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.
on December 27, 2004
This is by far the best Harry Potter movie yet. Alfonso Curan was a much needed lift to the Harry Potter movies and shows just how much the characters have grown up and how much more adult the themes and concepts are becoming. Columbus was good but Alfonso Curan seems more suited to these types of movies. I'm looking forward to the fourth as that was my favorite novel!
on May 21, 2016
Just as the first three Harry Potter books are the best of the novel series, the first three Harry Potter movies represent the best of the films series. After that, both the books and the films turn excessively dark and pretentiously wordy, adding nothing new of wonder to the world created. The first three books and films, however, are an imaginative delight. Chris Columbus directs the first two films and produces the third. Under his direction he creates a glowing and richly detailed world that is lavishly faithful to Rowling's books, giving you the same wondrous yet homey feeling of hanging out with your friends Harry, Ron, and Hermione in the Gryffindor common room.
"The Philosopher's Stone" takes its sweet and glorious time introducing us and Harry to the wizarding world, but the second film, "The Chamber of Secrets," may be the best of the "Columbus Trilogy," as it launches us into a dark mystery from Hogwarts' past and contains the brilliant Polyjuice Potion scene. Alfonso Cuarón directs the third film, "The Prisoner of Azkaban," which is the best of the novels but the movie strays a little too much from the story. It fails to provide important information about the Marauders while inserting pointless scenes with shrunken heads or the Whomping Willow killing harmless birds. It's quirkiness for the sake of being quirky and that's never a good thing. The film also suffers from looking also overly processed and contrasty. Still, the climactic scene with the Time Turner is brilliantly executed (no pun or spoiler intended) and more than makes up for Cuarón's hubris. All three films represent a great achievement in cinema and will remain timeless family classics.
on September 29, 2011
I bought this simply in order to complete my Potter collection. Of course, I watched it again - and I had forgotten what a great show it is. The actors are experienced enough to be doing some serious acting, especially Dan Radcliffe as he waits for his dead father to rescue him and suddenly realizes he has to take his father's place and rescue himself. Gary Oldman adds passion and humor to the story. The first stirrings of romance between Ron and Hermione, which blossom so many years later, are quite funny, and the blowing up of Harry's obnoxious aunt at the beginning is hilarious. But the kudos go to Buckbeak! The creation of a living, breathing, ferret-eating hippogriff was an accomplishment worth noting. All the movies in this series are worth watching just for the amazing detail of the sets and props, but some of their fantastic creatures are a little lacking in believability. Not Buckbeak! Buckbeak is a wonder. This movie, while replete with dangerous adventures for the youthful heroes, is not yet tinged with the darkness of the later movies. It's still innocent; it still ends happily. I would not hesitate to show this to a six-year-old, although I'd have reservations about sharing the later movies in the series with young children. The other side of that coin, of course, is that it lacks the earthshaking drama and suspense for older watchers that can be found in the later movies. Anyone looking for moral or practical lessons will surely be impressed by the discovery that a person can deal with fear constructively; sometimes, you can laugh at it, and it will go away ("It's only a boggart!") and sometimes you can draw on your memories of love and happiness to create a positive force that repels fear. It took me a lifetime to learn that! My only caveat regarding this movie is that the watcher will enjoy it more if he or she has read the book. This, too, applies to the entire series except, possibly, the first one, simply because so much material has had to be cut to make the movies. If you want to know the background, read the book.
on January 23, 2007
Based on J. K. Rowling's book, "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" covers the boy wizard's third year at Hogwarts and hit the big screen in 2004. The film opens at Privet Drive with the end of the summer holidays approaching. The previous summer, at the start of the Chamber of Secrets, Harry had been blamed by the Ministry of Magic for a spell performed by Dobby the House Elf in Dursley's house. This summer, Harry panics as he accidentally casts a spell on Uncle Vernon's thoroughly obnoxious sister. Knowing he's in trouble, he decides to go on the run - but, following a bumpy ride on the Knight Bus, the Minister for Magic corners him at Diagon Alley. Harry is somewhat surprised to be let off, given the trouble he got into the previous year - but relieved all he same.
The Magic Community seems to be much more concerned with a very dangerous criminal called Sirius Black, the first person to escape from Azkaban (the wizard prison). He had been sent there after being found guilty of murdering thirteen people - twelve of them muggles - with a single curse about twelve years earlier. Widely believed to have been a big supporter of Voldemort's, the rumour is he's hunting for Harry. As a result, some Azkaban guards (terrifying creatures, known as Dementors) have been posted at Hogwarts for the protection of the pupils and staff.
