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“Harry Potter and Prisoner of Azkaban”: Book and Movie Comparison

In 1997, over the span of one night, Harry Potter took the world by storm when the book sold 11 million copies within 24 hours of its release: 2.7 million copies in the UK and 8.3 million in the US. And as of 2021, More than 500 million copies of the Harry Potter books have sold worldwide; more than 180 million copies have sold in the U.S. alone. As for the Prisoner of Azkaban book, it sold more than 68,000 copies on the first day of its release in the U.K., American publisher Scholastic ordered an initial print run of half a million copies. Prisoner of Azkaban also was named the Whitbread Book of the Year for 1999.

In this essay, I will compare two narratives; J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban the book and its movie adaptation. By so doing, I shall demonstrate that there do exist significant differences as well as similarities between the two narratives despite them appearing so similar.

Both the book and its film adaptation share the same character set. The lead character is the hero Harry Potter, a famous wizard whose adventures are the central focus of the book and the movie. In the wizard world, Harry Potter is engaged in a prolonged fight to defeat the immensely powerful and evil wizard Lord Voldemort. Harry Potter is assisted in his noble quest by his two best friends Ron and Hermione. These two characters play significant roles in the plot development of both the movie and the book.

The magical school that Harry and his friends attend so as to learn about wizardry is represented in an identical manner in both the book and the movie. The school building is a gigantic and daunting castle which is inaccessible to non-magical people. According to the book, the castle has a lake, extensive grounds and a forest.

The movie properly depicts this as a lake can be seen as the students arrive at the school by use of a train. The imposing nature of the castle is evident and in many scenes from the movie, Harry Potter and his friends venture out into the fields and forests that are part of the school grounds.

However, the representation of one of the lead characters Hermione in the movie is not a true depiction of what she is in the book. In the book, Hermione is described as the brightest girl in the school. Her know-it-all attitude alienates her from the rest of the students.

Nothing to the book indicates that Hermione is an attractive girl, and she is in fact describe as having large protruding teach and bushy brown hair. However, the movie presents Hermione as a physically attractive and likable character. This is inconsistent with the image that one builds form reading the novel.

In the book, the prisoner of Azkaban, the character Sirius Black who is Harry’s godfather, plays a minor role despite him being central to the plot of the book. His appearances in the book are relatively few considering that he is the focal point of the book.

The book instead focuses on developing the story around Sirius and therefore, despite his not being mentioned every now and then, one can sense his involvement throughout the book. In the movie, Sirius plays a more predominant role, and he is afforded relatively more screen time than one would expect from the book.

The movie adaptation contains numerous omissions of events that are recorded in the book. This is to be expected considering the relatively small length of the movie compared to the size of the book. Harry Potter’s exchanges with his uncle’s family are left out and one can therefore not correctly gauge the nature of the relationship from watching the film. From the book, it is clear that Harry Potter hates staying with his relatives who despise him.

The discrepancies begin with the first shot of the movie, as Harry performs a spell under the cover of his bed sheets. Immediately, there are two implications of the director’s decision to present this scene in this way. The first is the creation of a spell, which was not a part of the book lore. The second one is the fact that Harry does magic despite the in-universe underage restrictions. Considering that his use of magic outside the school is a plot point both before and after the third installment, the inclusion of this scene indicates a plot hole in the movie.

The adaptation excluded the backstory of the Marauders from the narrative entirely. Whereas the book dedicates an entire storyline to them, the only indication of their acknowledgment in the movie is the Marauders’ Map. This decision creates considerable confusion for the viewers who did not read the book. First, Lupin, Sirius, James, and Pettigrew are frequently used by their nicknames even in this movie (their nicknames are written on the map). As there was no exploration of their backstory, the movie audience is not aware about the correspondence of nicknames with names. Furthermore, Harry’s patronus being a stag is an important plot point showcasing his affection for his deceased father. It is also a clue to the identity of the fourth member of the Maradeurs Prongs who is James. None of these discoveries are made in the movie, leaving the audience guessing who Prongs really is.

Second, the Marauders’ backstory explains the mutual discontent between the Marauders and Snape. The movie audience has to wait until the fifth film in order to understand why there is so much negativity between them. Third, the origins of the Shrieking Shack are not explained, which raises the question of how the Marauders managed to hide Lupin’s condition while in school. Each time a full moon was approaching, the Marauders would go with Lupin, where he transformed into a werewolf. Snape found out about Lupin’s condition because Sirius had told him how to enter the Shrieking Shack. James saved Snape’s life before he could have been killed or bitten, which fueled the animosity between the two. None of these events are referred to or portrayed in the film, thus leaving the psychology behind the relationships of Snape and Marauders out of the picture.

