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The first of the Harry Potter films to be directed by acclaimed Mexican film director Alfonso Cuarón, Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban is generally regarded as the most stylised and darkest entry in the series thus far. It stars the actors from the preceding films in the series, except for the role of Albus Dumbledore, which sees Michael Gambon take over from the late Richard Harris. Much of the original crew also returned, including screenwriter Steve Kloves.
The film broke several opening records around the world upon its release, including the top opening film in UK film history, and made approximately £20m in its first three days, totaling £90.3m in ten days.
But it seems to be the creative license taken with the plot that has caused the most discomfort for die hard fans of this imaginative and playful series. This movie is easily the least faithful to the letter of the book so far, and many fans can't seem to get past that.
I say it is least faithful to the letter, but in spirit it is right on target. This is the story where Harry begins to really delve into his past, learning more than he ever knew about his parents. This is facilitated by the appearance of Professor Lupin, an old school chum of Harry's father, and the escape of Sirius Black from Azkaban, who's relationship to Harry I shall not divulge for those few who have been in a coma for the last several years.
In essence, this is a coming of age story, and Cuaron really hits the nail on the head in this respect. His treatment of Harry's reaction to learning the connection between himself and Black is brilliantly played (I love the shots filmed from under the invisibility cloak in the Three Broomsticks), and Harry's relationship with Lupin was also spot on. And let's not forget the clever asides displaying Ron & Hermione's budding romance (surely you can see that one coming?!).
The casting, as usual, seemed to have tapped into the collective imagination of the fans. Who better to play Professor Trelawney than Emma Thompson?!Read more ›
Prisoner of Azkaban is not fluffy, it has no exaggerated emotions (they've even managed to tone Ron down. Well, a bit anyway.), has no cringeworthy scenes - although there could have been one, but Gary Oldman pulled it off -, and has a great (British) sense of humour. Cuarón manages to convey Lupin's sense of fun without needing him to shoot a wad of gum up Peeves's nose, several blue birdies meet a sticky end, and even in the thick of the action Harry comes out with the odd dry remark.
It is odd that some say the film "butchered" the book, since, in fact, parts of it have been taken word-for-word from the book.
This film is not as spoon-fed as the other two films. You have to think (although having read the books does help). There is plenty of action -the only bit that had my 5-year old son bored is the Shrieking Shack scene, and believe me, he gets bored easily - and, well, it's generally a cracking romp.
My son's opinion: he no longer wants to see the first two films, this one has spoiled him forever.
My opinion: I loved it!
So: a good one for young and old(ish)
The DVD comes with a ton of extras varying from pointless to rather good. You can have a tour of Honeydukes, and professor Lupin's classroom. A very bad interactive game to catch the rat. Slightly better is the portrait quest game which is quite interactive. There is also a memory game featuring scenes from the film. A trailer for the game as well as trailers for all 3 films. A short 5 min feature on the animals in the film. One of the better extras is a 15 min look at the creation of Buckbeak and the look of the Dementors, showing the problems encountered and special effects used for them. There are 5 deleted scenes which don't vary to much from the final version. The best features are a 12 min talk with the director and J.K .Rowling giving an insight into the design of the overall look of the film and locations. Then there are interviews with the main characters in the film totaling 43 mins with Johny Vaughan and the Shrunken head,Lenny Henry. Which although fairly short on each group and not that insightful of the film, is still fairly fun and a good extra. Overall a great package for Potter fans and those who love magical films.
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