|Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban |
Actors: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Richard Griffiths, Pam Ferris
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Genres: Action & Adventure, Indie & Art House, Kids & Family, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Mystery & Suspense
Some movie-loving wizards must have cast a magic spell on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, because it's another grand slam for the Harry Potter franchise. Demonstrating remarkable versatility after the arthouse su... more »
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A grownup-oriented review for those who have read the book
amazonker | Minneapolis, MN | 06/07/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The third installment of the Harry Potter films was ready for a new director, and Alfonso Cuaron seemed a likely choice. Chris Columbus was admirable in his fidelity to the plot of the first two books, but as Harry becomes a teenager and faces a more complex life, Columbus's candy-coated style is no longer appropriate. So it was with great anticipation that I looked forward to the "darker" style that Cuaron promised.In some respects I was not disappointed. Cuaron's interpretation of Harry's world is defined by inscrutable shadows and colored in misty greens and greys, rather than red-and-gold tapestry of movies one and two. This new palette is more natural, and in keeping with that, far more of the movie takes place out of doors. Cuaron gives Hogwarts a greater sense of age as well, making a crumbling courtyard and rickety bridge over a gorge central to many scenes. These locations, as well as the huge pendulum in the entry hall and clock face that Harry sits inside at one point, are a nicely subtle way to weave in the movie's (and book's) theme of time and how the past can't ever be completely undone.Cuaron handles some scenes very well, especially brief, telling gestures or moments that provide character definition, such as the bit where Hermione grabs Ron's hand which made it into the trailer, and another where the two of them have an awkward conversation outside the Shrieking Shack. Other highlights include Harry and his dorm-mates up late eating candy that makes them impersonate animals (touchingly shows how very teenage they are); and a moment when Sirius, trying desperately to hold Lupin back from his change to werewolf, places his hand over Lupin's chest and says "You live in this heart!" - which is made all the more poignant because we know he can't stop the transformation.Some plot points have been sacrificed in order to keep the film to a manageable length. Most of the time this works, as when Harry meets with Snape and Lupin in a beautifully lit nighttime corridor, precipitating the handover of the Marauder's Map and Lupin's realization that Peter Pettigrew lives; or when Harry receives the Firebolt from Sirius at a different point in the movie than in the book. There were, however, two changes which seemed inexplicable to me. First, the patronus charm is made into a shield of light rather than an animal which charges down the dementors. This eliminates Harry's discovery of his father within himself through his stag patronus (he does see a stag of light when he rescues himself at the lakeside, but when we see him from the perspective of rescuer there is no stag, and this is never explained). Similarly, even though Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs are named on the Marauder's Map, the nicknames and their relationship to Lupin, Pettigrew, Sirius, and James Potter is never explained. It would have taken only a few more minutes to add that explosition, which would have strengthened Harry's cinematic connections to his father tremendously.All in all, I think it's possible that the viewers who enjoy this film the most will be those who haven't read the book. As someone who is very familiar with the Harry Potter book series, I kept finding myself hung up on the changes to the story (and just how much depth was lost) even as I enjoyed the beautiful cinemetography and deft handling of characters' relationships. My hope is that whoever directs film four is able to take some of Cuaron's artistic sensibilities and combine them with Columbus's sense of wonder and attention to plot detail. That would truly do Harry justice."
Things get darker for Harry Potter and his fans in this one
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 06/08/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"All I remembered about J.K. Rowling's novel "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" when I watched the movie was who Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) was in the Harry Potter world. Of course, it is hard not to remember that given the climax of the fifth book. But it is actually the fourth book that comes to mind because that was the novel where Rowling warned that things start to got significantly darker for our hero and it is clear that director Alfonso Cuarón has already sent the series off in that direction. Part of the look is visual, with Michael Seresin's cinematography given the old Hogwarts a new look, but there is also the fact that this is the shortest Harry Potter movie to date although each novel has been longer than its predecessors. Screenwriter Steve Kloves has streamlined the story so that the focus is on Harry dealing with the truth about how his parents were betrayed by a friend and sent to their deaths.There are not too many series were the main characters are children played by actors who are growing up as well (the norm is to just forget about the kids in the sequels, like they did in the "Jurassic Park" series), which also us a sense of how things look different. On the way back to his third year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) learns that Black has escaped from the infamous wizard's prison at Azkaban and that the vile Dementors, the scariest things we have seen to date, who guard the prison are now watching the gates of the school because Harry is his target. The "why" is even worse for Harry than the idea that there is once again somebody out there trying to kill him.Of course there is a new teacher of Defense Against the Dark Arts, Professor Lupin (David Thewlis), who appears to like Harry; but you never can trust anybody in that particular post. The kids are also taking Divinations, which introduces them to Professor Sybil Trelawney (scene stealing Emma Thompson) and their friend