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Film Review: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Jul 04, 2011 06:06AM ● By Wendy Sipple

In the third part of the Harry Potter series a new film maker takes the directing chair and all pretense of this series being a “children’s series” is thrown out the window. Prisoner of Azkaban is impressive film making and definitely shifted the Harry Potter series to a new height.

Alfonso Cuaron, a celebrated Spanish film maker well known for his mature coming of age stories, took the dark side of JK Rowlings third book and embraced it. Unlike Chris Columbus, who directed the first two installments, Cuaron revved up the tension and intensity of the material. The introduction of the Dementors, ghostly caped creatures that guards the wizarding prison of Azkaban, is intense. Throughout the entire film an eerie tension is maintained making sure we as an audience never forget that Harry is in immediate danger.
In addition to dementors the series adds two more outstanding character actors in Emma Thompson and Gary Oldman. Oldman’s portrayal of Sirius Black, Harry Potter’s outlaw godparent, is spot on. The moving wanted posters of Black screaming also adds to the creep factor that haunts this movie. The biggest addition to the movie though comes in David Thewlis who portrays Lupin, the new professor of the dark arts. Lupin happens to be a friend of Harry’s parents and also hides a secret of his own. The relationship he develops with Harry is quite good and always believable. His character of Lupin adds a lot of depth to the story.
The special effects in this movie are top notch and are not dated in the least. The multiple transformation scenes including that of a werewolf are right out of a horror movie. The film makers do not sugar coat anything in this film! Even Harry’s quidditch match, a wizard game of lacrosse played on broomsticks, is played in the rain and has a different level of intensity to it.
Steve Kloves, who has written all eight films, improves with each adaption. He hits all the right notes and material and masterful edits the book in just the right spots. This is the first Harry Potter film that really flows as a stand alone film and not a companion to the book.
The three main actors are given much more drama to deal with here, and with another year of experience and maturity handle the heavier material quite well. Daniel Radcliffe burdens the most challenges in the role of Harry, and aside from one scene where he is supposed to be weeping (Radcliffe can’t perform crying, don’t ask him to do it again!). Daniel’s performance of Harry is perfect. I can’t imagine casting a better trio of young actors to embody these characters. Their chemistry on screen has also grown with each film.
Prisoner of Azkaban is still regarded by many as the best Harry Potter film to date (I would call it a tie with a few of the newer sequels). This movie definitely ushered in a new direction for the series, at least in tone. From this movie onward Harry Potter ceased being a family film and focused on being great films. If you do not wish to start the series from the Sorcerer’s Stone, this is the sequel to jump on board. A truly terrific movie.

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Justin Buettner is Style's resident movie dude! How did he get this role? Well, he graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a Bachelor of Arts in film Production and a duel minor in Animation and Business with an emphasis in the entertainment field. He later went on to work on several independent films in various key roles including writer and later worked in the special effects field as a motion capture artist. He has since relocated to the Sacramento area with his family and continues writing for small independent films in addition to his movie reviews for Style Magazine.

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