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Film to See: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Published June 7, 2004 in MOVIE REVIEW
By Ryan Parsons | Campus Resource
Easily the darkest of the three 'Potter' films, 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban' completely separates itself from the colorful foo foo that was present in the earlier films directed by Chris Columbus. With the replacement of Columbus with "Y Tu Mama Tambien" director Alfonso Cuaron, we are introduced to the deeper 'Potter' story rather than a film that relies on the 'Potter' magic. A change the should be greatly welcomed by almost all viewers.

Prisoner of Azkaban- The Story

First off, I have read the 'Harry Potter' series and understood the idea behind the plot even before viewing the film. Therefore, the story is where I have found my only complaint. Cuaron does a fantastic job applying the book to the big screen and encounters only one fault along the way, the ending.

The book, written by J. K. Rowling, introduced the character, Professor Lupin, in order to supply the reader, and Harry, a link to Harry's past. Or, more importantly, a link to Harry's mother and father. Lupin was a good friend of Harry's father, even though this was barely conveyed in the film. The importance of this fact resides in other aspects of the film as well; all of which were left unexplained

Cuaron's biggest mistake was to allow Professor Lupin to leave the film without giving Harry closure [something that was done repeatedly in the previous films by Dumbledore]. The film leaves its viewers with unanswered questions including why Harry conjured up a stag as his protection and who created the Marauder's Map. A map that Lupin was able to open and read without Harry ever wondering how he [Lupin] ever knew about it in the first place. All these questions were so easy to answer too. The movie already passed the two hour mark, what was another five minutes to answer these questions and give the audience better closure to the film?

I will neither answer these questions as I hope for the possibility of the next 'Potter' director, Mike Newell, to add these elements into the next film. And, if you want to know for yourself, read the book!

The lack of closure on certain questions, such as those stated above, is my only criticism of this film. Besides that, every aspect of 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban' is significantly better than the previous two releases.

What's Not to Like?

Even though the 'Harry Potter' book series continues to gain more and more young readers all the time, the original audience has been growing up since the first release of 'Sorcerer's Stone.' Therefore, it seems only fitting that the film should grow up as well. This is especially true of 'Prisoner of Azkaban,' which is years ahead of its predecessors. The film drops the color and childish magic of the previous films to adopt gloomy tones and dark settings. The movie could have almost been shot completely in black and white.

While some of the younger age groups may find the new 'Potter' film scarier and upsetting, most will welcome its new wardrobe. Besides the setting, the characters themselves are also grown up and offer much more emotion to this film than the previous ones. Harry shows a temper that also exists [and grows] in the books as well. Hermione and Ron Weasley begin to show some sexual tension between them [a tension that I believe remained undeveloped until the fourth book, 'Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire']. Most age groups, including the lower teens, will be able to relate more to the characters as they experience their first stage of adolescence and puberty in the film.

As stated, Cuaron is most known for the film "Y Tu Mama Tambien," which tells the story of two boys and their sexual adventures with one sexually mature female. Cuaron begins 'Prisoner of Azkaban' with what I believe to be a wonderful analogy to boys as they come into puberty. The audience is re-introduced to Harry as he secretly plays with his wand late at night while everyone is asleep. Everytime he feels he may get caught by his Uncle he lays and acts like he, himself, is asleep. The scene ends with an explosion of light from his room after he successfully uses his wand. I do not want to look into this too deep but it seems as Cuaron introduces the idea of masturbation through other symbolic means... But maybe that's just me.

It's a Whole New Film

If you have seen the previous two 'Potter' films and have not yet scene this one, be warned. This film is completely different as it works to separate itself from the ones created under Columbus. The differences are not limited to the lighting either. The sets, such as the placement of the Whomping Willow and Hagrid's hut, the editing, and even John William's score are different. It actually took a few scenes for me to finally warm up and enjoy the changes that had taken place during production. The new score is also a vast improvement from the previous films as it follows the new mood layed down by Cuaron.

But do not fret, the film still manages to remain much of the same humor that existed in its predecessors. The introduction of Professor Trelawney allows the film to show its lighter side while still remaining faithful to the story and the overall mood already set down. I sorely missed Alan Rickman [Professor Snape], who seemed to get much less screen time in the new film, as well as Gary Oldman [Sirius Black] who I had hoped would have much more screen presence. However, viewers can count on both characters being around to at least book number five, 'The Order of the Phoenix.'

The last great improvement were the overall special effects used in 'The Prisoner of Azkaban.' I deeply remember, and try to forget, the pheonix from the last film that looked as if it were pulled directly from the Disneyland ride 'Pirates of the Caribbean.' Viewers are now introduced to a realistic looking Hippogriph, a creature that is a mix between a bird and a horse, and more powerful looking magic. The Hoggwart's castle also continues to improve in realism with each new film.

Go See Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban' may be over two hours but works out to be a very fast film. The series, under new director Cuaron, continues to increase its ability to impress its viewers while offering a magical world with characters that people can relate to. This film has everything a child or adult can ask for and more. I cannot wait to see where we are heading with the next film, 'Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.'

Final Judgment: A wonderful addition to an already impressive series. B+

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Ryan Parsons
Sources: Campus Resource

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