Rubeus Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) will actually be teaching the Care of Magical Creatures class. Those two are in on the primary action this time around, which leaves precious little time for Profesor McGonagall (Maggie Smith) to do anything, although as always we treasure every moment with Professor Snape (Alan Rickamn slowly milking the role of a lifetime for everything it is worth).The best part of "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" is that in the climax (or should I say climaxes) right by Harry's side is Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), making sure there is one person who is up to speed on what is happening (at least as much as is possible given the massive plot complications in this one). Harry might have the raw talent, but Hermione has the smarts and this time she has ample opportunity to use them. There is no reason at this point to consider replacing any of the actors in the cast, young or old, except for the cold hard reality that has Michael Gambon now playing Albus Dumbledore. If it is all fixed, don't break it. But above all this one comes back to Rowlings, her story, and her characters. Learning magic is not easy and Harry still does not really understand that he is going to be a great wizard, mainly because he is too busy being angry at the world (and he will get a lot angrier in the next couple of movies). This is a story about second chances and not just for Harry (think about it). "Prisoner of Azkaban" is the least interesting of the three films, and the five books for that matter, in terms of the larger story, especially since what is being set up here is rally being done so Rowling can take it away. But if there is one thing that Cuarón convinces us with this film, it is that this is not a kid's story anymore, even if that was how Chris Columbus played it in the first two movies. Where the franchise needs to be careful is that this film has reduced both Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) to comic relief caricatures. Ron, who was so brave at the end of the first film, now gets to shake for fear at the drop of a hat so that we can laugh at him. The film suggests that Ron and Hermione are fated to pair up, but if he keeps acting like this she will have nothing to do with him. Meanwhile, Malfoy acts like a bully without doing anything particularly mean. At this point the difference between Malfoy and his henchboys Crabbe and Goyle is that Draco speaks, but then he usually ends up whining and running away. Yes, replacing a slap with a punch is an interesting upgrade from the book, but then the book sets it up as a small moment of satisfaction against Malfoy's war against Harry; the film treats it more as an element to be played out by the numbers. "Prisoner of Azkaban" ups the ante on the Harry Potter series, and all of the characters need to put all of their chips on the table from here on in."
Karen | Costa Mesa, CA United States | 07/15/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I jumped on the Harry Potter band wagon last fall, having never seen the first or second movie nor read any of the books. Within 8 months, I have read the books three times and seen the first two movies so many times I can't even count. I went to the 12:01 am showing of PoA on opening day just because I love this series so much.This movie is completely different than the first two, completely non-traditional. It doesn't follow the book as religiously as the other movies and at first I wasn't sure if I liked that. Having seen it a second time, I can say that is was a wonderful way of showing the growth of the characters by using the different directing style and taking the essence/spirit of the book versus word-for-word.I saw this movie with a friend who had never read nor seen Harry Potter and expected her to have all sorts of questions afterwards about who people were and how things work. But, even in the third film, they manage to give enough background that she was able to understand what was going on without having to be told about it. This movie is great as a standalone and fantastic as part of the series. There were only a couple of disappointments. I was extremely irritated that they didn't describe the history behind the Maurader's Map and I wasn't happy with the lack of Quidditch. I have heard rumors that they will be explaining the Map in Goblet of Fire, so maybe that's not a negative.I love how the 3 main actors have grown into their characters; I hope that they continue using the same actors for every future movie. And who says that they're aging too quickly? Anyone ever see Beverly Hills 90210 where 30 year-olds played High Schoolers for 5 years.I also loved the darkness that the director has incorporated into the movie. Instead of using the gold tones of Christopher Columbus, Alfonso Curon uses black and to great effect. It is reminiscent of Tim Burton and makes me wish that he would direct a future movie.Besides being another great Harry Potter installment, this movie is also great all by itself. I can't wait for the DVD and I think this may be my favorite one, yet. I guess I'll have to go and see it again to make sure...."
Amazon DVD Bonus Content
plums | St Louis, MO | 10/29/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I loved this particular movie when compared to the series as a whole, but this is not why i'm writing this review.
This review concerns the "bonus" content for people who pre-order the dvd here on amazon. The "screensaver" is not an animated screensaver of the marauders map as you might think, which actually would have been quite nice if it had been done in the style of the map in the movie. You will be instructed to download a seperate application which will take over your windows screensaver functionality. The application is not very intuitive to use and I've since deactivated it. The "Marauders Map Screensaver" itself is nothing more then 3 random images of indistinct parts of the in-movie Marauder's Map with giant "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" logos that splashed everywhere. Its not very visually appealing as a screensaver and the images in opinion aren't very well done.
Just want to make sure that other people are aware of what exactly this bonus content is, and aren't buying the dvd here purely because of this. There is no marauders map style animation occuring here, and all that will be displayed are static images. I pre-ordered it here purely based on getting this bonus content, and I was rather disapointed with what i received."