With the departure of childhood from this series, we enter the much more experimental world of the teen years. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban brings in the services of director Alfonso Cuaron, who uses his artistic style to usher in a new era for our heroes.
The sets, the feel, the texture, and the mythos get a major facelift here. All for the better since this is the story which moves everyone along into the journey to adulthood. I have heard some fans dislike this film, feeling the magic of what came before has been yanked out. They do not comprehend that this was J.K.'s plan from the start, and this design is being followed here as well.
I often wondered how the subtlety of Hermione's cramped schedule would be translated to the big screen. Hollywood does not always do well with this kind of story point, since they have no trust in the audience. While reading Prisoner, I figured out what Hermione was doing with time, and having her pop in and out of scenes, much to Ron's astonishment, was quite fun. It should be pointed out between time travel in Prisoner and a larger on the inside handbag in Hallows, I can now categorically state that Hermione is from Gallifrey. It all fits. And this would be the best fanfic ever.
I was also very happy with how Harry's newest toy, the map, is played out here. It does not feel like an actual printed map of the Muggle variety, but more like a three dimensional moving object. It's importance is major in this story, and it also comes about in the next several movies. Alfonso even uses the map as a motif for the wonderful end credits, which lent a definite Lord of the Rings quality to this entry.
J.K.'s fight the power theme, as I mentioned in my review of the book, helps bring about one of the most shocking scenes in the story. When Snape is deservedly blasted, it is an unsettling comeuppance. In the movie, I cheer. Snape was always a character I despised, with Alan Rickman portraying his sliminess particularly well. Seeing him getting zapped into unconscious was marvelous, even eliciting a cheer from me. We also get to see Snape looking ugly in a dress. Another reason I like Neville so much.
Of all the movies, Prisoner feels the most real to Harry Potter to me. Alfonso gives us so many wonderful times with this journey, helping J.K. get her vision to us. Thank you Alfonso, tis some magic you weaved for the Potterheads.