Harry Potter in Review: The Prisoner of Azkaban
Director: Alfonso Cuaron
Cast: Standard line-up with Michael Gambon, Gary Oldman, David Thewlis and Timothy Spall
Plot: With a mass murderer on the loose and hunting for Harry, Hogwarts sits under a dark cloud for their third year at the school. With the menacing Dementors roaming the grounds to a werewolf on staff, thinks could take a turn for the worse.
Review: Whilst Chris Columbus was instrumental in bringing the Harry Potter to the big screen and securing the excellent cast, it is a relief to see someone more artistically minded take the director chair. Alfonso Cuaron brings a wonderfully gothic design the series without letting it get overbearing (like a Tim Burton film), which invokes and references the classics of German expressionism. From the rich, Earthy tones that make up the colour scheme to the wipes which transition between the scenes give the third entry in the series a greater sense of magic than the previous two.
The directors attitude towards how magic is used in the film also helps create a more complete, lived in world for the characters to inhabit. It was always a distraction that whenever magic was used in the first two films the characters would always stop to gawp at it. It seems unrealistic that Ron would be amazed by a self-stirring pot in his own kitchen. Prisoner of Azkaban sees the magic being used in a every-day way, which background characters using simple, subtle magic to clean tables, etc, without the other characters taking heed, making it seem more like a real place.
The young performers continue to improve with each major role, which is good as this is the first film to demand a greater range of emotions from them. The threats are greater and the emotions are more raw. Sometimes their inexperience shows but Cuaron’s experience working with young actors in coming of age stories comes across in the improved development of the characters in this story. As sad as the passing of Richard Harris was, there’s no denying that Gambon adds that twinkle to Dumbledore’s eye that seemed missing before.
Whilst the time-travel concept that comes up later in the story means that the narrative gets padded out with the repetition of the previously scenes, it’s filled with enough quirks and visual cues to keep things interesting. The movie is better paced with everything feeling as though it is part of a larger story and no random Quidditch action scenes simply for the sake of having one.
Ultimately this is the best in the series. Whilst earlier films were happy to paint by numbers and later films relied on the emotional impact of murdering half the supporting cast this entry stands out as being the most artistically creative and the most refined. This the closest a Harry Potter movie comes to being a magical experience.
Score: NINE outta TEN