Movie Review – “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”

This is the third film in the series, and the first not directed by Chris Columbus. Is it as good as the first two?

Cast, Crew, and Other Info

Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter

Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley

Emma Watson as Hermione Granger

Maggie Smith as Professor McGonagall

Alan Rickman as Severus Snape

Michael Gambon as Albus Dumbledore

Robbie Coltrane as Rubeus Hagrid

Gary Oldman as Sirius Black

David Thewlis as Professor Lupin

Screenplay by Steven Kloves, adapted from the novel by J. K. Rowling

Directed by Alfonso Cuaron

Complete information is available from the IMDB.

Premise

Harry Potter returns to Hogwarts for his third year of Wizard School. Meanwhile, Sirius Black, imprisoned for crimes that led to the death of Harry’s parents, becomes the first person to escape from Azkaban.

High Point

The whole “That felt good.” bit was pretty high, but I’ve got to go with the shots through the clocktower to start and end a very appropriate sequence near the end. That’s far more stylistic and less utilitarian than Chris Columbus has done in his turns, and it’s a perfect physical and symbolic fit to that portion of the film.

Low Point

The lack of revelation of the identities of Mooney, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs. I understand that much had to be streamlined, and in general they did an excellent job, but this particular information would have really helped people who haven’t read the book to put things in context.

The Scores

Again, the fact that this is an adaptation hampers the originality a bit, but they managed to make significant changes in the details of the book without losing the spirit or feel of the novels. There are also significant differences in the production between this and the first two films, so I’ll give it 5 out of 6.

The effects were well done again in this one. The work on the Dementors was exceptional, as was Buckbeak. Scabbers looked good in CGI, and the morphing was better than much of the morphing out there. The posters and pictures were perfectly blended to the walls, despite the variety of viewing angles. I give it 6 out of 6.

The story was well adapted. They lost a lot of the details, but it’s still a coherent package. We’re missing some of the back story detailing how well some of these characters knew each other, and precisely how they knew it had to be a close friend of James and Lily who betrayed them, but that’s all that really mattered out of what was lost. They did an excellent job adapting the story. I give it 6 out
of 6.

The acting was very well done. There are some great young actors here, and some fantastic members of the more experienced cast. We’re going to see a lot more of Emma Watson, Daniel Radcliffe, and Rupert Grint if they can avoid typecasting. Gary Oldman is always good, and David Thewlis is far less irritating than anything else I’ve seen him in. (When I was watching The Island of Dr. Moreau, I kept wanting the creatures to just eat him and get it over with.) I give it 5 out of 6.

The emotional response was very strong. Cuaron did a much better job of engaging the audience. I don’t think any will hit that first time wonder of the original film, especially for those of us who hadn’t read the books first, but it still pulls us in quickly, reminding us of the character dynamics quickly so we can move into the rest of the story. I give it 5 out of 6.

The production was excellent. I think Cuaron might have a bit of a glass fetish, but other than that, it worked beautifully. The pace was kept up, the atmosphere was generated through colour filters instead of saturation, and there were some new shooting locations that have distinct advantages for both this film and the next. The camera was far more active here than in Columbus’ outings. The first film was the best to watch for the first time, as it was a first exposure to Harry’s world, but this one will hold up better on repeated viewings. I give it 6 out of 6.

Overall, it’s another excellent film in a great series. At this rate, Warner Brothers will have a series of seven films that will go down with Disney’s stuff as family movies that are good for generations. They got their hands on some golden source material, and they’ve involved people in the production who have an incredible amount of respect for what they’re working from. (Of course, the gargantuan fourth novel will be the real acid test for adaptation. They’ve decided to make it a single film, which will be very, very hard.) I give it 5 out of 6.

In total, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban receives 38 out of 42.

22 replies on “Movie Review – “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban””

  1. Trekkie says:

    How About the Dementors?
    How intense are they? I really would like to go see this but I don’t have anyone to leave my two year old daughter with. She got a bit freaked in the two towers with the wargs so that was the last movie I saw in the theater with her.

    I don’t want to freak her out, but I really want to see this movie. We just moved to NC so I don’t know anyone/trust anyone to leave my little one with just yet.

    • starbreeze says:

      Re: How About the Dementors?

      How intense are they? I really would like to go see this but I don’t have anyone to leave my two year old daughter with. She got a bit freaked in the two towers with the wargs so that was the last movie I saw in the theater with her.

