HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN
Review by Michael Jacobson
Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Robbie Coltrane, Michael
Gambon, Richard Griffiths, Gary Oldman, Alan Rickman, Fiona Shaw, Maggie Smith,
Timothy Spall, David Thewlis, Emma Thompson, Julie Walters
Director: Alfonso Cuaron
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 142 Minutes
Release Date: November 23, 2004
do you suppose this goes?”
have a hunch…I just hope I’m wrong…”
wicked this way comes into the world of our favorite young wizard, and the
result was his darkest yet most enthralling adventure yet.
Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was the third volume in J. K Rowling’s popular and
acclaimed series of novels, as well as the third of the Potter stories to be
brought to the big screen. Each
filmed entry has surpassed the one before it, as the cast and crew of the movies
seemed to grow more confident and more finely in tune with Ms. Rowling’s
original visions. As her world of
wizardry and witchcraft has grown in wonder from story to story, the scope of
the canvas expanded with it. Azkaban
is the one where the darker corners began to show.
noticeable right from the start…young Harry (Radcliffe) endures yet another
episode with his miserable extended family the Dursleys, as he had in the first
two stories. But Harry’s patience
seems to be wearing a bit thin the third time around. When a bloated aunt makes cruel remarks about his parents in
front of him…well, let’s just say Harry puts her hot air to good use.
it’s off to Hogwarts for a third school year, where he once again meets up
with chums Ron Weasley (Grint) and Hermione Granger (Watson).
But this time, the train ride to Hogwarts isn’t all moonlight and
magnolias. Harry and friends have
learned of the escape of one Sirius Black (Oldman) from Azkaban prison, and the
custodians of that prison, the Demontors, are on the hunt.
Looking like spindly black banshees, they freeze everything around
them…and they seem to have developed a keen taste for Harry’s soul.
about this installment is bleaker, from the themes to the stakes, to the overall
look of the film. Hogwarts is
frequently shown awash in miserable weather, and the film’s Quidditch scene
even plays out in a horrific storm. And
all of this dismal atmosphere leads up to one pivotal moment:
when Harry discovers the truth about Sirius Black…namely, that he was
responsible for the death of his parents, and has apparently broken the bonds of
his prison to come after young Potter and finish the job.
Harry this time is the school’s newest professor of Defense Against the Dark
Arts, Lupin (Thewlis). If Harry is
going to protect himself against the Dementors and face the dangerous Black,
he’ll have to learn more than a few new tricks.
taking the characters into darker waters, this is still a wondrous movie of
enchantment from start to finish, with so much magic on the screen that you
can’t possibly drink it all in with one setting. The most amazing new creature is Buckbeak, a hippogriff (half
bird, half horse), and the most intriguing new magical item is a rogue’s map,
that not only shows the complete layout of Hogwarts, but identifies everyone in
the school and shows their movements in real time…what a handy parchment!
as before, the real magic comes from the trio of talented young stars who seem
more and more comfortable in their roles with each passing film.
Azkaban lends more opportunity for character development, and the
performers are up to the challenge, anchoring our emotions in a sea of
enchanting sights. Daniel Radcliffe
keeps Harry a perfect protagonist for the audience to cheer, while Rupert Grint
and his goodhearted aversion to danger will keep you smiling.
And Emma Watson, who has grown from a fresh faced pretty little girl into
a blossoming young beauty, gets some of the movie’s best moments, including
leading a heroic effort to save the day at the climax…which, astonishingly
enough, is a day that’s already passed!
Columbus, who directed the first two installments, continues to serve as
producer. This time, Alfonso Cuaron
(Y Tu Mama Tambien) sat in the director’s chair. While I wasn’t sure what effect a change like that might
have on the franchise at first, his capable hand kept the magic flowing smoothly
course, that could probably be most attributed to the singular, striking vision
of J. K. Rowling, who first dreamt up the world of Harry Potter for the world,
and has kept him coming back much to the delight of her legions of fans.
Both Columbus and Cuaron expressed a desire to preserve her detailed
vision for the films. It was the
best possible plan of attack.
I enjoyed the first two Potter films greatly, I have to say that Azkaban is
my new favorite. In fact, it’s
the first of the movies that I actually restarted from the beginning and watched
a second time through right in a row. With
a magical, imaginative vision, sure handed direction, an almost limitless
offering of visual wonder and three terrific stars who have matured confidently
before our very eyes, there’s no reason to believe that Harry Potter won’t
be back and continuing to weave his spell over audiences for a long time to
overall darker look of this installment plays a little havoc with the digital
transfer. Some nearly all black
scenes show a bit of light diagonal lining moving across the screen.
At first, I thought it might have been my TV, but when I paused the
image, the lines froze. Curious. There
is also a bit more noticeable grain and occasional lack of definition when
things start to really dim.
being said, most of the rest of the presentation is marvelous, with good
coloring and a new kind of look to the Potter films, deliberately muting some of
the tones for effect. Detail level
is mostly good. The frames are
packed with information and wonder, so you definitely want to forgo the pan
& scan version of this DVD.
complaints in the audio department…the 5.1 mix is lively and potent, and
frequently as fast moving as a good game of Quidditch.
There are plenty of big scenes to keep both front and rear stages
gainfully employed, and John Williams’ music sounds soaring from start to
finish. The subwoofer keeps the
ominous tones alive. Dynamic range
is very strong, and dialogue is clean and clear all the way.
One contains a cast listing (no info to go along with the names) and trailers
for all three Potter films. Disc
Two features the rest of the extras, which are navigated via an enchanted map
like the one in the film. There
you’ll find a short making-of featurette (including interview footage with
Rowling), three deleted scenes, an array of cast interviews (using the shrunken
head as comic relief), interactive tours of Honeydukes and Professor Lupin’s
Classroom, a look at the special effects of the Dementors and Buckbeak, a game
preview, a “meet the animal trainers” bit, and a pair of fast moving
interactive games. Take choir
practice for a sing along, or pop the disc in your DVD ROM drive for even more
extras. You’ll also get to take a
look at certain scenes where you may have missed some magic…careful, there’s
a quiz you’ll have to take.