Length: 142 minutes
Release Date: June 4, 2004
Directed by: Alfonso Cuarón
Genre: Adventure / Family / Fantasy
The third installment in the Harry Potter series, “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” is a thrilling, fast-paced movie with a riveting story line, spectacular special effects and a delightful cast. Darker and more complex than the first two “Harry Potter” films, this movie introduces a more mature, tormented Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) in his third year at Hogwarts.
The story centers around the escape of Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) from a wizards’ prison called Azkaban. Black is believed to be a follower of Lord Voldemort as well as the possible murderer of Harry’s parents. The more Harry learns about Black, the more it seems that Black escaped in order to kill Harry and avenge Lord Voldemort.
Harry Potter’s third term at Hogwarts gets off to a shaky start when Harry faces possible punishment for having used magic outside of school grounds. Then, Harry discovers that alleged serial killer and supporter of Voldemort, Sirius Black, has escaped from prison with the apparent intention of murdering Harry.
Hogwarts enlists creepy, dark, flying creatures called Dementors to search for Black on the edges of the school grounds. Instead of protecting the school from Black, however, the Dementors seem set on destroying Harry.
As the search for the dangerous Sirius Black continues, Harry learns perplexing new information that calls into question everything he thinks he knows. With the help of his best friends, Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson), Harry must discover who to believe and how to proceed.
Cast and Characters
The unique characters in the Harry Potter series are one of its main attractions. Radcliffe, Grint and Watson are engagingly believable as the three wizards-in-training negotiating their way into adolescence while combating nefarious magical forces.
In addition to the three young friends, this movie brings back old favorites Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) and Professor McGonagall (Maggie Smith). It also introduces several charming new characters, including two new Hogwarts’ instructors, the troubled Professor Lupin (David Thewlis) and the quirky Professor Trelawney (Emma Thompson).
Gary Oldman is magnificent as the questionable villain, Sirius Black, and Timothy Spall is perfectly repellent as the rodent-like Peter Pettigrew.
“The Prisoner of Azkaban” sees Michael Gambon replace the late Richard Harris as the beloved Dumbledore.
“Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” was directed by Alfonso Cuarón (“Y Tu Mama Tambien.” Cuarón replaced Chris Columbus, the director of the first two Harry Potter films.
Overall, this exciting and wonderful movie is much darker than the first two Harry Potter films. The grimmer, bleaker outlook fits the screenplay adapted by Steve Kloves, and Cuarón does not shy away from the more intense scenes.
Compared to the first two movies in the series, there are a considerable number of outdoor scenes; this provides a feel of greatly heightened vulnerability. The young wizards do not seem as well-protected outdoors as they do within the confines of Hogwarts’ impressive buildings.
As a character, Harry is grappling with life-altering issues, including the realizations that he cannot always believe what he is told or trust who he is taught to trust. He learns the value of his friends and the importance of loyalty and good judgment. As an actor, Daniel Radcliffe does a remarkable job of conveying Harry’s confusion and rage as he explores these new lessons.
The plot of this installment is more complicated, particularly for those who have not read the book. Although the numerous twists and turns can be challenging to follow, it is ultimately worth the effort when the various sub-plots weave together. The movie is truly exhilarating, with non-stop movement and fantastic action sequences.
The movie’s CGI tricks, including the gnarled tree and Buckbeak, the condemned hippogriff, are very effective. The werewolf is terrifyingly real, and the morphing sequences are ingeniously designed. The time travel tricks are a clever plot device and are interesting to watch on screen.
“Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” is a satisfying third part to the series. The plot of the movie is spell-bindingly clever and full of unexpected twists and turns. Fans of J.K. Rowling’s books will notice discrepancies, but they will not be disappointed.
Daniel Radcliffe proves that he is Harry Potter through and through, while Emma Watson is delightful as the overwhelmed Hermione. Each quirky character is perfectly cast, and the combination of old favorites with new blood keeps the movie fresh and interesting at all times.
“Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” is an extremely entertaining movie that successfully builds excitement for the remaining installments.
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