Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (11/25/12)

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of AzkabanMovie Two Hundred Seventy Two

In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, during his third year at Hogwarts, Harry learns that a dangerous killer is on the loose and is coming for him.

After leaving Privet Drive for making his aunt inflate like a balloon and fly away, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) is picked up by the Knight Bus and taken to the Leaky Cauldron. After reuniting with his friends Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson), Harry learns that Sirius Black (Gary Oldman), a convicted murderer and supposed Voldemort supporter, has escaped from Azkaban prison and is looking for him. While on the train to Hogwarts, the train stops and fearsome creatures known as dementors attack the train looking for Black, but greatly affect Harry as well. Harry is protected by the new Defense of the Dark Arts teacher, Remus Lupin (David Thewlis). Harry’s safety is a top priority as everyone is fearful that Sirius Black is on the loose but Harry eventually learns the truth.

Now free from the shackles of previous director, Chris Columbus, the Harry Potter franchise really comes to life with Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón gives Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban a completely new sense of style when compared to the first two films and also sets a fairly dark tone that would carry throughout the rest of the films. Another change is the actor playing Dumbledore becomes Michael Gambon, who gives the role a bit of mystery and I think is a much better fit. Visually pleasing and easily one of the most interesting plots of the series, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is my favorite of the series.

While I wouldn’t say there are any short Harry Potter movies, Cuarón was able to keep the runtime under 2 1/2 hours but still cram all the plot points in the film. I don’t think there is much, if anything, that is superfluous in the film. One thing that bugged me at the time of the release of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was that the students don’t really wear robes in this film, they wear trendy clothes most of the time. A small detail but for some reason it still sticks out to me. Some may not like the departure from PG films to PG-13 with Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, but I think the decision makes sense and doesn’t feel out of place in the franchise.

Giving several different directors control over a film in a franchise is risky, both for the director and the financiers. If the director changes too much, the franchise could suffer but the director could be hobbled creatively. If too little is changed, the director will certainly be hobbled and the movie may suffer as a result. I applaud the decision to bring different directors on, and Cuarón seemed like such a crazy choice for an English film, but he really works his magic (I can’t believe that’s the first magic pun I’ve made in these Harry Potter reviews).

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is the watermark for the Harry Potter series for me. While other films come close, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is the perfect blend of story and style. I could even see myself recommending this film for newcomers to the Harry Potter franchise.

I give it 5 Buckbeaks out of 5.

Links:

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29 responses to “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (11/25/12)

  1. Whoa…am I the first. Can we just take a moment here….

    Anyways, this harry potter film is my favorite. I don’t know why. I think it’s because it had a nice blend of dark and light. I think after this movie, all the other HP’s has been more on the dark side. Also, I felt that this was the first movie when I realized that HP (and his co-stars) is (are) no longer little.

    Thanks for reminding me of another great movie. I hope you hit 300 movies before your deadline. I know you can do it!

    • Good point about the actors, this is the film where they seem to really fit in their roles.

      Thanks! I’m super close (I’m at 286, just behind in my reviewing), basically have to watch 1 movie a day from here on out!

  2. One of my least favorite of the books, but one of my favorite of the movies. The first two films were good, but this was the one that first captured the whole spirit of the characters. Plus the attention to detail visually added so much to the world of Hogwarts and the surrounding area. In the first two movies they had characters figuring things out rather quickly because it was difficult to adapt a book like that to one film. On this one they did it and made it look easy.

  3. Great post. I think this film is better than any HP film which came after it, although I favour first two HP films above others. In this film I think Alfonso Cuaron really managed to set the tone very well: one really feels to be engulfed into this mystery/apprehension with serial killer on the loose and all that in the beginning,and Gary Oldman and David Thewlis as Prof. Lupin were perfect for their roles.

  4. You are racing for that 300 in 2012.

    Good review, and I agree with the point about the students not wearing the robes.

    Also, this is “The Empire Strikes Back” of he Potter films. Though Chris Columbus was not the equivalent to Lucas in the Potter Universe, it was necessary for the Potter films to break his mold in order for the franchise to grow.

  5. I felt this one treated the audience with a little bit more respect. Whereas the first two were pretty straightforward fantasy adventures, this had a little bit more intellect behind it and made you think and process what was going on.

  6. the reason this film is most people’s favorite of the series (including mine. me. F**k it) is because it takes a darker turn and harry and his friends are growing up. and that also contributes to the clothing. i know i’d be a little disappointed if we continued to see hermione covered up in a robe instead of watching her curves develop. well, develop a little bit. c’mon, let’s all admit it, we were all waiting to see just how much she’d turn into a woman by the last movie.

    interesting thing about the robes and street clothes thing – in the first book, there really wasn’t any mention of robes at all, but the director, chris columbus, thought it was needed for consistency. can you imagine all those kids in that great hall in the opening scene? if they were all in street clothes and various things, that would be a visual mess. by having everyone in a consistent black robe, it allows your eyes to take in the details of the architecture.

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  8. “Prisoner of Azkaban” is also my favorite in both book and movie form. Curon’s direction adds a gritty realism of both hand-held camera work as well as realistic acting–now the kids have to do extended takes instead of being force-fed their lines in short close ups. You can’t beat the additions to the cast–Gambon, Oldman, and Thewlis. My one complaint is that the film never explains who the original owners of the map were, and I feel that is a plot hole that could have been filled in just an additional minute of screen time. As to the missing robes, it’s very typical of kids becoming teenagers that they want to turn away from the clothing that is expected of them to wear. I find it funny that they often wear their school clothes untucked and in a generally shambled manner, which is exactly what 13-year-olds do!

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