Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

Something wicked this way comes!”
―Hogwarts student choir, Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets.

After handling the first two projects, Chris Columbus passed the directorial torch to none other than Alfonso Cuarón, though he remained in the project as a producer.  I knew Cuarón from Y Tu Mamá También (2001) but i never knew he also directed a children film in 1995 called A Little Princess. Since i haven’t seen the later i don’t know how Cuarón would take a material from a young adult films and translate it to the screen.
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I have to admit, prior to writing this review i was not a fan of Cuaron adaptation. In fact i downright despise it, especially since this third book, is my favorite book in the series (which is why i used my paperback copy for the Harry Potter Appreciation Month post). Maybe 10 years ago i was still under the idea that the 3rd book still had little more warmth like its predecessor. But Cuarón vision literally took a colder route, (and it progresses bleaker, darker, and colder towards the end) almost literally translated by using cooler hue (maybe inspired by the coldness of The Dementors?). But as i realised it when i re-watched it before writing this review, i thought the film really stood apart from its predecessor because not only the story had an edge now, it also have a very spectacular depth and sophisticated touch (the visuals in particular, as you can see there must be 20+ screen capture on this page).
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Cuarón literally expanded our views of Hogwarts and the magical world of Harry Potter by using wider lenses for filming this sequel. The settings no longer confined within the walls of Hogwarts interior. Rather he explored the grounds and had fun, especially with Care for Magical Creature in this year’s syllabus it just become a perfect excuse to Cuarón to do so. I am constantly spoiled by beautiful vistas of Hogwarts landscapes both day time and night time. Quidditch match in this particular film is one of the most challenging ones since it is surrounded by storm and rain, but it was done beautifully and probably the most exhilarating match on Hogwarts ground. Cuarón also created deeper staging, by his choice of lensing that allowed having foregrounds and backgrounds, giving the film a refined edge. Even our golden trio are not trapped inside their school robes all the time now. We saw them (as well as other characters) dressed in casual clothes and allow a little bit more of their personality to shine through. The CGI definitely improved in this installment, i especially fascinated by the eerie visualization of Dementors, which was inspired by floaty water movement (if i’m not mistaken)
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PAGE TO SCREEN. Unlike Colombus who were faithful to its source material, Cuarón shows he’s not afraid to take drastic creative alterations. He was definitely able to cut down the duration of the film into 142 minutes, keeping the pacing tight and  He definitely was not afraid to add things (such as, the talking shrunken head on the Knight Bus or the fact that Harry Potter manage to do a spell though he was still underage and sort of resulting in a continuity errorーalready one too many perhaps). But i really don’t mind those. I am actually at peace with most of the so-called creative edits done to source materials when it was adapted to screen. But Cuarón went one step too many. Not only he manage to tone down  vitals information for the series, he actually omitted a great deal of it. Especially those regarding to Sirius Black, Peter Pettigrew, the marauders map great importance and what it means in regard of Severus Snape.
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This is the first film that clearly defined the urgency of its main problem. This is the point that connects between what was and what are, and invites possibilities of what will. This is when Harry really begun his transition into adulthood, by learning more about his past. We finally begun to see the puzzles pieces begin to connect and formed a picture, instead of just random pieces we’ve been getting before Harry Potter is no longer about kid wizards with wands and flying broomsticks, this is a story that goes back to 13 years ago or more, and started from an unlikely animosity (that would later be further explored in The Half Blood Prince). This is the first book that offer most historic explanation and rich background story (that would explain a lot of things and avoid confusion in the future). Especially relating to Harry Potter and Voldemort himself, everything in the past and present, is connected through Sirius Black. So toning it down or blasphemously omitting them just does not go well in my book.
CAST. First and foremost, we have a new Dumbledore after Richard Harris passed away prior to the release of the 2nd film. Michael Gambon was selected for the role, after Ian McKellen turned down the role (saying “I had enough trouble living up to one legend. Two would be too much to hope for.” referring to his role as Gandalf in LOTR). Gambon admitted he never read the books and did not saw any point of doing so, which is probably why his Dumbledore was a little off sometimes, but more on that later. Emma Thompson embodies Trelawney quirk and bat-shit oddity so well, i wonder if Tilda Swinton would do a better job had she not passed on the role. Gary Oldman as Sirius Black, was just okay, perhaps i just imagined a more smoldering and darkly confident persona. David Thewlis has that gentle calming quality that i imagined in Remus Lupin. I am happy he lost the role of Quirell to Ian Hart, this way he got to stay longer in the franchise. Felton started to irks me with his brattiness, but i think that’s exactly what Draco Malfoy demand at this stage of the story. I think i’m just glad he no longer have to severely slicked and gelled his platinum lock now, ’cause that’s just one chemical too many. Snape was severely absent here (even towards the end where there should be tension between him and his old ‘buddies’). Out of the golden trio, Hermione Granger manage to came out of her shell a little more, drastically improved from the first two installment. Which left me bitter because it left Rupert Grint stuck as a very underwritten Ron, though he remained a good source of comic.
Despite my personal bone with this installment, i still think that Cuarón manage to dish out a refine representation of a Potterverse, which offer a darker tone of the whimsical world we knew in the first two films yet still just as magical. I wonder why didn’t it manage to earn more in the box office (this is the only film in the franchise that earned less than $800 million). Critics seemed to unanimously praised this one as their favorites, it held the second highest rottentomatoes aggregates and metacritic score. Though i am still withholding my judgement, but for now, i definitely think it’s definitely one of the best in the franchise. 

PS. Bogart!Snape :D almost made up for the lack of Snape in this particular film.

GENRE Fantasy, Adventure
DIRECTOR Alfonso Cuarón | PRODUCER Chris Colombus, David Heyman | WRITER Steve Kloves | MUSIC John Williams  | CINEMATOGRAPHER Michael Seresin | EDITOR Steven Weisberg | DISTRIBUTOR Warner Bros Pictures | COUNTRY United States, United Kingdom | BUDGET $130 million | RUNNING TIME 142 minutes | RATING PG for some scary moments, some creature violence and mild language | RELEASE  June 4, 2004
STARRING Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Tom Felton, Robbie Coltrane, Richard Griffiths, Alan Rickman, Fiona Shaw, Maggie Smith, Julie Walters, Harry Melling, Tom Felton, Warwick Davis, Matthew Lewis, Oliver Phleps, James Phelps, Bonnie Wright, Jamie Waylett, Josh Herdman, Devon Murray, Mark Williams, Robert Hardy, Gary Oldman, Emma Thompson, David Thewlis, Michael Gambon

 | Trailer


DID YOU KNOW? It was Alfonso Cuarón‘s idea to have a Hogwarts Choir singing as the students enter the school, and he suggested using “Double, Double Toil and Trouble” from William Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The motif also recurring on the tagline for one of the promotional poster “Something Wicked, This Way Come!”

This post has been the part of Harry Potter Appreciation Month at KaramelKinema. Don’t forget to keep your tea away from Trelawney!


2 thoughts on “Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

  1. I’m not the biggest fan of the PoA movie either. I’m still holding a grudge over Hermione getting Ron’s best lines, but I did like the darker tone that Cuaron used. Great posts!

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