So I watched Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban… For a really long time I hated this movie. A lot of this movie’s entertainment rests on the unpredictability of its twist and, unfortunately for me, I had read the book before watching this movie so I knew the twist walking in. More than that, I’ve never watched a movie-adaptation of a book that lives up to the book. Because of this I didn’t read another Harry Potter book and decided to just stick to the movies. With further viewings of Prison of Azkaban, I’ve realised that it’s actually quite a quality movie and one of the best additions to the Harry Potter franchise. Okay, basic plot: Harry Potter begins his third year at Hogwarts School of Wizard and Witchery, as if this death-trap of a school wasn’t dangerous enough, Harry now has to face the return of murderous Sirius Black. A man who betrayed his parents and is now out to find and kill Harry. I’ve watched this movie a few times since I first saw it in 2004 and it’s definitely gotten better with age. Sure, the twist is ruined but if you watch a movie more than once the twist is always going to be ruined. I loved the change in tone and style in this film – it’s a little bit darker and much more mature. This movie plants the seeds of the character’s upcoming puberty and the change in direction the movie will need to take to tell these different stories. This movie takes a step away from the traditional formulaic plots that had worked so well in the first two movies and centres the focus on our characters and their impeding entrance into the world of adolescence. Sure Sirius Black is this movie’s villain but the majority of the tension comes internally from our characters. They’re growing up and there’s an emphasis on this development and their changing relations, not only to the other students; but also with each other. Yeah, I noticed that Hermione started calling Ron ‘Ronald’. IT. IS. ON. I think another thing that stopped me liking this movie the first time I watched it was the recasting of Dumbledore. Michael Gambon replaced Richard Harris who had unfortunately passed away in 2002. I walked into the movie without any knowledge of Harris’ death or Gambon’s casting and had a hard time adjusting to this ‘new’ Dumbledore. I still don’t think I’ve come to terms with it. Gambon does an alright job and maybe if he had been Dumbledore from the beginning I would have loved him but his performance pales in comparison to that of Harris. Harris’ Dumbledore was a composed, Yoda-like figure; while Gambon brought an eccentric energy and mad-scientist-like quality to the character which I didn’t really care for. It’s unfortunate that the change had to happen.
Speaking of changes, one change that I did like was the change of directors with Alfonso Cuarón replacing Chris Columbus (who directed the first two movies). I think Columbus did a great job with the first two movies but Cuarón definitely added something fresh and interesting to this movie. There are grander scenes and a greater need for CGI in this movie and Cuarón really handles this well and brings that feeling of maturity and grit to screen. The additions of Gary Oldman and David Thewlis to this already star-studded cast lifts the quality of acting to new heights. Oldman is one of my favourite actors and I didn’t know that he was Sirius until years after watching this movie. That’s a testament to the intensity and chameleon-like commitment he brings to the role of Sirius.
Overall, I really enjoyed this movie and I’m glad I gave it a chance after the first viewing cause I would have missed out on its quality. It’s a little bit darker and isn’t the perfect ribbon and bow happy ending that we’ve seen in the movies before. 8/10