on 17 October 2004
A lot of people are less than enthusiastic about Alfonso Cuaron's take on The Prisoner of Azkaban, and I must admit that I too was a little displeased at first. There are some interesting--some would say unnecessary--changes to the geography of Hogwarts (a new location for Hagrid's cabin, and the clock tower in the front of the school, for instance), as well a whole new directorial style that perhaps threw some people off.
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?! Pam Ferris actually WAS Aunt Marge and Gary Oldman played the dissheveled, slightly mad Black to a "T". It's like they were plucked straight from my mind and placed on the screen.
To top it all off, the entire atmosphere of the series has taken a turn for the better with this movie. As much as I love the first two films (and I love them dearly), they now seem a little rigid in comparison. Cuaron really captured the playfulness of Rowling's books. Whether it was the Whomping Willow batting a bird out of the sky to signify the coming of autumn or Hermione wondering aloud about how her hair looks from the back, this film at times seemed to be winking at the audience.
This also came across in the musical score, once again brilliantly composed by John Williams. From "Aunt Marge's Waltz" to "The Knight Bus," Williams deftly captured the mood of Cuaron's film, and it seemed to me that he opened things up a little and had a bit more fun this time around. I cannot recommend the soundtrack enough for those who listen to this brand of modern-day classical music.
There's only one real problem with this DVD (not the movie itself), and it's the same problem I had with the previous two: where is the director's commentary?!!! I'm dying to get the inside scoop on these films, but so far have been denied in this respect. Hopefully we'll eventually get some Special Director's Cut 6 1/2 Year Anniversary Edition or whatnot, although I'd rather they rewarded their loyal fans by including the commentaries in the initial releases.
So to all those who were disappointed with this take on Harry Potter, watch it again and see what you think upon further review. It took me a couple of viewings to really appreciate what Cuaron has done with this film, so don't give up on it before really giving it a go. It is, as Ron would say, "bloody brilliant!"
on 7 November 2004
This film completely puts the first two in the shade. The change of director works very successfully and the main thing we notice is that the schoolwizards aren't constantly in uniform! Yes, we actually get to see Harry et al in jeans, hoodies and trainers. The characters are a great deal more rounded with much more humour and feeling. The CGI is stunning, even when used for mundane background action. I only have two complaints about this excellent film; the first is that I just cannot get away from Hermione (Emma Watson) and her complete overacting. It is something which bugs me like an itch through the whole film. The other problem is that if you have read the book, there are several glaring plot omissions which are very noticeably absent. It doesn't explain how Lupin became what he is, who made the Marauders' Map, or why Harry's Patronus is a stag. It also omits the very satisfying part where Harry's Hogsmeade permission slip has been signed. There are others besides and, while I am by no means a Potter nut,their absence was a pain in the bum because they were all relevant and I was very surprised that they were left out. However, this is thoroughly enjoyable and along with a cracking story it gives us a much more expansive view of life at Hogwarts and even a closer look at the surrounding grounds.
on 7 August 2005
Yes this film is better than the first two, the direction, pace of the film, special effects and acting are of a higher standard. It also feels a little more grown up now, the lead characters are a few years older now and have adjusted to their roles, and the story of this one is much more darker and menacing. I have not read any of the books, but think the films are great and are getting better one by one. Featuring a strong UK cast this is a shown piece of British film making and acting. A highly enjoyable film but probably not suitable for very young children. It features talking shrunken voodoo heads, and a werewolf transformation as well as the ghoulish Dementors.
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.
on 13 September 2004
As an avid fan of the Harry potter books of course i will have seen all three films. And I can say without a shadow of a doubt that this film, although not perfect and not as good as the book, is much more exciting and truer to the story than the first two films. It is obvious to see from watching the film that there has been a director change as this film is so different. The whole feel of the film, although much darker, is more magical and exciting mainly due to the SFX and obviously the way it is directed.
This film is a fantastic film to watch with all the family. However parents must be warned that the Dementors are a little frightning and may upset young children and, if you're anything like myself, you too. But don't worry as long as you've got a pillow to hide behind you will enjoy this film and anticipate the arrival of the next one.
on 11 February 2006
OK, many Potter fans have deep criticism for the Prisoner of Azkaban movie because of various scenes and details excised from the book. Also they get all riled up at the way Hermione is portrayed by Emma Watson as more of an all-action beauty than the geeky-but-loyal book version. Well frankly all of this is so petty it's ridiculous.
