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Daniel Radcliffe
as Harry Potter

Rupert Grint
as Ron Weasley

Emma Watson
as Hermione Granger

Tom Felton
as Draco Malfoy

Gary Oldman
as Sirius Black

Michael Gambon
as Albus Dumbledore

David Thewlis
as Professor Lupin

Alan Rickman
as Professor Severus Snape

Maggie Smith
as Professor Minerva McGonagall

Robbie Coltrane
as Rubeus Hagrid

Emma Thompson
as Professor Sybil Trelawney

complete cast list

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Pictures from the World Premiere of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - Radio City Music Hall - May 23, 2004

Written by Steven Kloves

Directed by Alfonso Cuarón

Running Time: 2:16

Rated PG
for frightening moments,
creature violence and mild language.



This my friends, is what a Harry Potter film is supposed to look like. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was far superior to the two films that preceded it in every manner possible.


It's year three at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry's year starts on a scary note as he accidentally (on purpose) blows up his aunt into a large balloon, and is forced to run away. After he is picked up by the Knight Bus, he arrives at Hogwarts with the news that one Sirius Black has escaped from Azkaban prison, and is looking for Harry. Entering Hogwarts as the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher is Remus Lupin, who has some secrets of his own. He takes Harry under his wing, and helps him learn a charm that will protect Harry from the Dementors that patrol Hogwarts, looking for Sirius. Sirius was a friend of Harry's parents when they were in school, and he betrayed them and revealed their whereabouts to Lord Voldemort. Now, he's escaped and is looking to track down Harry, and finish what he started. But there is more to this story than meets the eye.


As I've said twice before while reviewing the first two films of the series, I am a huge Harry Potter fan. I've read all the books numerous times, and Prisoner of Azkaban is arguably the best of the bunch. When the first movie came out, while I enjoyed it, I felt something was lacking. It was too straightforward, too bland. Entertaining, absolutely, but not thrilling. It never gave me the feeling I got when I read the books. But director Alfonso Cuarón, taking over the reigns from Chris Columbus, changed all of that. He has created a film that will stand the test of time, and make all Potter fans worldwide exclaim; "Now that's how it's supposed to be done!" From the very opening shot of the film you could tell this one was going to be different.

Let's start with the look of the movie. The first two films had a bright, happy look about them, and only turned dark in more serious scenes. Cuarón decided to make the movie dark to begin with, and the serious scenes were even murkier and scarier. The camera work was something I noticed. Columbus kept movement to a minimum, preferring to use set shots and letting the actors dictate many of the scenes. Cuarón made the camera part of the scene, weaving in and out of places and making the viewer feel more a part of the film. The entire look and feel of the film was one of being on edge, as if something could possibly happen at any moment. Not only did this make the film visually more entertaining, it kept up with the spirit of the book. In book three, Harry learns more about his past and is starting to become more and more angry with what happened. In the first two books, he was still learning about being a wizard, and coming to grips with his past and his destiny. Now, in Prisoner of Azkaban, he knows who he is, and what the future will bring him, and frankly, it's pissing him off. But the best thing is, even though the film was darker in tone, the humor was ten times that of the previous films.

With the specter of the person that betrayed his parents hanging over Harry, as well as the Dementors running amok trying to kill him, the storyline of the movie is very serious. Yet, there is a ton of humor in the movie. There are little things that take the tension away, many of them dealing with the Whomping Willow. But more importantly, the dialogue was sharper and funnier than in the past. Whether that has to do with writer Steve Kloves settling in to his duties as the resident Harry Potter scribe, or the actors getting better, or the change of directors, I don't know, but the dialogue was much tighter and wittier and at times downright hilarious. All the characters had the ability to be serious one moment, but zing a one-liner the next. Even the usually no-nonsense Hermione was on form. I have to believe that having a director known for making more serious fare calling the shots was one of the main reasons the movie was funnier than the last two. Funny lines coming in the face of danger sound so much better than funny lines coming out of bland scenes.

The actors have all grown up tremendously well, and again, I think director Cuarón had a lot to do with that. The kids were all new and fresh in the first movie, and barely had time to register the first film when they started work on the second film. Chris Columbus did a fine job dealing with them as kids, but I think Cuarón did a better job dealing with them as actors. He knows their strengths and weaknesses, and played to them. Rupert Grint as Ron was comical as always, and his lines were kept short so that when the humorous line hit, he then didn't drag it out. Emma Watson as Hermione, arguably the weakest of the actors in the first two films, totally came into her own this time out. Her character became more forceful, but also less serious, which allowed us to see a more playful side of her. She has come a long way in the last few years and as long as she can break the typecasting issue, has a bright future ahead of her. And Daniel Radcliffe as Harry is always going to be the one under the biggest microscope. His line readings in the first two films were straight-forward and at times seemed if he was reading directly from the script. This time around, he felt more comfortable with the role and loosened up, which made his more serious scenes that much better. The rest of the cast was wonderful as always. I still believe Alan Rickman as Snape is one of the best casting jobs ever. Michael Gambon, stepping in as Dumbledore, gave the character more life, making the Headmaster younger and more jovial. David Thewlis did a good job as Lupin, showcasing a man with something to hide; something that's hurting him. Emma Thompson as the ditzy Professor Trelawney was almost unrecognizable behind her thick glasses, but did a fantastic job playing the clueless Divination teacher. And Gary Oldman as Sirius Black was fantastic, even if he didn't appear in the film as much as I had hoped.

The script didn't adhere as closely to the book as the previous two films had. Both of the last two movies felt as if they were lifted directly from the book, making the scenes that weren't there, that much more obvious to fans. Prisoner of Azkaban, while certainly staying true to the book, took more liberties and didn't go word for word. Yes, true fans will notice the difference, but at the same time, I felt that the changes weren't bad and in fact, helped make the movie better. Instead of forcing a scene to occur because it was in the book, the writer and director worked to streamline a scene, take the important aspects of it, and change it so that the pace of the movie kept up. The most obvious of that is the entire end game sequence (which as many of the loyal book readers will know doesn't only happen once). It wasn't exactly as it was in the book, but it still stayed within the spirit of the book. The music also played a larger role in the film. It accentuated scenes instead of simply being background sounds. The scene where the students were fighting a Boggart was set to a jazzy tune which lifted the scene into a lighthearted one. All throughout the film, while you could hear the familiar notes of the previous two soundtracks, the music seemed to be more alive than before.


So overall, I am totally happy with Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. As a huge fan of the books, and as a huge movie fan, I can honestly say that this is what a Harry Potter film is supposed to look like. I can only hope the new director for the next movie can keep up the good work. But what I really hope is that Alfonso Cuarón decides to come back to finish off the series.

Pictures from the World Premiere of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - Radio City Music Hall - May 23, 2004

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