Producer: Chris Columbus, David Heyman, Mark Radcliffe
Screenwriter: Steven Kloves; from the novel by J.K. Rowling
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, David Thewlis,
Michael Gambon, Emma Thompson, Maggie Smith, Gary Oldman, Alan Rickman,
Muggles rejoice! Harry Potter And The Prisoner
Of Azkaban allows us to experience yet another
year at the magical school of Hogwarts. And what
a year it is. Benefited by better source material
and Alfonzo Cuarón’s direction,
Prisoner Of Azkaban is the best of the series
so far, and the shortest. Harry and the gang are
growing up and this is reflected by the movie’s
darker look and theme.
For those who have not read the books, the Prisoner
Of Azkaban is Sirius Black (Oldman),
a convicted murderer and a former supporter of he
who cannot be named, and of course Sirius holds
a grudge against Harry Potter (Radcliffe).
Life at Hogwarts is anything but normal this time
around because the prison guards of Azkaban, terrifying
creatures called Dementors, are on the grounds under
the auspices of protecting the school. The usual
crowd of Hogwart’s teachers is portrayed by
some of the finest actors in United Kingdom. Returning
for their third movie are Professor McGonagall (Smith),
Severus Snape (Rickman), Hagrid (Coltrane),
and Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon replacing
the late Richard Harris). Among the new faces
are Professor Trelawney (Thompson), the fortune
teller with constant predictions of death and dismemberment,
and a year at Hogwarts simply wouldn’t be
complete without a new defense against the dark
arts teacher. Luckily for Harry and the gang, this
one, Professor Lupin (Thewlis), really knows
Prisoner Of Azkaban was a longer book than
either of the previous two so the movie flows at
a quicker but more even pace under Cuarón’s
skillful direction, especially after Harry ditches
his muggle family and is reunited with his school
chums Ron Weasley (Grint) and Hermione Granger
(Watson). This film calls for a bit more
depth than the first two, letting them be more than
simple caricatures Rupert Grint and Emma Watson
succeed admirably in running circles around poor
Mr. Radcliffe. Throughout the story we are supposed
to be convinced that Harry is a very angry person
capable of unspeakable violence, but the best Radcliffe
can manage is a mild tantrum. The scenes he has
to carry on his own drag on a bit and one scene
specifically was strongly reminiscent of Titanic.
But fortunately these are few and far between
and his capable co-stars are more than up to the
task of creating emotion or tension when necessary.
Rupert and Emma have grown with their characters
so now Ron is comic relief with compassion and Hermione’s
type A personality is tempered with some feminine
qualities. Michael Gambon plays Dumbledore with
a little more mischief in his eye and spring in
his step than Richard Harris, and he doesn’t
hail from the Marlon Brando school of acting
that made Richard Harris s-l-o-w-l-y mumble out
all his lines. David Thewlis appears exactly as
Professor Lupin seemed in the book—bland,
always tired and out of sorts, almost instantly
forgettable except for some ineffable quality that
isn’t quite right.
Beyond the opening scene, the movie carries not
an ounce of unneeded material. Everything that happens
reveals a little more about the story and the characters
within, and yet at the end it is not all spelled
out. The task of telling an entire year’s-worth
of education in two hours is easily accomplished
by showing the whomping willow at the start of each
new season. The movie has a much darker look, with
constantly overcast skies and muted colors as if
to remind the viewer of the Dementors lurking just
out of sight, blotting out the sun. None of this
is entirely original but it helps to remind everyone
of Hogwarts’ otherworldliness, whereas in
the first two movies, Hogwarts was simply boarding
school with wands instead of pencils.
Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban
is easily the best movie of the series so far. It
follows the story of the book, though maybe not
word for word, making for a better adaptation to
the screen. And best of all, the smartest witch
of all time isn’t turned into stone in the
middle of the movie. Fans of the book are sold on
this already, but as long as those dragged along
with them approach the movie with an open mind they
will find it to be an enjoyable experience in its
Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.
Itís worth a full-price ticket.
Itís worth a matinee ticket.
Wait for video rental.
Check out the video from the library, if you must.
While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...