Harry Potter and Prisoner of Azkaban
Release Year: 2004
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Screenwriters: Steve Kloves, J.K. Rowling (novel)
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Michael Gambon, David Thewlis, Gary Oldman, Robert Hardy, Tom Felton
Rating: 2 Oscar nominations: Best Score, Best Visual Effects. 9 Saturn Award nominations: Best Fantasy Film, Best Supporting Actor (Gary Oldman), Best Performance by a Younger Actor (Daniel Radcliffe), Best Director, Best Writer, Best Music, Best Costumes, Best Make-Up, Best Special Effects.
Convicted murderer Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) has escaped from Azkaban prison and is believed to be looking for Harry. As a result, the dreaded Azkaban prison guards, the dementors, are stationed around Hogwarts. Harry, on the other hand, is about to discover that there is more to Sirius Black’s story than meets the eye.
The third entry in the Harry Potter franchise is a departure from the tone and style of the first two. This change is most likely due to the change in the director’s seat. Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity, 2013) has put his noticable mark on the film, adding several things (such as the choir at the sorting feast) and the sweet and golden hued feelgood vibe of the Columbus-directed first two films has been replaced by something darker. It has become quite a cliché that the newest instalment in a franchise is darker than the last, but in the Harry Potter franchise this makes perfect sense; as the children age, the story grows darker and with this darkness it becomes increasingly easier for an adult audience to relate. Prisoner of Azkaban is also the first of the series to deviate significantly from its literary source, but this is in no way a bad thing. The plot is tight while still leaving room for scenes that add to the feel of the place. The three main actors keeps improving as they age, and two great actors are added to an already impressive cast: Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, 2011) is brilliant as always in the role of Sirius Black and David Thewlis (The Theory of Everything, 2014) is perfectly cast as the likeable professor Lupin. Where in The Philosopher’s Stone and The Chamber of Secrets Harry battled threats from within, our wizard friends are now threatened from within thus giving the series new life. On a final note, Richard Harris professor Dumbledore in the first two films sadly passed away a few weeks before the premiere of The Chamber of Secrets and the part had to be recast. Michael Gambon took over and wisely chose to fill the big shoes left behind by making the part completely his own. One thing is certain: whether you prefer Harris or Gambon as Dumbledore, it would be difficult to imagine Harris in Cuarón’s version of Hogwarts. Highly recommended.
In order to get to know his stars, the new director Alfonso Cuarón asked the three leads to write an essay in the first person about their character. True to their characters, Emma Watson went overboard and wrote a 16 page essay, Daniel Radcliffe wrote a one page summary, and Rupert Grint never turned his in.
Picture Copyright: Warner Bros.