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|Index||1485 reviews in total|
Harry Potter is growing up! The voice is deepening, the shoulders are
broadening and...hurray! You no longer feel like a creep for having a
little crush on Daniel Radcliffe...whoops, did I say that out loud? Say
what you will, I see him making the jump from child star to adult actor
in a way that Haley Joel Osment only dreams of.
Appropriately, this third film in the Harry Potter series has matured along with it's young stars. At first glance the storyline itself is relatively simple - Sirius Black has escaped from Azkaban Prison and young Harry is on his hit list. But the reality is that this movie is about being a teenager and all the trials and tribulations that go with it. On one level, Harry is like any other kid at school - he puts up with torment from bullies, gets into scrapes with his teachers and hangs out with his friends. But this is not just any school. This is Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and Harry has a whole OTHER set of problems. Like an escaped madman who may just want to kill him, for example.
The plot contains the requisite amounts of twists and turns. The focus is on Harry's past - Sirius Black was his godfather but just may have been in league with he who's name cannot be mentioned. There is the usual game of 'are they or aren't they?' when it comes to deciding which characters are really the baddies. Alan Rickman continues to walk the finest of lines between good and bad with his marvelous performance as Professor Snape. Has there ever been a better match of actor and character? Snape shows again that, while he may take occasional delight in making his students' lives difficult, he does have their best interests at heart - like any good teacher. Other plot quirks worked well - I enjoyed the way the time travel angle was worked in and the map showing the location of everyone in Hogwarts was a delight.
Visually, this is a much darker film and it is a sumptuous treat for the eyes. There is so much incredible detail in the sets that it's impossible to absorb it all in one sitting. All the staples from the other films are there - the paintings talk, the staircases move, ghosts roam the halls - watch out for the knights on horseback crashing through windows! The special effects are all top notch. A word of caution for any parents - there are some genuine scares here. The Dementors are particularly nasty, and I would certainly think twice about letting very young children watch this film. This is without even considering it's running time - two and a half hours - which is a very long time to expect some children to sit still.
One of the most impressive things about this film is the way that the young cast are more sure of themselves. As Hermione, Emma Watson grated in the first film with her occasional woodenness. Pleasingly, she has grown into herself as an actor and her performance here is much more mature. A leading lady of the future, perhaps? Hermione is growing up and is tired of being taken for an irritating goody-two shoes know it all. Rupert Grint provides comic relief and Daniel Radcliffe gives an outstanding performance, considering the whole film rests on his shoulders. Harry is the hero - the audience needs to identify with him. By the end of this film teenage girls will want to take him home to mother, while their mothers will just want to take him home and adopt him!
New cast members acquit themselves well. The role of Sirius Black was tailor made for Gary Oldman - he has a requisite creepiness with just a dose of humanity to bring the character to life. Daniel Thewlis is good as Professor Lupin, the new Defense Against the Dark Arts master who takes Harry under his wing. Emma Thompson is amusing as a Divinination professor with bad eyesight. She can see into the future but can't tell which students are falling asleep in her class!
Many have criticised Michael Gambon's performance as Dumbledore. While it's true that he is no Richard Harris, I personally was pleased that he didn't attempt to imitate his predecessor. Gambon is accomplished enough a performer to stay true to the character while at the same time putting his own stamp on it.
Take away the magic and monsters, and what you have is a coming of age movie. Harry is forced to grow up and confront both his past and his future, and come to terms with the reality that he is no ordinary wizard. With the spectra of 'you know who' continuing to loom on the horizon, roll on film four!
If there's anything this movie proves, it is the difficulty in
separating the series from the demands of fans. This is clear just from
hearing some of the comments. "Why didn't they identify the names on
the Marauder's Map?" "Why wasn't the second Quidditch game shown?" "Why
wasn't there more of Crookshanks the Cat?" By focusing on what the film
didn't have, fans fail to look at the film on its own terms. I think
this is by far the best Harry Potter movie yet.
The only way to satisfy fans would be to include everything from the book, which would require a miniseries. Since that isn't what these films are, the story has to be abridged. The first two films tried to fit everything they could within a reasonable slot of time. The result was a set of films that felt cluttered yet incomplete. Had they continued with this strategy for this movie, based on a much longer book, it would surely have been over three hours long.