      The Dementors might scare her…

      • Abednigo says:

        Re: How About the Dementors?

        How intense are they? I really would like to go see this but I don’t have anyone to leave my two year old daughter with. She got a bit freaked in the two towers with the wargs so that was the last movie I saw in the theater with her.

        The Dementors might scare her…

        There are quite a few scary moments. The Dementors are very scary (for little ones at least) and quite a few scenes reminded me of some of the scary parts in Van Helsing. I’m amazed that the movie is PG. Some scenes are just as scary as some of the scariest Lord of the Rings moments.

        I’d say it would be too scary for any kid under 10, or at the youngest maybe 8 (depending on the kid of course).

    • nkuzmik says:

      Re: How About the Dementors?

      I don’t want to freak her out, but I really want to see this movie. We just moved to NC so I don’t know anyone/trust anyone to leave my little one with just yet.

      I’ll try to explain this to the parent who asked the quesion without including too many spoilers. But since I don’t know how to do spoiler text, consider this your warning.
      Let me put it this way;

        It’s scarier than the first movie, but not as outright frightening as the second.

      That simply refers to the imagry and visuals that are used. But in terms of plot, the third movie is somewhat darker than before. Harry is presented with a chance to face off with the person whom his parents trusted with the secret of their hiding place. But this person then betrayed them to Voldemort.

      As you can imagine, this takes Harry to a rather dark place. He doesn’t actually do anything to this person, but he comes very close to crossing that line.

      You also have some other ostensibly “good guys” prepared kill another character out of vengence, but Harry talks them out of it.

      The ending, while not exactly scary might not sit too well with younger viewers. The betrayer of Harry’s family escapes. Harry’s decision to have mercy on him is prophesized to bring about Voldemort’s resurection(for mor info on that, read The Goblet of Fire, and an innocent man has to become a fugitive for a crime he did not committ.

      Does that help any?

    • sflory says:

      Re: How About the Dementors?
      The movie is relatively scary at points. Nothing like a horror flick mind you, but the Dementors are like something out of a horror movie. (Only done much better.) The 2nd to the last scene with the Dementors is very intense with a sense of hopelessness. On the other hand unlike a horror the scene does end on a high note.

      On the subject of the Dementors. Exactly what kind of Socity turns their criminals over to the Dementors? I mean killing someone for their crimes is one things. Condemning them to the care of a Denentor, or allowing them to suck loose their soul. Talk about cruel, and unusual.

  2. starbreeze says:

    :)
    I loved it. I don’t read the books, and it’s obvious that I missed a lot of fine detail… it felt like more was left out that in the last two, but that might be because beforehand, I heard my coworkers talking about book details and I didn’t see many of them in the movie. It was beautiful all around… scenery and music (yay john williams).

    • Dave says:

      Re: :)

      I loved it. I don’t read the books, and it’s obvious that I missed a lot of fine detail… it felt like more was left out that in the last two, but that might be because beforehand, I heard my coworkers talking about book details and I didn’t see many of them in the movie. It was beautiful all around… scenery and music (yay john williams).

      I had the curious fortune of seeing this with someone who had not read any of the books, and had not seen the previous two movies. (No, not the girlfriend, she’s as dorky as I am. :-)

      Not only were a lot of details missing, there were a lot of (what I would consider) critical plot points missing. I don’t think that even a Marauder’s Map would make it possible to follow this movie around without some advance knowledge of the story…

  3. Eldhrin says:

    HOW MUCH???
    Did you see the same film I did? I thought it was absolutely awful.

    • octa says:

      Re: HOW MUCH???

      Did you see the same film I did? I thought it was absolutely awful.

      Usually people like to explain themselves after making such a blanket comment. I look forwad to hearing your points.

      • Eldhrin says:

        Re: HOW MUCH???

        Did you see the same film I did? I thought it was absolutely awful.

        Usually people like to explain themselves after making such a blanket comment. I look forwad to hearing your points.

        Yes, usually people do, unfortunately I didn’t have time when I posted that comment to give a detailed rundown of why I didn’t like it. I wrote such a rundown on my blog when I got back from it though. You can find that at here.

        But to summarise it:

        – Inconsistency introduced regarding the use of magic at home – Harry’s happily practising spells under the sheets, but then worries about being expelled for blowing up Aunt Marge because he can’t use magic at home.

