Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Review by Dumbledwarf & Hermi2
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Rating: Super Star Destroyer
Once again, this movie begins at the Dursley home with Harry suffering abuse and humiliation from his Aunt Marge, who after a few choice and incendiary comments, ends up like a hot air balloon floating over the rooftops of Little Whinging, Surrey. It's Harry Potter's doing, of course, for he is a Wizard. Figuring now that he would be expelled from Hogwarts if not arrested for under-age use of magic (being that he has already received one official warning in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) his only choice is to run.
In what can now be considered hallmarks of Harry's world, things simply happen to him on the night before he needs to leave for school: he sees a menacing looking black dog, stumbles across the call sign for "Emergency Transport for the Stranded Witch or Wizard" also known as the Knight Bus, he ends up at the Leaky Cauldron where Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge requests that Harry not leave the inn until it is time to return to school.
It seems that everyone is concerned about Harry's safety, and Arthur Weasley even risks his job by taking him aside and warning him about the escaped murderer Sirius Black.
From the start, the darker color palette of this film sets the darker mood for the story. There are a lot of storms, fog, the Dementors -- author J.K. Rowling herself has admitted that these Azkaban prison guards represent depression at it's psychological and physical worst. That's a good summary of the tenor of this film.
However, the performances and the non-stop action keep the movie racing along. Newly introduced characters include Sybill Trelawny (Divination teacher played loopily and brilliantly by Emma Thompson), Remus Lupin (the latest in a long line of Dark Arts professors, played assuringly and surprisingly convincingly by David Thewlis), and Sirius Black, the escaped convict who is apparently after Harry (played maniacally and perfectly by Gary Oldman). Michael Gambon was selected to play Albus Dumbledore and he played an edgier version of the venerable headmaster, so you hardly noticed the considerable gap left by Richard Harris's untimely death. As the producers promised, "We will find another Dumbledore, but there will never be another Richard Harris." Kudos to them for finding Dumbledore!
Comical moments did lighten the film and kept it balanced: Aunt Marge getting "blown up" (and Cornelius Fudge's tut-tut assurance that "one does not get expelled for blowing up one's aunt"), Hermione slugging Draco Malfoy in the face, and Emma Thompson's over-the-top portrayal of Trelawney, and poor Neville Longbottom being the only one to lose a fight with a book are great highlights that brought giggles from the audience.
Basically as the color palette of the film gets darker, the scenery, characters, and story add depth to the whole Harry Potter world. It's a scarier film, for sure. You got the feeling of how awful the Dementors are, and one member of our group cried inconsolably at a beast's execution ... hopefully, the younger fans will understand that if they read the book, they DO know what REALLY happens. We suggest that if you take young children with you, that you let them bring a small blanket to hide under till the scarier parts are over.
Obviously, not everything from the book could be included in the film. But don't worry, it remained true to the spirit of the book and richly deserves praise for the quality of casting, the efforts of the new director, and the production values, overall. Go see this film, or you-know-who will come after you!
Photos from imdb.com
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