The virtue of the latest film is that it makes a real attempt to adapt the story, not just marching in lockstep with the book's events. The screenplay is sparing, leaving out or simplifying loads of details not directly relevant to the plot. But it captures much of the book's delight and humor. The first two films fell short in this regard, because they lacked the guts to tinker with the details, even though that was the key to condensing the story while staying true to its spirit.
The movie is still faithful to the book, of course. Many of the scenes are exactly as I had imagined them. When it deviates, it does so based on an understanding of the story and characters. This is evident in the way they show, for example, the Knight Bus; Hermione's overstuffed schedule; and the introduction of the Marauder's Map, a scene that captures the twins' mischievous personalities. The changes are clever and funny, and they help compensate for the movie's loss in other areas.
Certainly this has something to do with the new director. Columbus's approach was to stick to the books as literally as possible, often draining them of their subtlety. For instance, where the books only hint that Dumbledore can see through the invisibility cloak, the earlier movies make it unmistakable. The new director never condescends to the audience in that way. This is a children's movie, but it is also a fantasy-thriller that we can take seriously, because not everything is spelled out for us. We're given a chance to think.
But part of what makes the movie work is the book itself. The story is gripping from start to finish, because the threat looming over the school is established early on. Harry's personal life is sharply intertwined with the plot. We feel for him as we watch his disastrous (but hilarious) attempts to escape his uncle and aunt, and his humiliating reaction to the dementors. The story avoids common devices such as the talking killer or deus ex machina, which the other books have in abundance. The ending is nicely bittersweet and ambiguous. The plot is so complicated, however, that the book spends several chapters explaining it all. The movie wisely includes only very little of this, allowing the plot twists to become understood as the story progresses. I was surprised to see certain events that were in the movie but not the book lend support to an important theory some fans have had about what is to be revealed at the end of the series. Of course, it is well-hidden and won't give anything away for those who aren't looking for the clues.
I was so satisfied with the film that it almost seems trivial to mention the flaws, but there are some. The portrayal of Fudge's assistant as the standard hunchbacked dimwit is out of place here, as it would be in anything other than a cartoon or spoof. The most serious misstep, though, is the casting of Michael Gambon as Dumbledore. Gambon's face seems frozen in a perpetual nonexpression, and his voice lacks resonance. He compares poorly to the late Richard Harris, whose line readings had gravity, and who played the character with a twinkle in his eyes. It is a pure mystery to me why this actor was chosen as a replacement, especially considering the fine performances from other members of the cast. Even the children are in top form here.
Those complaints aside, this is the movie I was hoping they would make when the series began. If it doesn't live up to the book, so what? What's important is that it lives up to its potential as a movie. Fans who want a carbon-copy of the book are looking in the wrong place, because they're never going to get it here. This is probably the best example of a Harry Potter movie that we're ever likely to see.
This third Harry Potter film is the best one yet. Director Alphonso
Cuaron (Y Tu Mama Tambien, A Little Princess) has taken over from Chris
Columbus and has stuck less slavishly to the original JK Rowling Books.
Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson are back as Harry, Ron and Hermoine, with Hermoine in particular getting to do a lot more. There are less Quidditch matches, and more menace, in keeping with the improved complexity of Rowling's third novel. Hogwarts is not safe, Draco Malfoy is no longer a menace, but just a pain in the ass. And the new CGI-scripted character Buckbeak the Hippogriff (half eagle, half horse) looks fantastic and has personality.The kids are all supposed to be thirteen but look older - hey we'll forgive them. Neville Longbottom has lost so much weight he's almost unrecognisable.
Great performances from Emma Thompson hamming it up as the ditsy professor of foretelling, Prof Trelawny, Michael Gambon as the new Professor Dumbledore (not as magical but good), David Thewliss as Prof Lupin, and Gary Oldman as the Prisoner of Azkhaban.Thrilling, complex, menacing, ****/***** stars.
Director Alfonso Cuarón has taken the images conjured by J.K. Rowling's
magical words and created from her book, 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner
of Azkaban,' a film rife with visual symbolism and alive with inventive
images beyond those established by the first two films in the series.
