Movie Name: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Studio: Heyday Films
Release Date(s): May 31, 2004
MPAA Rating: PG
It is time for another year at Hogwarts for Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint), but Harry learns that the person that changed Harry’s life has escaped from Azkabah. Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) was reported to be the man responsible for turning his parents in to Lord Voldemort, and now Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) fears that Black might be coming back to finish the job. With Dementors patrolling the school, Harry must train to be able to defend himself against them by the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher Remus Lupin (David Thewlis). As the mystery behind Black grows, Harry, Hermione, Ron, and Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) find themselves in a race to save a hippogriff named Buckbeak from death and discover it could lead them into a face-to-face confrontation with Black.
Directed by Alfonso Cuaron, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in the third film in the Harry Potter series. Following Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the movie switched directors but continued to dominate at the box office. The movie was nominated for Best Original Music Score and Best Visual Effects.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is a big change for the big budget series. Previously, the films were done by Christopher Columbus, but here, Cuaron who directed the popular coming of age film Y Tu Mama Tambien (and went on to direct the great Children of Men), brought new dimension and depth to the characters by putting them in a much more realistic Hogwarts.
The Christopher Columbus Hogwarts seems a lot like a set and much safer, here Hogwarts and Harry’s world seems like it could actually be dangerous. The mood is much darker and more realistic and less like a fantasy story. The sets are fantastic and the style set up in this film pretty much dominates the final films.
With a new setting, the actors seem to really grow up in this film. Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint continue to be strong but start to feel like teenagers in the more adult setting. With Richard Harris’ death, Michael Gambon steps in as Dumbledore and works to make the character his own. Alan Rickman continues to be fun as Severus Snape who gets more backstory in the film. Tom Felton also grows up as the evil Draco Malfoy, and the casting agents prove their worth again by bringing on talented David Thewlis as the tortured werewolf Remus Lupin and Gary Oldman as Sirius Black.
With a great cast and a great look, the movie is rounded out by one of the better stories. Voldemort really isn’t the enemy in this film and it is a nice change. I’m always a sucker for time-travel pictures that are done right and the time-turner provides for some real interesting plot twists (though in the big picture sense, it doesn’t make sense why some events occur in later movies if magic like the time-turner exist). I also like the relationship this film establishes between Harry and Sirius…which of course ends tragically.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is my favorite of the Harry Potter books and films. The movie just gets it right and it is a perfect blend of fantasy, teenage angst, visuals, and good storytelling. Despite being my favorite, it doesn’t mean that the other films are less watchable, but this one gets it right. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is followed by Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.