        – Just one sentence about how Lupin knew what the Maurauder’s Map was as soon as he saw it. Just one! I understand why they had to cut a lot of that, but just some small hint that he wrote it would have helped that part of the story immensely

        – Harry’s delivery of Expecto Patronum at the crucial moment seemed just utterly, utterly wrong to me

        – I didn’t think the acting from Grint or Radcliffe was particularly good this time around. Watson did a good job with what she was given though

        – “I’m going to find him, and when I find him I’m going to kill him!” Did that sound convincing to you?

        – the whole explanation phase in the Shrieking Shack was far too rushed, so that it hardly made any sense at all

        – was there any point in changing how they find out Pettigrew’s alive? It seemed like how Harry almost finds out that Mad-Eye Moody isn’t Mad-Eye Moody in the fourth book.

        I’m going to stop now because this was supposed to be a summary. Suffice it to say that I didn’t like the choices they made to bring it down to film length, and I didn’t like the direction either.

        And Dementors cannot fly.

        • vanyel says:

          Re: HOW MUCH???

          – Inconsistency introduced regarding the use of magic at home – Harry’s happily practising spells under the sheets, but then worries about being expelled for blowing up Aunt Marge because he can’t use magic at home.

          That one struck me as soon as I saw him doing it, though it was amusing having him tweak his uncle like that.

          – Just one sentence about how Lupin knew what the Maurauder’s Map was as soon as he saw it. Just one! I understand why they had to cut a lot of that, but just some small hint that he wrote it would have helped that part of the story immensely

          The first thing I did when the movie was over was explain to my friends with me who hadn’t read the book about the names on the map. Leaving out the background of that was really inexcusable.

          – I didn’t think the acting from Grint or Radcliffe was particularly good this time around.

          The scene with Harry crying was the one that really struck me as badly done. Draco wasn’t great either, and given the role him calling Hermione “mudblood” plays later in the series, I thought that was glossed over too much. It’s been a while since I’ve read the books and that might be the way it was there — just a subtle hint at the future.

          And Dementors cannot fly.

          I don’t remember them being described in enough detail to make that statement — it actually sounds in character for them to me.

          The other lowpoint for me was Sirius as a dog — considering one of the previews before the showing of Harry that I saw was for Polar Express and some of the most realistic animation I’ve yet seen, Sirius looked almost as bad as something I might create.

          All that said, I did like the movie, but they’ve *really* got to split Goblet of Fire in half. They just barely got this one in 2 1/2 hours, and GoF is what, half again as long? If they try to squeeze it into one movie, it’s going to get butchered.

          • nkuzmik says:

            Re: HOW MUCH???

            All that said, I did like the movie, but they’ve *really* got to split Goblet of Fire in half. They just barely got this one in 2 1/2 hours, and GoF is what, half again as long? If they try to squeeze it into one movie, it’s going to get butchered.

            Prisoner of Azkaban is 435 pages.
            Goblet of Fire was 734 pages
            And Order of the Phoenix is 870.

          • ladyslug says:

            Re: HOW MUCH???

            The first thing I did when the movie was over
            was explain to my friends with me who hadn’t read the book about the
            names on the map. Leaving out the background of that was really
            inexcusable.

            I did the very same thing with my boyfriend who hasn’t read the
            books. The “Prongs” appearance and its importance to Harry, the names
            on the map, and the specifics as to why everyone thought Sirius was a
            murderer could have been included somewhere in the movie. I ended up
            reading about half of two separate chapters straight out of the book to
            him because he had so many questions. This is the first movie where
            reading the book added IMMENSELY to my understanding of the movie.
            Cuaron’s tone was better, but Columbus seemed to have an easier time
            squeezing everything in there.

  4. pythor says:

    My thoughts…
    I thought this was the best HArry Potter movie so far. The other two were good films, and decent adaptations of the books, but they were very much stories to watch. This film brought the whole HP world into a greater reality. Part of that is the source material, the third book had more realistic character portrayal as well. I think another portion was the production, and in particular the large number of outside scenes. Most of Sorceror’s Stone and Chamber of secrets were interior, and felt very much like sets. This movie made Hogwarts much more real to me, as well as my two sons.

    As an aside to the fellow discussing his 2 year old daughter… I would not bring my 4 year old son. My 8 year old had no problems. I would say 6 for children who already know the story, at least 8 for the ones who won’t be expecting it.

  5. cb says:

    Aunt Marge?
    I thought it was Aunt Petunia, even in the first two movies?

    -cb

    • Eldhrin says:

      Re: Aunt Marge?

      I thought it was Aunt Petunia, even in the first two movies?

