Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban


Dir: Alfonso Cuarón (Y tu mamá también, Children of Men)
Regular Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Michael Gambon, Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, Robbie Coltrane, Tom Felton, Matthew Lewis
Additional Cast: David Thewlis, Gary Oldman, Robert Hardy, Emma Thompson, Julie Christie, Timothy Spall
UK/USA, 2004

Originally Seen: During the 2004 theatrical release, in IMAX at Paramount

Revisited: June 22, 2009 *

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is the third film in the Harry Potter series and it is the time things get a little shaken up and we see changes happening. First up, a change in director from Chris Columbus (Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) to Alfonso Cuarón whom at the time was best known for directing the racy Oscar nominated Y Tu Mamá También. I know that one had a lot of people taken aback. Then due to the sad passing of Richard Harris, the character of Albus Dumbledore needed to be filled and was with Michael Gambon who is not necessarily known for playing the 'nicest' of characters (see: Gosford Park and The Cook The Thief His Wife and Her Lover) and that one had me a little worried. But, the fears were in vain as we ended up with one of the most well loved films of the Harry Potter series.

The film has a different look and feel from the first two, shrugging off the golden and warm colour scheme and favouring cool colours of white, black, silver, green and grey which give it a more edgy feel. Although all the films have situations and themes that involve danger, this one feels like the first time they demonstrate it in a more sophisticated manner. It literally introduces grey areas, just like the new colour scheme, where not everything is as it appears, people aren't necessarily what they seem and the solution isn't near at hand. They introduce more complex characters into the story where right and wrong it isn't clear cut. Also, the main characters of Harry, Hermione and Ron become more complicated themselves as they transition from reactionary & rudimentary magic to more active & advanced magic, which includes bringing in possible consequences for their active choices and actions. As with the second film, this is a great parallel to the world of being 13 years old where you do start to do things on your own (good or bad) as you gain independence and stronger taste of power.

Even though it branches out to new ideas and themes, it is the first of the series where I actively noticed patterns of the films. We see the introduction of new modes of transportation, new locations outside of school grounds, a new class, magical items/spells and as always new characters. This allows the viewers to gain continual but gradual knowledge of the world as a whole, but also is a great way of showing how the characters grow and become more responsible, capable and worldly every year.

One of the wonderful things about the third film is that the trio of actors Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint playing Harry, Hermione and Ron respectively, now feel really comfortable in their roles. I found in this film the characters and their relationships feel very flushed out, natural and believable. Speaking of characters we are introduced to a slew on new ones that heighten the enjoyment of the world including charismatic yet always tired Remus Lupin (David Thewlis) as the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, the eccentric Divination instructor Professor Trelawney (Emma Thompson) and Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) himself. I continue to marvel at how perfect the casting is for these films, all three of the new characters are played brilliantly. Michael Gambon also does a great job bringing a new a different take as Dumbledore, even though his character is not on the screen much we do get a taste of his more hippy vibe and sage like manner which is an interesting choice from Richard Harris who had a more Obi-Wan/grandfatherly tone. It took me a while to warm up to but now I certainly can appreciate both takes on the character.

The film really has everything going for it, the story is interesting, there is great character development, we see new ideas, characters and creatures throughout. But, some of the most charming and memorable moments for me are barely there, yet provide great additions to the tone of the film. Things like the changing of the seasons at Hogwarts, often featuring the Whomping Willow. Or bonding between the guys of Gryffindor. Even the end credits are fantastic. It's the complete package with this film, it really has it all.

Shannon's Overall View:
I love it
I own it in glorious... widescreen!
I'd recommend to fans of magic, fantasy and adventure

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© Shannon Ridler, 2009

* in anticipation of the release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince on Wednesday July 15, 2009, I am doing a weekly countdown to watch & review of the first five Harry Potter films

1 comment:

Ryan McNeil said...

Well said!

This one is my favorite of the series, and I really think that handing the series over to another director really did the films a lot of good.

Also couldn't agree with you more on how the fact that the movie seems to show more of Hogwarts, and more of the wizardinbg world really takes the movies to a whole other level.

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