RETRO REVIEW: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

Poster - Warner Bros.
Poster – Warner Bros.

The following is a spoiler-filled retro review of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter (played by Daniel Radcliffe) finds out that Sirius Black (played by Gary Oldman) – a man who supposedly supports Lord Voldemort – has escaped Azkaban prison and is on his way to kill our protagonist. 

Hogwarts is very aware of the situation, and when Harry arrives for his third school year Dumbledore announces that Dementors will be guarding Hogwarts until the prisoner has been found.

But darkness follows Harry Potter and the Dementors are particularly interested in him. It is only a matter of time before Black arrives at Hogwarts to finish his mission. Soon, though, Harry finds out something that makes him await his arrival.

It is amazing how different Chris Columbus’ two Harry Potter films feel compared to Cuarón’s Prisoner of Azkaban. While Columbus nudged the franchise in the right direction with Chamber of Secrets, Cuarón solidified the tonal shift for the franchise.

Cuarón really did a lot of impressive things with Prisoner of Azkaban. It looks completely different. It’s not just that the actors have clearly aged. Darkness is used really well in this film, and it’s easy to notice how muted the colors seem. It’s just a much more mature movie than what we, at the time, knew to expect from a Harry Potter movie.

I’m also just blown away by how brilliantly he managed to make the magical world seem so different here. What was once magical – with Columbus’ two films – now seemed really odd in Cuarón’s take on the magical world. Just look at the scenes at the ‘Leaky Cauldron.’

With Prisoner of Azkaban, Warner Bros. needed Cuarón to change the look and feel of Harry Potter. He had to revamp the franchise. He needed to service the audience that knew and loved the first two films, but also bring it into a new age of Harry Potter as the character got more emotional, and the universe was starting to become much more serious.

As much as I like the Columbus films, Cuarón managed to reinvigorate a young film series with the stylistic changes that he introduced to the world of Harry Potter. Cuarón’s task is also much more difficult than the one Columbus was given. Especially considering the much more complex story that he had to adapt, due to the introduction of time travel.

I also feel that I need to mention that this was the final Harry Potter film that John Williams, one of the best film composers ever, scored. He, obviously, kept the theme here, but the musical score feels updated. It was now much more appropriate for the new look of the franchise.

I really enjoy the three leads in the film, but, for me, it is the new additions that really shine. Remus Lupin is one of my favorite Harry Potter characters, and that is primarily due to David Thewlis’ performance in this film. Gary Oldman is also just a perfect new addition to the franchise.

All in all, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is a fantastic fantasy film, and, probably, the best film in the Harry Potter franchise. It was an impressive new step for film series, and Cuarón made sure every new detail worked perfectly for the magical world of Harry Potter.

9 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex

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