12/07/2013

Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

This was actually the least awful poster
Film: Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban
Release: 2004, theatrical
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint
Directed by: Alfonso Cuarón
Previous in the series: Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets
Next in the series: Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: After running away from home in the time leading up to his 3rd semester at Hogwarts, Harry Potter learns that a convicted felon named Sirius Black has escaped the wizard prison known as Azkaban and is looking for him.


Hans' thoughts:

This one marked the change of a few things for the Harry Potter cinematic series. First off, It starts the era of mood-change. Having left the directors chair, Chris Columbus left a significant gap that other director had a hard time filling out for a while. The series not getting a returning director till the release of Order of The Phoenix, the director in question being David Yates. However, I'm getting ahead of myself. This is the work of Alfonso Cuarón, a man who's work both before and after this movie is not particularly well-known. Not going to hold that against him though. The mood of this movie is a lot more haunting than the former movies. While Chamber of Secrets did delve into the potential for horror the franchise has, it was still firmly grounded in the action-adventure genre. This one not so much. The theme of the story is very much fear and helplessness, and the creators sure managed to drive that point home. The story features the scariest Harry Potter creation yet, The Dementors. Faceless hooded creatures that live off of fear and makes you relive the darkest moment of your life. This is dark stuff, and it fits the surrounding environment very much. The color scheme of the movie has also changed a lot. Whereas the former movies had a lot of warmth, most of Hogwarts being dimly lit by torches, this movie has a lot of cold colors. Grey and white are very much dominant in this movie. It actually got to a point where it got a little too much, they could have loosened up on the darkness just a little bit.

Bookwise, this story is my favorite of the lot. Partly because it's one of the few books that actually kind of ignores Voldemort. Whereas the villain in the two former stories was the Dark Lord himself in some form or another, this one actually just tells a story about how bad everything can turn up when you let your life be ruled by fear. This story also by far has the best twist, and the most mystery surrounding the main villain. We never actually get to see the Prisoner of Azkaban till the final part of the final act, everything up until then being foreshadowing. Some of the foreshadowing being better than other I should note - if you know the story already some of the foreshadowing actually gets a bit tedious. Speaking of tediousness, while the comedy of the book was the best of the series this movie just kind of falls flat. Now don't get me wrong, you will most likely laugh at one or two jokes, but the best part of the book is the physical comedy - which the movie seems to ignore completely save for a single moment. A moment that the movie was kinda forced to show, due to the plot. I'm not saying they should have engaged it completely as it wouldn't match the tone but really, it would have been nice with just something to lighten up the mood sometimes.

As for the sets, did they lose the old ones? Hogwarts looks a lot different this time around, some locations having completely changed from where they were in the previous movie. The most obvious being the entrance to the Gryffindor quarters. They moved a whole corridor, did they think the audience wouldn't notice? Speaking of goof-offs, when we first meet Ron and Hermione this time around, Harry walks through a corridor where we clearly see Crookshanks (a cat) chasing Scabbers (a rat) in the opposite direction. However, when the camera pans to the end of the corridor following Harry, Ron and Hermione is at the end of a staircase each holding their respective pet. This could have been fixed by just making the cat and rat run in the same direction Harry was facing, so Ron and Hermione holding them would've been plausible. There's also a few things we get explained in a single line of dialogue in the book, that they apparently decided to ignore in the movie - such as why Remus Lupin knows about the Marauder's Map. We're just kinda meant to assume on that point.

My gripes aside, it's a perfectly serviceable movie. When the movie came out and I saw it as a kid, I remember absolutely hating it. However, after I've become older and rewatched it for this review. I kinda liked it. It did a lot better job tail-ending a lot of stuff it set up, and when they actually bothered with showing us magic it looked pretty plausible. So color me pleasantly surprised.
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