Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

DVD Reviews | Mar 4th, 2005

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Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Gary Oldman, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman, David Thewlis, Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane, Richard Griffiths, Tom Felton, Emma Thompson, Timothy Spall
Written By: J.K. Rowling, Steven Kloves
Directed By: Alfonso Cuarón
Studio: Warner Home Video
Buy on Amazon.com

I’m a big fan of the Harry Potter books and I certainly like the first 2 movies a lot. Though, I’m still debating on whether or not I like POT than the previous two. Either way, it’s still a great flick!

The Prisoner of Azkaban continues off where Chamber of Secrets left off. Harry Potter is back at the Dursley’s, and he still dreads the summer because of them. One night, during dinner, Harry blows up his Aunt for trashing his parents and pissing him off. He runs away and a magical bus shows up to drive him to the Leaky Cauldron. He finds out that Sirius Black, a convicted murderer who escaped from Azkaban prison is after him. Harry doesn’t know why he might be after Harry. Harry also has to worry about the Dementors, the grim reaper looking guards from Azkaban. They are attracted to Harry because of his dreadful past. During the school year, Professor Lupin, the new Defense Against The Dark Arts teacher, helps Harry conquer the Dementors. Harry looks up to Lupin and really enjoys his classes, but there is also something mysterious about the professor. Harry later founds out more about Sirius Black, in that he betrayed his parents and told You-Know-Who where they were located, resulting in their deaths. Harry originally wanted nothing to do with Black, but now he’s pissed and wants revenge.

Out of all the books so far, Prisoner of Azkaban is my second favorite. I just love the time element to the book & movie. It’s very Back to the Future 2-ish. Plus the story starts to get darker from here on out and becomes less of a children’s book. Goblet of Fire is my favorite, and let’s hope they don’t screw that one up! There were several things I liked about this movie, but there are a few things I wasn’t very fond of either. Let’s start with the positives I guess. I loved the additions of David Thewlis as Lupin, Gary Oldman as Sirius Black and Emma Thompson as Professor Trelawney. Gary Oldman wasn’t on screen for that long and I kind of wished he was. But then again, Black wasn’t seen too much in the books until the next 2 books. Thewlis was great as Lupin and really had nice chemistry with Daniel Radcliffe as well. In the books, I think Lupin is my favorite second character next to Dumbledore. He’s very likable and has an unfortunate downside to his character. Everytime Lupin said in the movie, “here, have some chocolate, it really helps,” it just made me laugh for some reason. He just generally seems like a nice guy trying to help someone else. Emma Thompson didn’t have a tremendous role but she kind of has an important one. She’s always really funny as the sometimes psychic, astrology teacher. The acting in general just keeps getting better and better with every HP movie they make. All the young actors seem to be maturing rapidly, and their acting ability is stronger. Many are past that awkward teenage years, where their voices are changing and don’t sound like Peter Brady singing “Sha Na Na Na Na.” That’s a Brady Bunch reference for all you youngsters out there! That actually was happening in the second film, most notable was Ron.

Other positives in this movie was the CGI and special effects. The first movie’s effects sucked, it was too rushed. Second film was better but still lacking something. This time, the filmmakers had enough time & budget to make the effects they needed and it worked! A prime example of this is Buckbeak, and the Dementors. Buckbeak looks incredible! It has life in it, and doesn’t stand out from the realistic settings like CGI characters tend to do. The Dementors were awesome too. The scene where the Dementors are just floating in the air around Hogwarts is such a beautiful, yet frightening shot. I wish I had that image as a painting. It’s a really nice shot. I believe the way they created the Dementors was by using an underwater effect combined with CGI elements. I’m glad to see Cuarón be a little hesitant when using CGI and trying to do it other ways first. Many directors seem to take the easy way out and just try it with CGI, and it usually looks like crap. But I think by having a new director step into the role this time helped out the movie a lot! Alfonso Cuarón took a different directing approach than Christopher Columbus, and changed many things around. I really think it helped improved the series. The movie he directed fits the book in that it’s much darker, and less kiddie. The last positive I see is the film score by John Williams. He went for something totally different this time around and it’s actually one of his better film scores of late. The score fits the movie well, and seems associated with the country most of the movie was filmed at, in Scotland. “Buckbeak’s Flight” track is really beautiful and really helps the scene be more innoncent than lame.

