Aug 17, 2012

[Movies] Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

I first got into the Harry Potter books because, well, they were popular. To be more specific, my mom made me read them since they had become so popular and she wanted to know what all the fuss was about. This is not a totally alien practice in our family given we're all rather avid readers and there's nothing more tempting than knowning there's an on-going series of novels that we can possibly follow along for as long as its run goes on.

The first book was decent enough, but I was still resisting getting into the whole thing. It was enough to get me to read the second book, but dang that one didn't go well with me. And then I read the third book.

Prisoner of |Azkaban remains my favorite book in the series, and thus all the more I had some pretty high expectations for the movie, And thankfully, I was not disappointed with how things turned out.

Plus the movie really upped thngs up a few notches in terms of the collective acting abilities of the cast and just how well everyone fit their roles within this magical alternative reality.


Synopsis: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is the third movie in the Harry Potter movie franchise as based on the J.K. Rowling book of the same name. This movie marks the first in a series of changes for the role of director, transitioning from Chris Columbus over to Alfonso Cuarón, who may be better known for movies like Y tu mamá también.

The movie begins with Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) again waiting out the summer with the Dursleys as he waits for the beginning of the next school year at Hogwarts. But one thing leads to another and Harry accidentally uses magic against his Aunt Marge (Pam Ferris). Fed up with this Muggle relatives, Harry takes his things and stomps out without a clear plan of what to do next. And this is how is he found by the Knight Bus, which in turn helps him get to the Leaky Cauldron.

There he is reunited with his friends Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson), but not before he ends up meeting Cornelius Fudge (Robert Hardy), the current Minister of Magic. And much as he is reassured that he will not be arrested for accidentally performing underage magic, he also learns that a criminal known as Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) has escapede from the infamous Azkaban Prison. But this is no ordinary prisoner - this man played a role in the eventual death of his parents and thus Harry himself is potentially in danger himself should Black decide to seek him out.

The change in directors coincided with a marked change in the overall tone of the plot as well, even when you go back to the original material. And this made sense given our heroes were now pretty much teenagers and thus the dangers being set ahead of them were becoming more and more complex. And this is probably part of why I started to appreciate the whole series more - the dangers that everyone were facing were becoming more and more "real" in a sense and thus it was becoming more important to treat these threats seriously and find more permanent solutions instead of just stumbling on chance ways of suriviving.

The movie also does a lot more to reveal more about the history of Harry Potter's parents - something that hasn't been addressed very much. And the key architect in this slow reveal (well, one way or another) is the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Professor Lupin (David Thewlis). Plus he was one of the more positive influences in Harry's normally troubled and isolated life given his general lack of family to fall back on for support. And these are some of the strongest and most interesting characters in the series, including our feared Sirius Black.

It's a shame that this movie also marks the transition to Michael Gambon as the Hogwarts Headmaster Albus Dumbledore, given the death of Richard Harris in 2002. At first I was a tad uncomfortable with the "new" Dumbledore given the natural comparisons to Harris' performance, but over time I came to acccept that Gambon was bringing a completely new interpretation of the role to the screen and it wasn't half bad. And we'd all eventually witness how'd he grow into this particular role over the next few movies.

And we can't get away from the growth of our young lead actors most of all. Beyond the obvious physical changes (and this marks when Emma Watson's fan base got just a bit creepier). Looking past the physical growth, the characters themselves also make progress in terms of their ability to work through the various mysteries that they face along with the more "practical" magical spells needed to survive the various adversaries they try to get past along the way.

Harry Pottter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is quite the amazing adventure - a great balance of high stakes magic, a mystery to unravel and a lot of personal growth for Harry and the others. Thus the movie gets a full 5 noble hippogriffs out of a possible 5.


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