Harry is, once again, joined by Ron and Hermione at Hogwarts. There's a bit of trouble between Harry's two friends, however. Much of that is caused by Hermione's new pet Crookshanks - a crazy cat, who seems determined to kill Scabbers, Ron's rat, at every opportunity. This year's Defence Against The Dark Arts teacher, is Professor Lupin who - like the Dementors, the three friends meet him for the first time on the Hogwarts Express. Despite the fact he dresses rather shabbily and gets strangely ill from time to time, Lupin actually seems to know what he's doing. He also proves to be highly popular with the majority of pupils, particularly Harry. There are a couple pf other new teachers introduced this year - one of them is Hagrid, who has taken over the Care of Magical Creatures class. Unfortunately, his first lesson leads to a bit of trouble with a Hippogriff. Another is Professor Trelawney, the Divination teacher - who seems to be a bit of a crackpot. In their first lesson, she somehow picks out the Grim (a death omen) from Harry's tealeaves. Harry probably wouldn't have been too worried, only he'd already seen something of a death omen just as he was boarding the Knight Bus.
The movie is very enjoyable, though a good deal darker than I had imagined. Despite the criticism I've heard of their performances in the previous films, I thought Daniel Ratcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint were very good in their roles. (Draco, Harry's arch nemesis, would've stolen the show had his role been any bigger : Tom Felton plays the part of a strutting, arrogant, little twerp superbly. One of the most enjoyable scenes came when Hermione puts him firmly in his place). Professor Trelawney was also an enjoyable addition, played by the barely recognisable Emma Thompson. (Her ex-husband, of course, was also once on the teaching staff at Hogwarts : Ken Brannagh played the part of Gilderoy Lockhart in "The Chamber of Secrets"). For fans of the Stone Roses, meanwhile, Ian Brown stops by the Leaky Cauldron for a quick drink. The film's effects are hugely impressive, especially the Dementors : their first appearance on the train was the best scene in the film for me. Parts of the book have been minimised or dropped - particularly the 'history' of the Marauder's Map, its authors and how Lupin knew how to use it. However, it's a very enjoyable movie and is highly recommended.
I put this review off for a long time because I wanted to re-read the book before offering final judgment on the movie. I have to admit that I cannot add my name to the supposed list of people hailing Alfonso Cuar'n as the perfect director for this pivotal film in the Harry Potter series. It is natural that a new director would make changes to redefine the world in his own image, but I think this movie makes far too many changes - I could forgive that, but some of the additions are just, well, silly and wholly unnecessary. J.K. Rowling herself might love the shrunken head on the Knight Bus, but I have no use for it - Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is not a comedy, and it does not need the intellectual equivalent of a man doing a pratfall. At Hogwarts, you get ghost horsemen crashing through windows and thumping into the Great Hall. There are a number of similar additions I consider useless at best. Why throw these things in there? It's not like you are starting with a weak story and having to pad the film. Did Cuaron think he needed to add a few silly scenes in order to make the film appeal to children? As if there's a child in Western society who isn't already a rabid Harry Potter fan. And the clothing rubs me the wrong way - rarely do you see the kids in their Hogwarts uniforms in this movie. And speaking of Hogwarts, it looks nothing like it did in the first two films; I kept expecting Julie Andrews to come strolling over one of the hills singing The Sound of Music. All of these needless changes took away from my enjoyment of Rowling's story. The fact that the kids are outgrowing their characters didn't help either - Neville, Malfoy, and, to some degree, Ron hardly resemble themselves from the first two movies. I didn't like the fact that Dumbledore's attire was completely changed (and that little rubber band in the beard thing was - to me - horrible) - in my opinion, all of that added unneeded complications to the transition process from the late Richard Harris to Michael Gambon in this pivotal role.
I'm not saying Cuaron didn't do some things well, though. The guys and gals who designed Buckbeak (in both model and CGI form) went well beyond the call of duty and should be praised. Aunt Marge, Professor Trelawney, Professor Lupin, and Sirius Black were perfect embodiments of their literary selves. Hogsmeade was an unqualified visual success. The Dementors were brought to life very effectively. Definitely, in many ways this was a very impressive film. Notice I haven't mentioned the story yet.
Ah, yes, the plot. Obviously, I think the movie left out more than it should have to make room for a lot of unnecessary fluff. What we do have, though, feels somewhat disjointed to me - just a bunch of scenes thrown together. Obviously, I knew when the seasons changed as Cuaron went to the well too often with the soaring seasonal transitions, but I did not get the sense that a school year at Hogwarts had passed by the end of the film. Speaking of the ending, I will declare that it was well done indeed. It could have been confusing for younger viewers (assuming, of course, there might actually be one young viewer out there who hadn't actually read the book before seeing the film), so I was glad to see Cuaron really take the time to concentrate on bringing it off as seamlessly as possible.
The extras on the bonus DVD are something of a mixed bag. I think I speak for all of us when I thank the studio for not making us go through some kind of infernal maze just to find a deleted scene. The five deleted scenes included here, though, aren't much to talk about. The games and the tours of Honeydukes and Lupin's classroom will appeal to some, but the real meat of the extras comes in the form of the cast interviews (even though they do force us to endure more of that infernal shrunken head), the featurette on the extraordinary animals seen in the film, and the interviews with director Cuaron and author J.K. Rowling.