Cuarón, a native of Mexico City and the acclaimed director of the
completely compelling, frequently hilarious and sexually explicit
coming-of-age film, 'Y tu mamá también,' was seen by many as an odd
choice to follow heartland American Chris Columbus into the Harry
Potter director's chair. The selection has resulted in a film darker
and more mature than its predecessors, just as was the book, but it is
also as approachable for young people as Cuarón's other internationally
heralded work, 'A Little Princess.'
It is late in the summer. Harry (a decidedly more assertive Daniel Radcliffe, making his third appearance in the leading role) is at the Dursleys in Privet Drive, preparing for his third year at Hogwart's, when an obnoxious relative demeans his father's memory, causing Harry to lose his temper. As a result, Harry violates the rules of student witches and wizards, causing the offending aunt to inflate as a dirigible and float away into the night sky on an stream of invectives. It is a delightful opening to a film with far more serious issues to explore and frightening obstacles to overcome. Sirius Black (Gary Oldman), imprisoned at Azkaban for complicity in the murder of Harry's parents, has escaped, and is looking for Harry. The soul-stealing prison guards called 'Dementors' (Latin for mind-removers) are searching for Black everywhere, but when he and Harry meet, there are revelations which change everything.
The symbolism in the film is fascinating. Rowling is responsible for a lot of it, but Cuarón has used symbolism as a visual tool to alert the audience to impending danger and to keep tensions high. Traditionally, black-feathered birds such as ravens, crows, and vultures all have negative images associated with them; they are usually used to represent carnage, bloodshed and battle; they are thought of in terms of scavengers, messengers of the dead, and evil. Crows abound in this film, but Cuarón has extended their traditional roles, turning them into symbols of the Dementors, which fly around menacingly in black garments with feather-like hems. Even when the Dementors are out of sight (they are not allowed on the grounds of Hogwart's School) you can feel their presence in the crows.
Rowling's most obvious use of symbolism is in the name she gives the escaped prisoner Sirius Black. Sirius is a star in the constellation Canis Majoris (in mythology, Canis Majoris is one of Orion's hunting dogs; the Greater Dog), the brightest star in the sky. So, Sirius is also called the Dog Star, and everyone knows that the dog is distinguished above all other inferior animals for intelligence, docility, and attachment to man. Would she give such a name, with all its implications, to a villainous character? Not likely. But she would give it to a wizard who could change into a dog.
Among the new visual images are animal ghosts which wander the halls of Hogwart's Castle and the film's realization of Buckbeak the Hippogriff, like Sirius, falsely accused and condemned. Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and all of the established characters return. Led by Harry, all the students have matured considerably, as you would expect of 13-year-olds; they are more independent and self assured, more emotionally developed and far less childlike in their reactions and bearing. Michael Gambon is new and effective as Aldus Dumbledore, following the death of Richard Harris. Emma Thompson is wonderfully wacky as Divination Professor Sybil Treelawney; who leaps from the pages of the book and onto the screen as if Rowling had written the character specifically for Thompson. Also new is Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor Remus Lupin (David Thewles), who comes to Harry's aid in ways that might befit his Latin name. Remus was the brother of the founder of Rome. In mythology, he was nursed by a she-wolf; Lupin means wolf-like (wolf is Canis Lupis).
The unheralded thread of creative continuity in this marvelous series, as it moves from Chris Columbus to Alfonso Cuarón to incoming director Mike Newell (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, now in production) is Screenwriter Steve Kloves. He and the producers have been true to Rowling's works and to Harry's fans, in ways that have always enhanced, not diminished, the author's incredible achievement.
I thought this was excellent....better than the first two Harry Potter
movies combined and better than what has followed.. That's my feeling,
and I'm still sticking to it.
This was just great fun, right from the opening. In fact, the early bus scene is the best in the film. Overall, the movie didn't have as mean an edge to it as the others, although it has a number of scary moments (which might have warranted a PG-13 rating). That was fine with me. I got tired of the dark, nasty and/or annoying characters of the first two films, and especially the irritating blonde wise-guy kid. I give this major points for cutting his role down. Even Alan Rickman's character softens.