This was the one that brought the Harry Potter movies out of the whole kids-flick category and into something much more interesting. For the first time we get a REAL movie rather than sections of the book cobbled together and forced onscreen like the first two were. It's stylish and contains performances with real emotion and integrity, particularly in the scenes between Harry and Lupin, and finally scenes with the young actors that didn't feel like kids in a play. Everything is much more natural and less cliched. Sadly some of this adaptation-by-numbers routine returned in Goblet of Fire, which is why Azkaban is still my favourite (though Goblet is still great).
I must mention John Williams's score which is incredible, one of his best ever which is a feat in itself considering his massive body of work including Jaws, Jurassic Park and the Star Wars series. The main 'Window To The Past' theme is so beautiful and perfect for Harry Potter. I really hope Williams returns for later movies as he couldn't do Goblet of Fire due to Revenge of the Sith commitments.
Anyhow, if you only want to watch one Harry Potter movie then this is it because it stands on it's own and you don't really need to know what happens in the first two.
on 21 November 2004
The third in the series is the best so far, without a doubt prisoner of azkaban is superb! The gang (Harry, Hermione and Ron) are now entering the world of the teenager, meaning their in normal teenage clobber, jeans and trainers instead of school uniform all the time. The acting is brilliant - i easpecially liked the chioce of Micheal Gambon as the new Dumbledore, and Emma Thompson as the eccentric Prof Trelawney. The effects also in this movie are brilliant - from the bright bright lights of the wands, to the night bus to buckbeak - everything in this film is a delight. The previous Hp films in comparison seem really baby-ish compared to this one, adults need not feel guilty about watching this movie as it really is one which caters for adults and children alike. The casting is ingenious - Gary Oldman as Sirious Black and a special note has to be made about Timothy Spall as Peter Pettigrew / Scabbers. There are certain ommissions made like the marauders map, but overall you'd probably forgive this. In all a truly exciting, spectacular and magical film!
on 30 November 2004
I went to see this film at the cinema with high expectations...and was sadly disappointed. The film is beautifully shot, with some impressive scenery, but the story is not worth talking about. I have read and enjoyed all of the Harry Potter books so far, and particularly Prisoner of Azkaban, as this is the point at which the characters start to grow and the story gets darker. Frankly, if I hadn't read the book, I would have been mystified by the plot of this film. I have never understood why some directors take a perfectly good story, add completely pointless bits, and cut out others that are essential. There was absolutely no mention of Sirius, James, Remus and Peter having been friends at Hogwarts, and although there is a shot of Harry and his stag Patronus, there is no explanation. The ending of the film is disjointed and muddled, and yet the time could have been taken to explain clearly if some of the more pointless scenes from the beginning had been removed. The 'werewolf' was frankly laughable, and was I the only person that found Lupin severely creepy?! Michael Gambon was good, as was to be expected, but again, the direction was jerky and muddled - Dumbledore appeared from time to time, said something incomprehensible, and disapeared. There was a certain similarity with Chinese fortune cookies.
The thing that really surprised me was that there was any hair gel left in the world after they had 'made up' their young cast. When did Harry's friends go all indie??
Several questions about the castle itself: a) where did that pendulum come from? b) where did that covered walkway come from? c) when did Hagrid move house? and d) Since when is Hogwarts on the edge of a valley? The Whomping Willow seems also to have uprooted itself overnight.
There was little development on any of the main themes. Snape was virtually absent from this latest offering, which I believe is a shame, as Alan Rickman is a wonderfully sinister figure, although he does bear a certain resemblance to Trent Reznor after the pies. I think that the next film may be difficult to make after this, as somehow, in all the scenery, the plot ran away and no one noticed.
on 10 December 2004
I didn't see this movie at the cinema and only recently finally got the DVD, and I must say it was disappointing. Yes, the photography and "artistic" quality of the film was an improvement on the other two and some of the humour was funnier - Ron's nightmare about spiders and Dursley's cringing at his sister's inflation, for example - but in its failure to follow some of the, I think, essential intricacies and subtleties of J K Rowling's book it may have done irreversible damage to the movie franchise.