Here are my complaints about the movie. Probably my biggest was, how come they didn’t go into the creation of the Marauder’s Map or more importantly, WHO made the map? They go into great detail in the books about it, why not here? Was it not important or something? That’s just something that bugs me, I don’t know. More negatives about the movie were the acting of Sir Michael Gambon. I don’t know, I think there could have been a better choice for Dumbledore. I think Gambon is a good actor, just not sure he’s the right choice for Dumbledore. Maybe i’m so used to seeing the late Richard Harris as Dumbledore that it makes me dislike anyone else who tries to be Dumbledore. What I like about Richard Harris’ Dumbledore was that he had this sense of warmth and old man charm to him, whereas Gambon’s Dumbledore seems younger, hippier, but colder. I think I was starting to like Gambon’s Dumbledore towards the end of the film though. Just certain things he would say made me start to come around. I also think Dumbledore and many of the older cast members were underused. Well Lupin was focused on a lot and I like that, but there should have been more of Snape (like always), Professor McGonagall, and Sirius Black. And it’s disappointing to see that John Cleese wasn’t even asked to be in the movie! But I believe he’s back for Goblet of Fire and so is Jason Isaacs as Lucius Malfoy. Also, I was kind of confused by the scenery changes of Hogwarts. I think it’s great to have it in Scotland, but they should have stuck with the same set design from the first two movies. Or at least made it slightly similar. But only stupid geeks like myself would really notice the changes. But the scenery is really breathtaking, just not consistent with the other two pictures.

Harry Potter extras tend to get confusing sometimes. The first DVD was impossible to find anything, the second and third DVD, they made it a little easier to find things. This DVD, you use the Marauder’s Map to find the extras. Or you can look in the DVD Sleeve where they spell everything out for you. The first feature I looked at was deleted scenes. They were extremely weak until the last two. They involved the knight Sir Cadogan, who was the ghost in one of the paintings. He was notable in the books as the replacement to the Fat Lady. He would always challenge people to duels and was a bit of an ass. This was the scene where Ron thought he saw Sirius Black inside his room, and McGonagall asked Sir Cadogan what happened, and the scene was hilarious! They totally should have kept that scene in the movie because I think it was the funniest thing in a Harry Potter movie. After he talks to McGonagall, he starts to knock down people and start challenging people to duels and flirting with other female ghosts in the paintings. Oh man, I loved that character in the book and wish they added that back into the movie. Other extras include some dude & that annoying Rasta shrunken head interviewing the cast and the filmmakers, lots of games and trivia that I didn’t check out, some behind the scenes/making-of features like creating Buckbeak and The Dementors. I wish they would include more the technical aspects of the film, and less of the kiddie trivia and games.

As a whole, I think I like Prisoner of Azkaban better than the other films. I still think there were some problems with the film, but the positives outweigh the negatives. I like all the Harry Potter movies, but felt this one is more mature and darker and I like that in movies. I can’t wait for Goblet of Fire though! But anyway, if you enjoyed the movies and love the books just as much as I do, then go out and get the DVD November 23rd!

3D Animated Menus
Three Great Interactive Challenges! Test Your Memory With Magic You May Have Missed, Help Crookshanks Catch Scabbers, and Go On An Unexpected Quest With Sir Cadogan

DVD Rom Feature: Wizard Trading Cards, Hogwart’s Timeline
A Selection Of Mystifying Exclusive Never Before Seen Footage
Conjuring A Scene: An In-depth Look At the Making of Key Scenes From the Film
Raucous Interviews With the Cast Lead By Johnny Vaughan and the Shrunken Head
Creating The Vision: A Revealing Interview With J.K. Rowling and the Filmmakers
Self-Guided iPIX Tours into Honeydukes and Professor Lupin’s Defense Against the Dark Arts Classroom
Choir Practice: Sing-along With the Hogwart’s Choir
Hogwarts Portrait Gallery: Get a Closer Look at the Various Portraits Lining the Walls of Hogwarts Castle
Electronic Arts Game Preview
Theatrical Trailers For Harry Potter 1, 2 and 3

ENGLISH: Dolby Digital 5.1
SPANISH: Dolby Digital 5.1
FRENCH: Dolby Digital 5.1

Widescreen 2.40:1 Color


Favorite Scenes: Buckbeak’s flight, The encounter in the Shrieking Shack, the whole Back to the Future II stuff
Rating: PG
Running Time: 142 minutes
Extras Rating:
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