Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban (2004) – movie review

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Movie Review by Vivienne Messenger

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Tom Felton, Robbie Coltrane
Director: Alfonso Cuarón

The 18-month wait for the third HARRY POTTER movie is finally over as our intrepid trio return to Hogwarts for their third year of study. The atmosphere at the preview screening is thick with anticipation as the story, which will most definitely enthral and satiate HARRY POTTER fans, unfolds again at the Dursley house where Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) has to suffer their inhospitality.

Unable to swallow the abuse and condescending lies his Dursley relatives say about his beloved late parents Harry takes off into the night after exacting revenge on his aunt Marge against Hogwarts rules which bans the use of magic outside their wizard world. Alone, Harry is saved from an ominous creature by the arrival of a ‘Knight Bus’ that appears out of nowhere. He is welcomed aboard and driven erratically at ultra fast speed to the Leaky Cauldron pub, where he is met by the eccentric Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge (Robert Hardy). Instead of being punished he meets up with fellow students including the Weasley clan but in particular his close friends Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermoine (Emma Watson).

On route to Hogwarts the train is subjected to a chilling incursion by the terrifying Dementors who seem drawn to Harry Potter, but are expelled from the train by the timely presence of Professor Lupin (David Thewlis), the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher who is sharing their carriage. Thus the mystery beings to unravel as it is revealed that the Dementors are there to protect the students from Sirius Black, a dangerous wizard who’s escaped from Azkaban prison and is heading towards Hogwarts for retribution – but against whom? Suffice to say Harry Potter is somehow connected!

Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón (Y TU MAMa TAMBIeN) replaces Chris Columbus who directed the first two POTTER movies and keeps the film well paced and nicely interspersed with extremely intense scary sequences creating a much darker atmosphere but adds hilarious incidents that lighten the mood. So much is packed in to each fantastical adventure that you just want to see it again. From the spell Harry put on his noxious aunt that causes her to monstrously inflate; a mysterious ‘Knight Bus’; a magical and highly temperamental half-horse/half-eagle creature called a “Hippogriff” that ‘obeys’ only the giant Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane), a werewolf; soul sucking Dementors, a wolf-like omen of death referred to as the “Grim” (extremely frightening) and even Harry and Hermione themselves, you just become totally absorbed into Harry Potter’s wizardry world. Even time is altered by the cleverest ‘witch’ at Hogwarts, the talented and engaging Hermione, who shifts herself and Harry backwards through time in their quest to save an innocent man.

The three main stars, Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint, are all superb and supported marvellously by newcomers Michael Gambon, who takes over from the late Richard Harris as Albus Dumbledorf; Emma Thompson as the strange Professor Sybil Trelawney; Gary Oldman, the dangerous wizard Sirius Black who’s escaped from Azkaban prison and David Thewlis. My favourites, Alan Rickman as the foreboding Professor Snape and Robbie Coltrane, give faultless performances and while Hagrid features more in the movie this time I would have loved more of Professor Snape’s menacing presence.

Despite its length of 136 minutes HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN will entertain you to such an extent you’ll keep coming back for more – just like its two predecessors.

J K Rowling and the HARRY POTTER team are to be congratulated – again!

6 out of 6 stars