Harry Potter and the
Prisoner of Azkaban
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plot in a nutshell
Harry, Hermione and Ron are back in the third installment of the Harry
Potter legacy. Based on the third book of course, this film is a
darker adventure for young Harry. He learns about Sirius Black (Gary
Oldman), an escaped murderer from the infamous Azkaban prison, guarded by
the soul sucking Dementors.
It's up to Harry and his Scooby
Gang to figure out what's really going on - as in any good Potter book,
nothing is quite what it seems. There's a new crop of teachers as
well, including Professor Lupin (David Thewlis) taking over the Defense of
the Dark Arts, and Professor Trelawney (Emma Thompson) teaching
Spoiler Free Thoughts
I love the Harry
Potter books. Each one assumes that the reader is getting older and
more intelligent, just as Harry is. The stories are more intricate,
the tales darker. And the third book might very well be my favorite,
with a deeper look into the deaths of Harry's parents and what really
happened that night.
I think this is the first book that translated badly to screen. Oh
sure, it has it's occasional bright moments, but for the most part this film
is cramped with stuff, and no time for characters or story development.
again, Harry is with the terrible Dursleys, just waiting to get back to
Hogwart's. And just as you'd expect, poor Harry manages to use magic
illegally, again in anger. If Harry's anything, he's consistent.
Only this time the magic world is far too concerned about the escape of
madman and murderer Sirius Black to be too worried about any minor
infraction by Harry. They even seem a little too forgiving, at least
meets up with the Dementors, loathesome guards of Azkaban. He and they
don't get along, and it's not just because the Dementors have such poor
social skills. The Dementors are going to be part of his life for
awhile too, as they are sent to guard Hogwart's against the possible
infiltration of Black.
of the first half of the movie plods along, with little action, and even
less character development. We get to see Harry angry, we get to see
Ron scared, and we get to see Hermione smart, but even these basic emotions
aren't as well played as previous films. But the three kids at least
get a little time to develop - the adult characters are left with almost
is the first film without Richard Harris as Dumbledore, and he is sorely
missed. While Gambon is adequate, he never exudes the personality,
playfulness or father-like qualities that Harris brought to the role. The
best characters from the previous films are almost non-existent.
McGonagall is in a couple brief scenes, and even Snape is sorely
underused. There's plenty of Hagrid, but there has always been too
much Hagrid, and the new characters never have much time to truly
develop. Lupin gets the most screen time, and he does alright with
what he has, but we never truly connect, and therefore never care all that
much about his outcome.
greatest waste is Sirius Black. Oldman has precious little screen time
in the 2 hour and 19 minute movie, and that's too bad. The few moments
in the film where I felt there was a real connection were in the brief
moments between Black and Harry.
has discussed how director Cauron was going to make a darker film. But
darker doesn't mean it has to be soulless, and that's what this film felt
like. They were very hard pressed to fit everything from the book into
this film, and trying to do so meant much of it was rushed and
incomplete. They are currently filming Goblet of Fire, and it will be
utterly impossible to fit that book into any movie that's 3 hours or less in
main actors have aged, and while I think they should be allowed to - it
seems like we expect 14 year olds in movies to look like they are still
pre-teen - I have to admit that they are growing up fast. It's a good
thing they are already working on the next film, and I have a hard time
imagining these three being able to stay for all the films.
was not a bad film by any means. I enjoyed it, laughed out loud at a
number of the cuter parts, and found myself moved by the simple conversation
between Sirius and Harry. But it's not the best of the three Potter
films, and I hope that the fourth fairs better.
Rating - Qualified See It On
The Big Screen.
Yep, I'm qualifying it. If you're a big Potter fan, or you're the
parent of one, I suggest seeing it on a big screen with good sound.
There's no doubt that this kind of film deserves that treatment. But
for the casual fan, this one can be a renter. Don't feel bad if you
miss it first time around, or that you have to rush out to watch. And
don't be surprised if people who are not Potter fans in general find it
boring or slow. Considering the ending, it would be a surprise if they
I'll be very
interested to see if it can stay on top of Shrek 2 over the next few
weeks. Of course it will do better this weekend, but when it comes
time for those repeat viewers, which one are they going to pick?
Oh, and for those that read my
toy review...Harry does wear goggles in the film during the short quidditch
match. Thankfully, it's because of the weather, not some silly new
Spoiler Laden Thoughts
There's a few things to spoil here, although the surprises in the film
aren't quite what they were in the book...
The end of this film is very
quiet and anti-climactic, particularly compared to the first two.
There's no actual big bad here, no major incarnation of Voldemort, but it
seems to me that the evil in the book was far more pervasive and
dangerous. Here, I never felt as though there was any real danger,
either from the Dementors or from Pettigrew.
One scene that was missing from
this film that was sorely needed was the murder of Harry's parents. In
the book we got a vivid description of the events that led up to their
death, including what supposedly happened with Pettigrew and Black.
That scene would have added far more tension and conflict - without it,
there's little here outside of the Dementors that created much excitement.
And does that ending mirror the
book? Now I know it's been several years since I read Prisoner of
Azkaban, but I can't imagine that she left it with so many loose ends.
Harry helps Sirius escape, blasting Snape, and there appears to be no
problem for him? And did it end without the usual year-end
climax? In this film, there's absolutely no feel for the school year,
no sense of time outside of the changing weather.
When did Malfoy turn into a
complete wimp? He's clearly terrified of Potter and the gang, and
posed no threat to any of them in this film, in any way. He's one more
threat that's non-existent, and knowing that Sirius was not a threat hurt me
with this film. For folks who have never read the book, the surprises
might be more interesting, but for those that have already experienced the
story, this version may end up being a let down.