I know I've been critical of the film, but that doesn't mean I don't love it. I just think it could have been much better than it was. Many of us take our Harry Potter extremely seriously, and I just would have preferred stricter adherence to Rowling's original story (and, of course, less silly fluff).
Harry still has to put up with the Dursley's and with too mangy negative remarks about his parentage he has an uncontrolled confutation with Aunt Marge. Realizing he is doomed for performing magic outside of Hogwarts (which is a no no for students) he runs away from home. This could not be at a worse time as a mad prisoner has just escaped form Azkaban prison. And you can guess who his nest target is.
As with most movies there is no justification to book readers as to what was left out or modified. We can however compare this to the previous movies. The first thing you notice is how much danker the scenes are, even the train that used to be so colorful is now just a train and filtered out. That is fine as Harry grows up so does the target audience.
The one disappointment for me was the castle that they portray in this movie is so much shabbier and deteriorated. It was not necessary unless the director could not find the old sets and locations.
Also Sirius never cleans up well.
No problem with Hermione getting a punch line, however Draco Malfoy is turned from an dude of evil potential into a snotty wimp; where is this leading us?
I would like to give a laundry list of goods and bads but then the surprise will be lost for new viewers that have not read the book.
Again other than a few abbreviations and consolidations this film takes in the senesce of the book.
on November 26, 2004
well this movie is pretty good but no comparison to the book , no way! i loved the actors performances the first time i saw the movie i wasnt too excited about michael gambons performance as dumbledore ( he took over for the late richard harris) but seeing it again changed my mind alittle i just thought that it was untrue to the book i mean dumbledoor is nicer than portrayed here. i also thought that the picture quality wasnt that great for this fullscreen version(its better in widescreen) the beginning almost looked like a cheap british movie it seemed like they polished the picture at the end to make it look phenominal but they didnt bothr with it at the beginning , slightly choppy in my opinion. and what was with this movies length? i mean its the longest book aout of the 3 but the shortest movie .. ok then(im slightly annoyed too because goblet of fire due out nov 18 2005 is only scheduled to be 2 hrs! at this rate order of the phoenix will be 1 1/2 hours *roll eyes here ) i watched the deleted scenes on my version and thought that they should have been kept a few were lacking but most were awsome! on a slightly happier note i thought the time scene was brilliant way less confusing then i thought it would be . i kno what your thinking this persons only said the bad why did she give it 4 stars? well ill let you watch the movie yourself =)
on November 27, 2004
It has been quite some time since I had read this HP book and I have read all the HP books, and I had not seen the movie before watching the DVD. I thought as a stand alone movie it was excellent. However as the series of books moves along the movies are forced to abbreviate the increasingly complex plots. I would advise all HP movie buffs to also read the books. The stories, films and characters are all maturing and I hope the pattern is able to continue at such a high level. The cinematography in this DVD is out of this world. I missed Richard Harris as Dumbledore though.
on July 17, 2005
If you're like me, you're pretty careful what you spend your money one, researching what people have said, what the price is, whether or not you've seen it, read it, or heard about it. You add it all up. I do that with everything and usually I'm not disappointed. The DVD of the FRIENDS season was a sure hit, as was the novel THE BARK OF THE DOGWOOD and my magazine subscriptions to PEOPLE and SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. So, as usual, I was right on the target with HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER.
In HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN, Harry Potter and his friends Ron and Hermione return as teenagers to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for their third year of study, where they delve into the mystery surrounding an escaped prisoner who poses a dangerous threat to the young wizard.
"We couldn't be more excited about Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban being in the hands of such a relentlessly imaginative director as Alfonso Cuar'n and are thrilled about the new actors he has assembled to join our already established cast," said David Heyman.
"To be entrusted with such rich and beloved material, and given the opportunity to collaborate with this extraordinary cast and crew on the next Harry Potter adventure is an honor," Alfonso Cuar'n said. "I look forward to bringing this intricate story to the screen and sharing it with film audiences around the world."
"I'm so proud to have been involved in this truly amazing film series, both as a director and a producer," added Chris Columbus. "I look forward to seeing it grow as Alfonso and the cast and crew further our imaginations with their truly inspired work."
Gary Oldman plays Sirius Black, the eponymous prisoner whose escape is thought to pose a great threat to Harry Potter; Michael Gambon plays the role of Professor Dumbledore, Hogwarts' venerable headmaster; Timothy Spall portrays Peter Pettigrew, an old friend of Harry's father, James Potter, from their days at Hogwarts; David Thewlis plays Professor Lupin, the new Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor who harbors a mysterious secret; Pam Ferris plays Harry's overbearing Aunt Marge; and Paul Whitehouse portrays Sir Caddogan, a Knight who becomes the temporary guardian of Gryffindor Tower.