Film Review: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

The third installment of the Potter saga on screen is Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and the story revolves around the aptly-named prisoner of Azkaban, Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) who has escaped the high-security wizarding prison and is on his way to Hogwarts to kill Harry Potter. Rumored to have been Voldemort’s right-hand man, Black is believed to want revenge on Harry for causing (however unwittingly) the Dark Lord’s downfall.

The film is a highlight in the whole series, with marvelous and gorgeous cinematography and wonderful set designs. The entire feel and atmosphere of the film is much closer than the first two films in capturing the feel of Hogwarts as it is depicted in the books. Professor Lupin is very well captured and charismatic, while Oldman is a true gem as Sirius. The central trio also continue to improve as actors, though Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) is the strongest in this particular film. Radcliffe, who tends to resort of odd physical movements when trying to depict nervousness or confusion, was ably directed by director Alfonso Curon. Michael Gambon replaces Richard Harris as Albus Dumbledore in this film, and while some did not like the recasting, I have enjoyed Gambon as much as Harris, who tragically passed away after the Chamber of Secrets.

The story, one of the best in the series, is also quite strong in the film, though it is not without its problems. The adaptation stumbles in some serious ways, and ends up cutting entire sub-plots for no apparent reason that render character and plot elements nonsensical. The fact that Lupin, James Potter (Harry’s father), Sirius and Petigrew all created the Marauder’s Map was utterly chopped out of the film, making Lupin and Sirius’s knowledge of how the map works appear like giant plot holes.

Further, all three of the first films include idiotic “action” scenes that look awful and embarrassing. In Sorcerer’s Stone it was the “flying keys” sequence, and in Prisoner it is the “whomping willow” scene. I’m not sure exactly what’s wrong with the scenes, beyond the poor graphics and the fact that they are not well put together. They’re just . . . well, stupid.

Beyond these things, the film is wonderfully done, and is one of the most creative and artistic films in the whole series.

Rating: **** out of *****

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