"Prisoner of Azkaban" will hold audiences captive

June 8, 2004, midnight | By Grace Harter | 17 years, 7 months ago

The latest Harry Potter movie, "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban," is Hollywood's most recent stab at adapting the wildly successful Harry Potter books to film. So far, the previous two Harry Potter movies have grossed a pile of money but not much respect from the critics.

"Prisoner of Azkaban" is about to change all that. Darker and grittier than the previous two films, this one boasts a new director, new characters, and a very different take on Harry's magical world.

"Azkaban" is the next chapter in the Harry Potter series. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) is informed that the dark wizard Sirius Black (Gary Oldman), a convicted murderer, has escaped from Azkaban Prison. He wants to kill Harry to avenge the death of his master, evil Lord Voldemort. (For those of you that have been living in a cave for the past few years, Harry Potter is famous because he defeated Voldemort when he was only a baby). Sirius was one of Voldemort's most faithful servants, disclosing the secret hiding place of Harry's parents (allowing Voldemort to murder them), and viciously killing another one of the Potters' friends, Peter Pettigrew (Timothy Spall).

Alfonso Cuarón, who previously directed "A Little Princess" and the racy "Y Tú Mama Tambien", brings an edge to this third Potter film. The general tone of the movie is somber, and the scenes are filled with dark shadows and dim light. The cameras keep up with the general fast pace of the film, swooping audiences between tree branches and above the beautiful mountain scenery. Cuarón also introduces the dementors, creatures that feed on happy memories and render victims soulless after they perform their infamous kiss. The audience is alerted to the dementors' presence when the atmosphere suddenly turns frigid and dark, and any water present in the scene freezes over. There's nothing eerier than watching their gaunt figures in flowing black robes dive toward the hapless protagonists.

The most impressive architecture in the film (and newly added, undoubtedly the vision of Cuarón) is the large clock situated in the stone tower of Hogwarts. Its pendulum swings ominously over the entrance to the school and represents not only the time passing in the film, but also the maturing of the young witch and wizards. As the seasons go by, with slow blurring and fading between each season, Harry, Ron, and Hermione realize the responsibilities they must assume now that they are coming of age. The climax of the film also hinges on time travel; for a fun little cameo, look at the beginning of the movie for Stephen Hawkings' famous book "The History of Time" being read by a wizard in a bar.

The third film also provides the audience with a closer look at the three main characters, though it excludes some of the older and more established actors. Veteran actors like Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, and Emma Thompson, who play, respectively, Professor McGonagall, Professor Snape, and Professor Trelawney, are given a small amount of screen time to make room for further character development of Ron, Harry, Hermione, and the newest Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Remus Lupin (David Thewlis). Michael Gambon, the new Dumbledore, brings fun and humor to the role that was previously played very dryly by the late Richard Harris. Emma Watson and Rupert Grint (playing Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley) do respectable jobs as Harry's two best friends; Watson is likeable as the feisty and intelligent Hermione, and Grint brings humor to his role as Harry's silly sidekick. Radcliffe himself, however, could be a little less blank and staid throughout the film; one would expect a little more emotion coming from someone who was being hunted by a murderous lunatic.

"Prisoner of Azkaban" is clearly the best Harry Potter film yet. Purists may take issue with some major omissions made in the movie, but as a film it was well-paced and well done. Caurón sticks to the main story, a smart move considering the length of the actual book; anybody looking for any further fleshing out of Harry's wondrous world would do well to go and read about it. The old saying does hold true: the book is better than the movie. However, "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" makes a pretty good effort.

"Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" runs 142 minutes and is rated PG for frightening moments, creature violence and mild language.

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Grace Harter. Grace Harter is currently a CAP senior at Blair. She loves anything British, books, music, movies and of course Silver Chips Online. She'd like to close with a quote from "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" that is especially profound (and makes reference to her ultimate favorite … More »

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