      -cb

      Aunt Petunia is Uncle Vernon’s husband; Aunt Marge is Uncle Vernon’s sister. So there are two Aunts.

      • cb says:

        Re: Aunt Marge?

        Aunt Petunia is Uncle Vernon’s husband; Aunt Marge is Uncle Vernon’s sister. So there are two Aunts.

        Right, well, color me forgetful. Thanks.

        -cb

  6. tuckerch says:

    Just a thought
    Feel free to gripe about flying Dementors and the like all you desire.

    But remember, the ONLY person whose opinion matters is J.K. Rowling.

    And she approved everything you saw and heard in the movie.

    Everything.

    If there was something she didn’t like, it never made it to the final shooting script, let alone before the cameras.

    • starbreeze says:

      Re: Just a thought

      Feel free to gripe about flying Dementors and the like all you desire.

      But remember, the ONLY person whose opinion matters is J.K. Rowling.

      And she approved everything you saw and heard in the movie.

      Everything.

      If there was something she didn’t like, it never made it to the final shooting script, let alone before the cameras.

      I fully expect screenplay adaptations of books to take a lot of liberties. I’m considering going back and reading the books now to understand more of the details. I usually hate seeing movies of books I’ve already read though, so this will be good. Without flying dementors, the whole Quidditch scene would not have been able to take place though.

      • azkaban-fan says:

        Re: Just a thought

        “Without flying dementors, the whole Quidditch scene would not have been able to take place though.”

        I believe dementor effects are three-dimensional. Where I inferred from the book that they were on the field. It was not necessary and ruined the effect to portray them as ghost like things. They should be more like “Death”, walking or floating near the surface, slow and somberly.

        All in good fun, but if you endeavor to produce something it should be worthwhile and representative of the quality of the book.

  7. SushiRob says:

    Clocktower?
    Sure the clocktower was very stylish….

    But incredibly stupid as well… A clock tower, with large bells…down the hall from the hospital wing…..

    The movie was good, but far from great. The whole movie felt very rushed, disjointed, charging straight towards the end haphazardly. Once the endgame arrived the movie was much better but getting there was a bumpy ride. Though even the ending had its flaws…the whole whomping willow (throughout the movie really) was just unneeded and the time could of been spent on much better stuff… (They should of done the 2nd quiditch match w/ Malfoy vs the Patronus).

    And for all they cut, they wasted enough time with that ridiculous chorus and the magical candies. Surely that could of been cut in favor of a couple sentences from Lupin.

    Furthermore the whole sense of foreboding in the book was totally lacking in the movie.

    I can only hope the DVD will have another hour of footage placed back in. 3 out of 5 tops.

    • Linda says:

      general comments
      I felt that this movie was very enjoyable and, though i felt quite annoyed at some of the things i expected to be included and either were completely chopped out or brushed over briefly, i think it was a good film if you have read the novel. If not, i feel sorry for you because it would have been nowhere near as good…

      I think the use of the Whomping Willow to show the seasons was clever and amusing, it lacked some constency from CoS to PoA – it looked completely different and was no where near the castle, where it was in the second film – this was also evident in other areas such as Hagrids hut – the landscape of Hogwarts seemed to make the movie set in an almost completely new location. this was disappointing.

      The clock tower was effective and looked cool. The dementors were “brilliant”,as ron would say – i dont think that their flight detracts from their character at all, i think it adds more terror to them, because they can move anywhere very quickly. also, it is very true that the quidditch scene wouldnt work if they didnt fly!

      “And for all they cut, they wasted enough time with that ridiculous chorus and the magical candies. Surely that could of been cut in favor of a couple sentences from Lupin.”
      I agree. The singers in the opening sequence of Hogwarts seemed really cheesy and unneccessary – waste of time! But the magical candies were fun – the social aspect was explored much more this time, and i think it was good.

      roffessor Trelawny was excellent – spot on the character! loved the glasses! hehe
      Buckbeak was really good too, the scene where he flies Harry was really good. you know its a good scene when it makes you smile, and this one made me smile.

      I dont doubt that Micheal Gambon is a fine actor, but he just didnt have the presence that Richard Harris had as Dumbledore. The character was completely different… hard shoes to fill of course, but he should have had more of a presence. Also, Malfoy lost his character way too easily when threatened by Hermione – he cried! this did not seem to fit…

      The film did seem rushed, and too much was left out. However, the production, special effects, most of the performance, the cinematography were very well done.

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