Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Release date: June 4, 2004
Director: Alfonso Cuaron
Novel by: J.K. Rowling
Screenplay by: Steve Kloves
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Gary Oldman, David Thewlis, Michael Gambon, Emma Thompson, Timothy Spall, Alan Rickman, Robbie Coltrane, Maggie Smith, Warwick Davis, Tom Felton, Matthew Lewis, Julie Walters, Mark Williams, Robert Hardy, Richard Griffiths, Fiona Shaw, Julie Christie, David Bradley, Dawn French, Bonnie Wright, Oliver Phelps, James Phelps
Continuing with our task to review all of the Harry Potter movies for the 10th year anniversary of Philosopher Stone, as well as the release of Deathly Hallows Part 2, I live-tweeted Prisoner of Azkaban #HP3PoA on Saturday.
In Year 3, Harry Potter must go back to Hogwarts to course his third year in magical school, but after an angry outburst against the Dursleys and a chance encounter with a big black dog, he finds out a crazy dark wizard follower of You-Know-Who called Sirius Black is out to get him.
This time around Chris Columbus steps aside as a director — just taking one last credit as a producer in the franchise — and gives way to Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron, most famously known for his horny coming of age road trip movie Y Tu Mama Tambien. As a fan of Cuaron one could say, “WHAT?” As a fan of the Harry Potter series, you could ask, “Who is Alfonso Cuaron?” However, as both, I could just savor the moment.
It is in Prisoner of Azkaban where the series steps it up as a movie franchise. Without the changes in adaptation, structure and ambiance, the series would’ve slowly died down. In it, Kloves — back as a scriptwriter for a third year — lets the book flow onto the paper and creates not a faithful adaptation of the book, but a film that stands on its own and still feels fresh after nearly seven years.
The effects haven’t aged all that well, but much of the creepiness in the story comes in the physical form of the darker tones in the color palette, grittier art direction, and a change in pace with the score. The acting got better, as did the chemistry between the trio — things that have continued to get better with each film since and possibly peaking with Deathly Hallows Part 1.
A huge part of the success of this film comes in the form of Gary Oldman, who apparently was born to play Sirius in the film as a borderline madman in the first shots we get of him, until the very last act… which, by the way, is my favorite part of the movie.
My only criticism against Prisoner of Azkaban as an adaptation is the inclusion of the Marauder’s Map explanation, which could have been added as an afterthought when Professor Lupin (a very beaten David Thewlis) gives back the map with a “Mischief managed.”