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.