Back to the Harry Potter series with this third installment. I haven’t watched these movies in consecutive order in some time, but I’ve always held the opinion that the third movie is where this series really got rolling. Having very recently watched the first two, it was time to put that theory to the test.

I watched HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN (2004) on 1.21.12. It was, probably, my fifth or sixth viewing of the film. This is the one which I always seemed to catch large chunks of on TV.

This is the movie in which Harry Potter (both the character and the series) grows up. I think the specific moment that happens is when Harry violently declares his desire to kill Sirius Black. From the beginning of this film it is clear that director Alfonso Cuaron (CHILDREN OF MEN) wants to change things up. The tone is more sinister, the dialogue snappier, the danger more immediate. This is the first of the films which does not have Voldemort directly tied into the villain’s motives. In fact, it can be said that this film lacks a villain at all. It is the better for it. Not only does it change the formula of the series, but it deepens the backstory while also providing a great bit of suspense.

Until a scene late in the film which takes place inside of a tree, this film had followed the formula to plan. Harry at home accidentally does some wrongdoing to his adoptive parents and their kin, Harry finds a strange way to travel, Harry gets to Hogwarts and danger is greater because of X (in this case, X is escaped murderer Sirius Black), Harry has a run in with Draco, Harry et al discover something noone else is able to learn, and they go to solve the problem.

I’m not bashing this formula, and under Cuaron’s direction, these tropes found new life, but it was refreshing when everything changed. Not the least of which were the first glimpses of Snape as a friend. The above pictured shot lasts perhaps two seconds in the film, but it belies Snape’s perceived  intentions when he instinctively puts himself between Harry and a real threat.

Through three films, this is my favorite installment for several reasons. First and foremost, this is a wonderfully directed movie. Chris Columbus is, by no means, a bad director. He’s the .280 hitter who gets on base and plugs away on defense. But Alfonso Cuaron is the perennial all-pro who slugs home runs and always makes the clutch plays. PRISONER OF AZKABAN feels sharper, more grand, and heightened. Hogwarts, perhaps because of an increased budget, is no longer an interior-dominated school, but an exterior-rich campus of wonders. This really is a beautiful film to look at and absorb.

I appreciate the time-travel aspect of this story. It does not feel tacked on, or underdeveloped. Instead, the moments where the future interacts with the present cause instant confusion, which is erased by some change in focus. When this is brought back together in the last moments of the film, it really works effectively.

I also love this film for the development of Snape, Hermione, Harry, and the introduction of both Lupis and Black. The latter two bring great history to the proceedings, while the previous three all greatly improve the depth of character from the first couple of films.

The sharp dialogue both adds to the realism (I’m thinking of a quick scene with the boys returning to Hogwarts and horsing around in their room) and at times detracts from it (the Weasley twins become cartoon characters when giving Harry a map). A scene of quick dialogue banter featuring Maggie Smith results in the feeling that she is playing, temporarily, a different character than we have seen throughout the rest of these three films. Some of these quick pace changes, while adding tension, feel misplaced. They, perhaps, are the only missteps in the direction of this film.

The strange thing is that I might enjoy this movie slightly less than some others. This is a great installment, and I would call it my favorite of the first three, but the elimination of the awe-struck adolescence does detract from some of the fun. PRISONER OF AZKABAN has more bits of funniness, especially from Micahel Gambon who replaces the deceased Richard Harris as Dumbledore, but the sense of awe is replaced by the need to move forward. However, the series needed this desperately, and Cuaron delivered.





~ by johnlink00 on January 22, 2012.

One Response to “johnlink ranks HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN (2004)”

  1. […] HP3 link here […]

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