Don't get me wrong, this is still a good film: had I not read an HP book it might well be my favourite of the three, but knowing what's to come I forsee some problems for future films. Prisoner of Azkaban, JKR's favourite of her books, is pivotal to what happens later and as such has vital plot points which should have been rendered more faithfully by the movie.
I know, I know. Many say the film is "faithful to the spirit of the book" and "if you put everything in it would be six hours long" etc.etc. But to include, eg., the fact that prisoners eventually go mad in Azkaban and the reason why, uniquely, Black does not, Harry having difficulty repelling dementor-shaped boggarts under Lupin's tuition because of his secret desire to hear his mother's voice as he passes out, the identity of the creators of the Marauder's Map and why their singular abilities were developed, the purpose served by the Shrieking Shack and how it got its reputation, etc. Fifteen minutes, half an hour at most of these little explanations put in here and there would, for me, have made a far more satisfying film. As it was, I felt like someone expecting a feast and being served only watercress sandwiches.
Alonso Cuaron is, no doubt, a fine director. Steve Kloves did a good job in the first two films on the screenplay; not so good this time. And the whole editing job looked rushed to me.
The films and the books seem to be taking slightly different directions, with this film being the bifurcation point. It won't be easy to get the next movie back on course and if it too takes such an individual and maverick path, well, the movie after that may as well have Julian Clary in the cast and be filmed in the Caribbean.
Overall, good film, but disappointing as it could have been brilliant.
on 14 December 2004
When I say the best in the series, I am not being subjective and describing the book. For me, The Goblet of Fire is the best Potter book. However, Prisoner of Azkaban is the best film, as it transcends the easy adaption of Rowling's characters and plotlines and utilises movie magic.
This film has a dark, atmospheric quality to it, so that it's more of a gothic drama than a family adventure film. The camera shots are more urgent and expressive, in contrast to Columbus' bog standard sentimental scenes. The adult actors (Thompson, Oldman, Rickman etc) are on top form, over-the-top one minute and subtle the next.
The extras to the dvd are satisfactory, although it seems likely that commentaries and extensive behind-the-scenes footage are being held back to a later planned Special Edition.
The only real complaint I had with the movie was the severe underusage of poor Crookshanks...
on 29 November 2004
Alfonso Cuaron has brought a magic and mystique to Hogwarts lacking in the first two. The "character" of Buckbeak is a particular triumph.
This film is also helped by excellent turns as new characters from Gary Oldman (as Sirius Black), David Thewlis (Remus Lupin), Emma Thompson (a loopy Prof Trelawney). Also watch out for a brief appearance from Julie Christie as Madam Rosmerta, and a cameo from Ian Brown (ex-lead singer with the Stone Roses). Michael Gambon tries his best, but cannot recapture Richard Harris's aura as Dumbledore (Harris lit up the screen every time he appeared in the first two films).
As for the regulars, there is continued strong support from the likes of Robbie Coltrane and Alan Rickman, as well as Rupert Grint and Emma Watson, who are maturing very well as Ron and Hermione. Alas, Daniel Radcliffe continues to be wooden. This has not mattered in early Potter works, but in the later books Harry develops much more as a person, and so far Radcliffe does not convince me that he can carry this off.
Although I have read the books, the one aspect of the film which was less satisfying was the lack of certain plot explanation, notably that Lupin knew how to use the Marauder's Map, but Snape did not, and the identities of Moony (not Mooney), Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs. I was hoping that these would be resolved by the deleted scenes on the DVD, or even that there might be a director's cut. Answer: NO on both counts.
Just like the first two DVDs, the extras here cater for a very young audience, and not their Mums or nerdy Dads, so aside from interviews, you get tours and games, and a pathetic FIVE deleted scenes (unless I've missed something), none of which add anything to the plot. No director's commentary (or even author's commentary), no Easter eggs....
Pixar can produce outstanding DVDs for Finding Nemo, with extras for all the family. Why don't Warners watch the Pixar ones to get ideas on how the Harry Potter films could be much better value on DVD?