In other words, there is no despicable villain to hate throughout the film, which I thought was refreshing. Instead, we just go through one adventure after another until the final surprise ending.
Along the way are a lot of fun special effects and scenery, some humor (Emma Thompson is a hoot as an eccentric tea-leaf reader) and some fantastic 5.1 surround sound. I wish all the Harry Potter films were like this one.
As with previous Potter films, this one is wonderful. The mischievous
trio are back in their third year at Hogwarts.
Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) is a slightly different character in this film as the anger inside of him for what happened to his parents has grown over the years. This made, for me, the film much more enjoyable than the first and second.
As one would no doubt assume, Gary Oldman's portrayal of the character Sirius Black is nothing less than perfect. However, Sirius Black seams an unlikely roll for the talented Oldman. I enjoyed him more in other films, such as 'The Professional' and 'Immortal Beloved'. Let us hope he has had the chance to 'play it up' a bit more in the much anticipated 'Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire'.
The original music of John Williams is more than I could ever hope to hear. It is absolutely splendid, making the film worth a listen even if you do not watch. Williams has created memorable compositions such as the theme music to 'Star Wars', 'Jaws' and 'Raiders of the Lost Ark'.
Overall, any age should enjoy this film. The visual effects are not the most spectacular I've seen, but fantastic enough to take your imagination away from the real world for 141 minutes. Even the closing credits are kind of cool.
Now, go watch the film. You'll be glad you did.
Wow. I love the new direction. The style fits the movie perfectly. I
also think the kids acted much better in this one. I really hope they
don't get rid of Daniel Radcliff, even if he does get too broad in the
shoulders. You can't swap horses mid-stream. Also, did anyone recognize
the kid who played Neville at first? The biggest problem that I had was
that there were a lot of things the movie didn't explain, such as
"Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs." I think that it may have been
hard for those who hadn't read the book to understand. It also didn't
show that Harry's Patronus was a stag, which I thought was important.
And Harry's eyes aren't green (which is mentioned at least once in each
book), but that's a minor thing. I felt that the style fits the book
well. I go back and read the first book and think "Wow, how young they
all are, how naive." The books age, and I think that comes out in this
movie. I hope they continue to follow the same path.
All in all, I loved the new direction and the movie itself. I can't wait 'till the next one comes out.
Alfonso Cuarón's masterful adaptation does the source material
immeasurable justice by exploring its underlying concepts in an
intelligent manner. Of course, it certainly helps that the aesthetics
of the film are incredible, the acting remains stellar (and the trio of
young actors handle their roles admirably), and John Williams offers an
amazing (and eclectic) score. Character development is superb - Steve
Kloves penned a great script.
First-time and young viewers will likely enjoy the film for its merits based on plot and 'adventure' alone, but it takes multiple viewings and a critical eye to enjoy the abstract ideas and nuances. Cuarón himself credited the source material as being laden with real-world issues: oppression, racism, loneliness, power, friendship, justice and so forth.
This is the Harry Potter film that stands on its own and as a tremendous cinematic achievement. It challenges viewers and yet doesn't patronize them or attempt to offer answers to all of the questions presented. For instance, the ending is bittersweet at best and retains a healthy amount of ambiguity.
If you've never read the books or understood the acclaim of the series as a whole, watch Cuarón's 'Prisoner of Azkaban' and you'll understand why this entry is clearly the zenith of the seven.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
If you're anti-Potter you owe it to yourself to see this film. Get past
the issues you might have with the immense hype around the franchise
and sit down for two hours to be captivated by this creepy, quirky and
beautiful film. If you're a Potter-fan and you're unhappy with the
film, the novel is probably on the table in front of you and you're
better off reading it again. This is a wonderful film despite your
expectations or opinions as to how it 'should have been done'.
This review contains spoilers pertaining to the novel version of The Prisoner of Azkaban; if you haven't read the book, you have been warned.
