Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Writer: Steve Kloves
Based On: “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” (Novel Series Book #3) By: J.K. Rowling
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Michael Gambon, Gary Oldman, David Thewlis, Timothy Spall, Emma Thompson
Country: USA & UK
MPAA Rating: PG
Time: 141 minutes
Genre: Adventure, Family, Fantasy, Mystery
USA Release: 6/4/2004
On DVD (USA): 11/23/2004
Awards: 2 Academy Award Nominations, 4 BAFTA Award Nominations, 1 Grammy Award Nomination
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban marked a new change to the franchise, first bring in a new director, who changed (for the better) the look and feel of the Potter movies. Also coming along was a slue of new characters that not only surprised but intrigued us. As the gang starts to grow up before our eyes, we see as things start to change for not only the characters but the actors themselves.
In the third installment of the series, we find Harry tying to practice his magic, unfortunately having to do it quietly so that the Dursley’s don’t know. But things grow worse at the house as Uncle Vernon’s sister, Marge comes for a visit and after insulting Harry’s parents is blown up like a balloon and Harry runs away. As he angrily walks away he is suddenly picked up by the “Night Bus” and taken to The Leaky Cauldron, there he runs into Ron and Hermione. And before Harry leaves for school Mr. Weasley has something to tell him, that Sirius Black is coming after him and that he need to watch himself. But that’s not the only thing Harry has to worry about, while on the train he also has a run in with a Dementor but luckily Professor Lupin was there to save him. Being that Professor Lupin is the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher that‘s why he knew what to do, but to every ones surprise he isn’t the only new teacher, Hagrid becomes the new Care of Magical Creatures teacher. Nevertheless even with so much new things going on, Harry now has to face a bigger challenge, facing the facts that have been hidden from him in his short time of knowing the magic world, things that will lead him to say things that he would have never expected to ever say.
As you can expect with new direction brings out new styles, and that’s exactly what happens with movie. Director Alfonso Cuarón brings out new life with this one by instead of just focusing on giving you the action and putting aside character development, he gives you everything, great and entertaining story, while letting the characters develop and mature. The movie just felt more relaxed and less uniformed, even how the students wear their uniforms now is way more relaxed, and we even get to see them in street clothes, some for the very first time. The whole atmosphere is just very at ease, but still forced on giving you what you want to see. Also with this new style is the cinematography that using a more sophisticated way for shooting, and still giving you the dark tone of the story but without having to make it dark and eerie. The editing was also great with using the fade in and fade out at times. Unfortunately this will mark that last Potter movie that would solely be composed by John Williams, but his theme will forever be used through out the rest of the series, granted it might be redone in different ways but it’s still the same wonderfully delightful theme we have all come to love.
Some of the better things about this installment was the fact that it did shy away from the norm of the first two by doing more with character development, in the first two we have the story and know a bit about the characters but the movie in whole focuses more on just giving you the action and adventure, but this isn’t just any old blockbuster movie, it’s based off a book so soon characters need to be discussed more and thankfully that happens here. Also with the kids maturing there is a lot more going on, not only do we see more of them with friends but also outside of the school, making the story become bigger and subsequently giving Harry, Ron and Hermione more to face. As such this marked the arrival of a new Dumbledore, now being played by Michael Gambon, who brought his own style to the character. That being said with Gambon and the rest of the supporting cast which now included Emma Thompson as Professor Trelawney, Gary Oldman as Sirius Black, David Thewlis as Professor Lupin, and Timothy Spall as Peter Pettigrew they all did a wonderful job, making this dark and dangerous story come to life. Also can be said for our leads, who are growing and maturing not only in age but also in their acting ability. Watson, Grint and Radcliffe are more and more becoming the iconic characters and are getting into a groove of things as the productions start to get more and more intense was the story continues.
All and all, this is just one great story, we learn more about the charters and see them in a new light thank to the new directing. As the story begin to darken so do the adventures and dangers lurking in Harry and the gangs present and future. With a story that feels relaxed and has great pace, it delivers one heck of a movie, with some great performances by the entire cast. And like other critics have said this movie can stand highly in the series of Potter film, but can also stand greatly on it’s own.