harry coming to terms with the death of his parents. This struggle lies behind so many of the obstacles he faces throughout the year. He worries he can’t defeat the Dementors because he wants to hear their voices again. He goes from seeking revenge on the man he thinks betrayed them, to saving the life of the man who actually betrayed them. And this theme culminates with Harry conjuring a Patronus, driving away the Dementors, and finding his father within himself.
The message in the Prisoner of Azkaban is that you can’t deal with death by focusing on the absence of your loved ones. You can’t get stuck on wanting to hear their voices again. You deal with death by living as they would have, as they would want you to. None of this is in the movie. And there’s no amount of creativity that can make up for that.