Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 9/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 8/10

BOOK THREE:
HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN (2004) - Alfonso Cuarón

To be very straightforward, Prisoner of Azkaban is the first entry where Harry Potter is no longer a movie, but a film. When the director's chair is passed on to Alfonso Cuarón, a man with much style and art, the Harry Potter series has just gotten a whole new realm of magic.

Ever since Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) stopped the evil wizard Voldemort, it appears that the walls of Hogwarts for once are truly safe. That is, until news spread everywhere of an escaped prisoner by the name of Sirius Black (Gary Oldman). Said to be Voldemort's right-hand-man, Black's existence quickly passes to Harry and his close friends, who all believe that Black's reasoning of escape is for revenge, to destroy the one who destroyed his master. The stakes are raised when Harry himself learns the first of many dark secrets about Black himself.

To be straightforward again, everything, and I do mean everything, is improved in this film. The writing, the acting, the visuals, the atmosphere. Everything. In addition, Prisoner of Azkaban performs the greatest deed of a sequel, expanding the world of Harry Potter. 

In the previous two films, there exists a sense that all the magical places were completely isolated from the Muggle world. Here, the third entry brought about the idea that a magical place can simply be hidden among normal places. As a result, Azkaban efficiently creates a bond between the magic world and the human world, where the two worlds seem to exist together in a logical way, instead of having a direct jump like a wardrobe to Narnia.

Being the third journey and another step into darkest realms, Prisoner of Azkaban surely has matured as a film for its target audience. Harry and his friends have grown this time around, and the film directly asks the audience to grow alongside them. In addition, this entry is probably where the trio of actors physically changed the most. After all, I originally failed to recognize that Malfoy was portrayed by the same actor. With largely improved dialogue and pacing, Azkaban swiftly flies under the hands of Cuarón, mainly driving with characterization this time around.

Prisoner of Azkaban is probably the first Harry Potter film where our beloved trio truly connect with each other. They finally have arguments and disagreements, where one takes a different path from the other, but at the end they are inseparable still. Chemistry is one of the most powerful components here, and if one is unable to see it in the trio, it is inevitably found in the interactions between Harry and Professor Lupin (David Thewlis). In this critic's opinion, Harry and Lupin's chemistry is one of my favorites in the entire series.

When the entire film's narrative revolves around Sirius Black, hearts will pound when he actually appears on screen. Once he does, Prisoner of Azkaban quickly becomes a reminder to the audience why Gary Oldman is such a respectable actor. Being a black dog half of the time, Black's appearance is shagged, dirty, and wonderfully passes on to his personality, almost animalistic. But soon enough, as Prisoner of Azkaban slowly unfolds, so does Black's character, and he shortly becomes one of my favorite supporting characters in the Harry Potter universe.

Without a doubt, Prisoner of Azkaban is the darkest of the three Harry Potter films. If you have read the book before, you probably wouldn't be surprised by this fact. In my early years in viewing the film, both the dementors and Lupin's transformation were inescapably disturbing. Yet, when viewing it again today, the film is certainly stylish in its dark themes. These visuals may appear disturbing, but there exists a line between horror and dark fantasy. For Prisoner of Azkaban, dark fantasy is present without a doubt. In fact, there may be a little dash of Guillermo del Toro in the film's content. But at the end of the day, one conclusion is certain: Prisoner of Azkaban is an eye-opener and a more evolved entry for Harry Potter.

In conclusion, The Prisoner of Azkaban is a wicked new step for the Harry Potter series, and is one of the most stylistically magnetic entries. Without hesitating, Cuarón did the third film justice and pulled off an execution that Chris Columbus would have been unable to achieve. With the writing polished, the storytelling refined, and the acting turned up a notch, Prisoner of Azkaban is surely one of the most refreshing Harry Potter films, both for fans and critics. For once, Harry Potter is no longer just fantasy magic, but also filmmaking magic.


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