What makes this film work far more than the previous films are three key aspects - the acting, the screenplay, and the production design/cinematography - and all of them I credit directly to Cuaron's new vision. Suppsedly it was Cuaron's work on A Little Princess that won him the gig to direct this film, but I would honestly say that Y Tu Mama Tambien is equally if not more to credit. While he doesn't get the caliber of Tambien's performances in the young Potter stars, Cuaron does far better than his predecessor Chris Columbus. Most importantly, this film features a far more relaxed performance from Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter. His confidence, surely thanks to Cuaron's demonstrated ability to direct young actors, lets him speak and react in a far more genuine manner than we saw in the previous films and helps the film enormously. Hopefully Dan continues to improve with each film.
With the more assured Radcliffe able to hold a scene together, Rupert Grint matches him admirably. Having been relieved of the Culkin Syndrome he was afflicted with in the first two films (the fault of Columbus, no doubt), he brings a more entertaining and believable Ron to the screen; both a joker and a noble soul as he is portrayed in the novels. It's wonderful to see that Grint has a genuine sense of comedy about him, and has made Ron more than the one-dimensional, face-pulling joke Columbus would have him. Emma Watson holds her own with the boys, giving a fantastic performance, and importantly bringing a lot of needed emotion to the central characters. Hermione now feels like the glue in the trio rather than the outsider.
The new Dumbledore is a little uncomfortable, simply for the fact that he has a very small role in the film, and we don't have enough time to entirely digest this new portrayal. Richard Harris brought a wise kind of grace to the character, but perhaps in his physical state the character did come across as a little too frail. There is nothing wrong with Michael Gambon in this role, and I believe with his increased parts in the next film he will prove to be a satisfying replacement. I was wary of casting for Remus Lupin, one of my favourite characters of the novels, but David Thewlis makes this role his own with a delightful portrayal. Likewise, Oldman is perfectly cast as Black.
There are edits and reshuffles with regard to the Azkaban's story compared to the book, both in terms of how the story fits together, and what information from the overall seven novel arc is in the film. I don't see how these changes matter much, the identity of the Marauders will undoubtedly be revealed, and potentially in a fashion that has a greater impact than it did in the novels. The reshuffling improves the pace in a huge way compared to the Columbus films which were quite plodding in parts because of their tenacious grip on remaining accurate to the novels. The dialogue is similar to the previous films. The "sudden" ending is satisfying enough; there really isn't any need for the over-done end of year banquet scenes, and seeing Harry happy at the end of the film is all I think we need.
Some have complained that the continuity between the first two films and the third one has been spoiled by changes in the production design. I really can't see the problem here, the look of Hogwarts is far more immersive and emotive in Azkaban than it was in either The Philosopher's Stone or The Chamber of Secrets. Cuaron brings a twisted visual style to the screen and draws on his Mexican heritage to add further layers of interest to the look of the film. He could be called overly indulgent, but rather than being distracting, these additions simply bring more life to the screen, making Azkaban a gorgeously vibrant film. The production design is simply oozing with the filmmaker's obvious delight in creating the creepy magical atmosphere that this darker story requires. If after all that you still can't accept the changes to the production design, think simply of this; "The stairs like to change". If the stairs at Hogwarts like to change, why not the rest of it? It is a magical place, after all.
The cinematography though, is what makes the film so beautiful. There's barely a shot in the film which isn't utterly gorgeous. The scenes of the Dementors floating outside Hogwarts are inspired, the moonlight scene after the return from the Shrieking Shack, the flight scenes with Buckbeak, the first Dementor scene on the train; all are captured beautifully and put Columbus with his squeaky clean vanilla take on everything in first two films to shame.
This film was one of the highlights out of Hollywood in the last year. It's, dare I say it, compelling and well acted in a beautifully realized and shot fantasy world. You owe it to yourself to see it once; and if you're a fan holding a grudge, maybe you should give it another try.
And pray to your Gods that George Lucas never gets his hands on the reigns to a Potter film.
Although this film isn't all that I'd hoped it would be, I believe that
it was the best of the three 'Harry Potter' films so far, thanks
largely due to director Alfonso Cuaron. In 'Harry Potter and The
Prisoner of Azkaban', the trio are now thirteen and beginning their
Third Year at Hogwarts, under the fear of an escaped criminal who
played a part in the deaths of Harry's parents and seems to be stalking
the school, preying on Harry.
