Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004): Halloween Review

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Most of us know Alfonso Cuarón as the Oscar-winning director behind science fiction epic “Gravity” (2013) and family drama “Roma” (2018). But did you know that he also directed the third installment of the beloved Harry Potter series, “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” (2004)?

“Prisoner of Azkaban” continues the adventure begun in the first two “Harry Potter” films, detailing Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione’s (Emma Watson) third year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. With spells, potions, and magical creatures abound, it’s all business as usual…Except for the fact that infamous criminal Sirius Black (Gary Oldman)–the man claimed to have betrayed Lily and James Potter to Voldemort–has escaped from the wizard prison Azkaban and now allegedly hunts the halls of Hogwarts for Harry Potter.

When viewed in sequence, it’s obvious that “Prisoner of Azkaban” soars on hippogriff’’s wings (haha) high above the previous two films in the series, both of which were directed by Chris Columbus. Overall, it just feels a lot more dynamic and sure of itself than “Sorcerer’s Stone” or “Chamber of Secrets” does, which can easily be attributed to its beautiful cinematography and fantastic performances from Oldman and David Thewlis (who portrays Professor Remus Lupin). Cuarón’s directorial choices don’t feel arbitrary, as many of Columbus’s tend to.

Also, despite the morbid plotline of “Chamber of Secrets” which includes the possible threat of death to children by painful and poisonous basilisk venom, somehow something about “Prisoner of Azkaban” feels darker, more visceral and real than that film does. It’s definitely the best technically made film in the series despite its glaring plot holes–no shade to screenwriter Steve Kloves; those are all J.K. Rowling’s fault (Seriously, why would they have given a Time Turner to a thirteen year old?!).

Ultimately, I think it’s the fact that, as the trio matures, it’s the first time that the stakes don’t only involve Harry and the little bubble he’s found himself in at Hogwarts–they’ve grown to encompass the life of a man he’s never met and, by extension, the entire outside world. It’s a jarring realization for him and for us as an audience that our actions do in fact mean something amongst the chaos.

This is a heavy reality to thrust upon a teenager–or anyone, for that matter. But, as Dumbledore says: “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” This film is the light in the darkness for the “Harry Potter” series.

Filmnetic Grade: A-

What did you think of “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” (2004)? I watched the scene where Hermione punches Draco, like, fifty times as a kid. Tell us your thoughts down below!

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