Overall, Snape is portrayed differently, with more sympathetic characteristics and behavior. Both the movie and the book have Snape express a certain level of negativity toward Harry. However, in the book, Snape uses every opportunity to bully Harry and insult him. For instance, the first lesson, where Snape substitutes for Lupin, Gryffindor is fined points for Harry’s questions about Lupin’s whereabouts and Hermione’s correct answer to Snape’s question regarding the identification of a werewolf. The film version portrays Snape as a cold straight-to-the-point professor, who does not waste time on unjustified fines and punishments. Probably, the most striking contrast is the scene of Lupin’s transformation, where Snape actively protects Harry, Ron, and Hermione against the werewolf. In contrast, there is no such scene in the book, which makes the audience believe that Snape has some affection for the children. The way Snape is written in the book forces the audience to dislike him for his treatment of the heroes.

There are some differences made to Ron’s and Hermione’s characters. In the book, Hermione is more stable and heroic during stressful situations, while Ron is more nervous. In the film, their traits are swapped in order to allow the signs of romance to be inserted. Hermione grasps Ron’s hand when Harry approaches Buckbeak for the first time (YouTube Movies, 0:35:22). Hermione suggests Ron to move closer to her when they stare at the Shrieking Shack (YouTube Movies, 1:01:55). Hermione hugs Ron when Buckbeak appears to be executed (YouTube Movies, 1:27:28). In the book, indications of a forming romance are fewer and more subtle. Moreover, an entire storyline of Ron’s boycott of Hermione for the apparent eating of Scabbers by Crookshanks is omitted from the film. In the book, the desire to help Hagrid save Buckbeak is what reconciles them, while in the movie, Harry, Ron, and Hermione do not help Hagrid win Buckbeak’s trial at all.

A large part of the book’s drama and tension revolves around Quidditch matches and the Quidditch Cup. Over the course of the year, Gryffindor is pressured to deliver the best performance possible. Yet, the first match ends with Harry’s broomstick getting irreparably damaged. While the first match and the damage are shown in the movie, the theme of Quidditch is not used until the final scene of the movie, in which Harry receives the Firebolt as a gift. In the book, Harry receives the Firebolt soon after the first match as a gift from an unknown person. Hermione notifies Professor McGonagall, who confiscates the broom and has it checked for spells and jinxes. This serves as the basis for Harry’s temporary grudge against Hermione. Ultimately, the broomstick is returned to Harry, who proceeds to win the Quidditch matches. One of the climaxes of the story is Gryffindor’s match with Slytherin, which will determine the winner of the Quidditch Cup. Harry wins it and has one of the most joyful experiences of his life. All the tension surrounding Quidditch and Hermione’s fight with Harry and Ron is practically omitted from the movie.

Some small discrepancies may create potential continuity errors. In the previous movie, Ron had his wand broken, yet, in this movie, he has a new wand without any explanation, while in the book, it is stated that Weasleys bought him a new one after their trip to Egypt. In the book, Ron has a new owl, while the film does not show Scrabbers being replaced, yet, a new owl appears in the subsequent movies. Harry’s inability to visit Hogsmeade is a major point of distress for him both in the film and in the book. However, at the end of the book, Sirius sends him a signed permission, which enables him to visit the village. No such delivery happens in the movie, yet, Harry visits Hogsmeade in future movies without any explanation. Although these inconsistencies do not impact the main plot, they are not present in the book, which indicates stronger writing.

Finally, a seemingly innocuous change in a dialogue shows Harry in a different light. One of the most significant scenes regarding his personality is his decision to stop Sirius and Lupin from killing Pettigrew even though Harry himself wanted to end the person who was responsible for the death of his parents. However, considering Pettigrew’s escape, Harry begins to think that he should have let Sirius and Lupin kill Pettigrew. Dumbledore convinces him that killing a man resolves nothing and Pettigrew may yet save Harry’s life in the future. In the movie, Harry converses with Lupin instead of Dumbledore and expresses regret over his decision. As a result, it is possible to interpret that film’s Harry views murder as a possible way of resolving conflicts.


YouTube Movies. (2020). Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban [Video file]. Web.


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