The child acting in this film has improved slightly with Emma Watson and Rupert Grint probably faring the best in comparison to their young co-stars. Although he is lumbered with a Ron who has once again been reduced to a comic character, it's a sign of Grint's abilities that he does well without looking embarrassed or too clownish. Dan Radcliffe was still very poor, obviously struggling to portray Harry's darker emotions in a manner that isn't wooden and awkward and and this was very apparent in the scene where he makes an atrocious effort to cry when he finds out his godfather had betrayed his parents to their deaths. while Tom Felton was let down by poor scripting of Draco.
The adult cast were excellent. Remus Lupin and Sirius Black were perfectly cast. Lupin was soft yet stern when needed and you could feel there was a parental rapport between him and Harry, and I couldn't imagine anyone other than David Thewlis in the role. And Gary Oldman was great in depicting Black's determination, mingled with an hysterical madness due to his incarceration in the hellish wizarding prison Azkaban. As for Michael Gambon, who was recast in the role of Dumbledore, I felt he was an improvement. Richard Harris was a gifted actor but his Dumbledore had a cold, aloofness to him whereas Gambon was able to portray the warm, eccentricity of the character without diminishing the power and wisdom of Dumbledore. And the rest of the regular cast, such as Alan Rickman and Maggie Smith, were perfect although we expect no better from them now!
One of the best aspects of this film is how it no longer pandered to kiddies like the previous two films did. There was a darker, moodier edge to the story and the characters. The wizarding world no longer seemed like a perfect haven and the characters had grown beyond being innocent children; this reflected the book itself since many feel PoA was a turning point in the series where it finally felt like Harry Potter- boy and book- were growing up. The Hogwarts' setting differed from the previous films yet not only was it definitely more faithful to the books but finally it felt as if the castle was in Scotland rather than perpetually sunny Disney Land and this enhanced the mood being set in the film. The clock was a nice touch, linking to the theme of time in the actual storyline, as was the bridge in being a place for Harry to mull over his problems. Also, in many ways, this film could have ended up a muddled mess in regards to the ending but Cuaron handled the Time Turner scenes well.
However, there were flaws to the film, which let it down. The characters of Hermione and Draco were poorly scripted so they seemed like two completely different characters from the ones we know and love in the books. Although Watson as an actress has improved since CoS, the main problem with the script is that Hermione is being portrayed as being too cool and cocky compared to the bookworm who has no interest in fashion that we know Hermione to be in the books. Steve Kloves, the scriptwriter who admits he's responsible for the change, really needs to learn heroines don't need to be cool Buffy types to be admired; part of why Hermione is so popular as a character in the books is that she appeals to girls who are bookish themselves and easily identify with her. And as for Draco, he comes across as too much of a cowardly, weak girlie-boy rather than an insidious, vicious brat who can be a threat to Harry when he chooses to.
Also, there was no telling of what Black did to Snape in school that left him so bitter in his hatred and I wished they'd included the scene where he let slip what Lupin was, especially as this animosity between him, Black and Lupin plays a larger role as the books go on. And speaking of Lupin, the werewolf CGI was atrocious. He looked like an emaciated rat rather than the wolf-like creature who leaves even the more powerful wizards quivering in fear. I wished there was more in the ending too as I would have loved to see Vernon's face when he found out who Black was. Kloves needs to learn how to round the Harry Potter films off properly as this was also a sticking point in CoS.
At the end of the day, there were scenes left out, some of which we didn't mind skipping but others (an explanation to Harry of James Potter's friendship to Black and Lupin) were sorely missed. It was a great film but it could have done with being made longer or skipping on non-essential scenes (less of the Knight Bus and Hermione punching Malfoy in a manner that makes her out to be a thug) to make way for scenes which are more important. I think I was disappointed because I was expecting something along the lines of RotK but it's still great viewing. I'd give it a seven-and-a-half out of ten with the hopes Cuaron will return to the helm again although preferably not with Kloves as the scriptwriter. I think Cuaron would be excellent working with a script produced by someone who has a better handle on the darker aspects of the books and a deeper understanding of the HP characters.
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