Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, David Thewlis, Gary Oldman
Directed by Alfonso Cuarón
In the only Harry Potter story without He Who Must Not Be Named starring as the main villain, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban leads the following films into a darkness.
Before Voldemort’s most loyal follower, Sirius Black (Oldman), breaks out of the heaviest wizarding security prison, Azkaban, he was heard mumbling, He’s at Hogwarts, in his sleep. Harry Potter (Radcliffe), who always seems to attract trouble, is warned not to go looking for Black. Yet Black isn’t his most immediate problem while at Hogwarts. The Ministry of Magic has assigned the Azkaban guards to watch for Black around the school.
Harry’s first interaction with Dementors, the Azkaban guards, chills his bones and makes him faint while on the train to school. Dementors feed off of emotion in their surrounding environment and make people uncomfortable. They not only make Harry ill, but also cause him to relive the moment when Voldemort killed his parents.
With a new director at the helm of Prisoner of Azkaban, Alfonso Cuarón sets the future films through only Harry’s eyes. This explains the later cuts we see out of bigger books, like Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. It also gets darker and gloomier, though the content of the plot itself isn’t as dark yet. While trying to cram in the most important scenes into this already two-hour movie, it was disappointing that the back-stories weren’t included. I suppose that’s why reading the book is always a good option.
Harry, Ron (Grint), and Hermione (Watson) enter the age of puberty and first-crushes. Harry’s first crush was omitted but an early Ron/Hermione romance is hinted at as Hermione somehow ends up in Ron’s, rather than Harry’s, arms most of the movie. Hermione also lets off some steam and punches Malfoy (Felton) in the face, one of the best moments to watch. However, it isn’t stressed enough to see all the pressure Hermione is under as she tries to fit in extra classes in one day while keeping a serious secret.
The new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher adds an interesting storyline as it turns out he was one of Harry’s father’s best friends. Professor Lupin (Thewlis) holds the key to lots of vital information, like Sirius Black’s secret, Harry’s parents’ secret keeper, and the creation of the Maruader’s Map. Most of the exposition that takes place in the Shrieking Shack is cut down, so Harry never fully finds out what happened the night Peter Pettigrew died and why Sirius Black actually escaped Azkaban.
A new change that also takes place is that of Albus Dumbledore. After the release of the second film, Chamber of Secrets, Richard Harris passed away leaving the role of Dumbledore behind. Michael Gambon filled in the position and while he looks slightly younger (less bright white hair, less wrinkles), he has a spark of Dumbledore in him.
Overall, it tells enough of Harry’s story in Prisoner of Azkaban but doesn’t do enough justice to the books. This new tone will show the future movies growing darker and darker, which is a metaphor for how times are changing in the wizarding world. This metaphor, however, was a little too obvious and perhaps could have been done better in a more subtle way.