Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

directed by Alfonso Cuaron

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban  poster  
Back for a third film, Harry Potter is now a teenager with more than acne and exams to worry about. The Potter franchise is growing up with its audience, and along with a slightly older cast there's a darker feel to this film. Sirius Black has escaped from Azkaban prison, where he was held for betraying Harry's parents to their deaths. He is believed to be looking for Harry in order to kill him.

The guards of Azkaban prison, known as Dementors, are searching for Sirius. But these Dementors are pretty dangerous in their own right. These ragged, skeletal creatures feed off happy thoughts and are fond of sucking people's souls out through their faces. They come off as both creepy and disgusting, and whilst Voldemort remains in the background they are one of the major threats to Harry in this film.

Hagrid has been promoted to be the new Care of Magical Creatures teacher, and this means yet more wild and unusual beasts to feast our eyes on. Buckbeak, the proud creature who is sentenced to death for being a danger to the children, is another CGI triumph. Overall though this is less glamorous than previous Harry Potter films have been. Sirius Black looks as much a tramp as he does a murderous wizard. Alfonso Cuaron has also allowed Harry and friends to spend less time wearing their period-costume uniforms, and as a result the movie looks more modern and less like it's stuck in a Victorian-era timewarp.

The plot revolves around the importance of friendship. We get to meet some of the friends of Harry's parents, such as Remus Lupin, the new Defence against the Dark Arts teacher. However, some of the significance of the betrayal of Lily and James Potter is not explained fully. There's no mention of the appointment of a secret-keeper, for example. The film is quite a lot shorter than the earlier Harry Potter movies, so the plot has become fairly condensed. Although the overall story makes sense, many of the smaller details have been missed out. For example, it's unlikely that someone who had not read the book would be able to work out who Padfoot, Mooney, Wormtail and Prongs are. A long story has been crammed into too short a time, meaning that viewers need to be fairly attentive to avoid missing what is going on.

A new director has meant that this Harry Potter film has quite a different feel to it, although it's not always easy to pin down what has changed. The humour is still there, from Dawn French's Fat Lady to Emma Thompson as the dotty Professor Trelawny. The special effects are also great, as you might expect. There are some moving moments towards the end when Harry finds his magic unexpectedly connects him with his father. This is a good film, it's fantasy with a touch of gritty realism which makes it both older and darker. It might be improved by being a little longer, but Alfonso Cuaron has still delivered an entertaining movie that proves that there is still mileage in the Harry Potter series.

Film Details

Year: 2004

Categories: Films

  Kids     Fantasy

Classification: PG

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4 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson


chelsea E     5th January, 2005 23:27pm

I thought it was AWESOME!!!! Even though Alfonso Cuaron made the movie alot different than expected, A true Harry potter fan would love any harry potter movie no matter who directed it. My favorite part was when Hermione punched malfoy. I would've done the same.

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