Harry Potter and
the Prisoner of Azkaban
Warner Home Video
Date: November 23, 2004
Review posted: November 22, 2004
Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) returns to Hogwarts school for his
third year with the threat of being pursued by Azkaban prison escapee
Sirius Black (Gary Oldman). His loyal friends Ron (Rupert Grint) and
Hermione (Emma Watson) always help along the way, as Harry deals with
classes, Draco Malfoy, and, of course, Black. He learns a lot about
his parents and grows up in the process.
examples of mainstream family-oriented filmmaking, the Harry Potter
series enters a new era in its third film. The lead characters are now
13, adolescence has arrived and the sensibility of the film has taken
its cue from that. Director Alfonso Cuaron and his team craft a mature
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban with an exciting plot,
stunning visuals, and assured lead performances.
Perhaps it was the
daring choice to change directors from safe Chris Columbus to Mexican
auteur Cuaron that truly elevated every aspect of the film. The
scripts of these films always work but could be called slavishly true
to the original. This time, the usual entertaining and intricate plot
is the shortest of the adaptations so far and the most adult. From the
director of Y Tu Mama Tambien, who expected anything different?
Visuals of wonder and magic are definitely within his capabilities
(helped by gorgeous Scottish locations) but he adds even more than
In a featurette on
this disc, author J.K. Rowling says that he adds touches that
foreshadow what happens in the following books. Aside from Black
appearing again, could she be referring to the couple of staging bits
that suggest a Ron and Hermione romance? Fourteen and fifteen years
old is the right age for those things to start. (I havenít read the
books, so no one tell me!) As a romantic, that development, especially
handled well, couldnít thrill me more.
The visual effects
are a seamless mix of CGI, blue screen work, and animatronics. Legend
John Williamsí great score just sizzles like never before. As I wrote
in my review of the film when it was released, the costuming also
reflects the growth of the characters. Heck, even Cuaronís
transitions, mostly dissolves, are well done.
Now, I have to mention the three leads because theyíve evolved
steadily. Daniel Radcliffe is a bonafide leading man now, Emma Watson
gets a great female character and runs with it, and Rupert Grint (my
favorite) clearly has a charm beyond being excellent comedic relief.
Life after Potter for them is filled with other good roles, I
hope. Brilliant British actors fill up the supporting cast, too many
to name. One of my idols is Emma Thompson, and she delightfully
appears here as Professor Sybill Trelawney.
great images are preserved well in the widescreen format. None of the
color or visuals are lost on the small screen. A really good
The excellent aural
sound of the film is done good service by the, as always, Dolby
The theatrical trailers for all three Potter films are included
on the first disc with the film. A nice feature.
There are 5 in all, though two are simply extended scenes. I like the
completely new scenes and they would have worked in the film as well.
Creating the Vision:
Strong interviews with the director, writer, and many other creators
of the film cover the story, the production design, visual effects and
more. A substantial studio featurette.
Johnny Vaughan interviews the filmmakers and nearly the entire
principal cast: the three leads, their Gryffindor friends, their
Slytherin enemies, Dumbledore and Hagrid, Professor Lupin and the new
Dumbldore, even the Dursleys. Theyíre fun, but best of all is the
hilarious addition of the Shrunken Head from the film.
Magic You May Have
This is a fun interactive game that quizzes players on the magic going
on in the background of scenes. Pay attention!
This is a nice feature, incorporating extra footage in a 360-degree
tour of the classroom and office. The functions load a bit slowly,
though and you canít move anywhere once you get to what I assume is
This feature is like the one above, except set in the mouthwatering
Honeydukes candy shop. It has the same good and bad points as the one
This is another interactive game. The arrow keys on the remote lead
you around obstacles to catch Ronís pet rat. It actually takes
practice and the kids will probably like it.
Film clips play to the entire song that the Hogwartís choir sings in
the film. The lyrics are printed on screen as well. Cool to watch.
The Quest of Sir
Another interactive game, this may be the most fun of all. It is a bit
hard to follow but has funny bits. Kids will love it.
Care of Magical
Behind the scenes footage details the care of the animals seen in the
film, some you might not have thought of, like the hippo in the
portrait of the fat lady in Hogwarts. Itís all interesting.
Conjuring a Scene:
This may be the best featurette, discussing mostly the visual effects
achieved by makeup and CGI. Most interesting is how Buckbeak and the
Dementors were created.
For the kids, an early look at the latest Potter video game. Boys
especially will want to check this out.
A couple of features can be accessed in a computerís DVD-ROM: a
Hogwarts Timeline and Trading Cards.
More than a
family film and the best of the franchise, Harry Potter and the
Prisoner of Azkaban excels in direction and performance with a new
tone that bodes well for the installments to come. The extras on the
two-disc set are well done, too, adding to the pleasant experience of
the film. Bring on Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire directed
by Mike Newell next November!
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