Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: A Selection Of Mystifying Exclusive
Never-Before-Seen Footage; Creating The Vision - A Revealing Interview
With J.K. Rowling And The Filmmakers; Raucous Interviews With
The Cast Lead By Johnny Vaughan And The Shrunken Head. Conjuring
A Scene - An In-Depth Look At The Making Of Key Scenes From The
Film; Self-Guided iPIX Tours Into Honeydukes And Professor Lupin's
Defense Against The Dark Arts Classroom. Meet The Animal Trainers
From The Film In Care Of Magical Creatures; Choir Practice - Sing-Along
With The Hogwarts 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 All Three
Harry Potter Films; DVD-ROM - Wizard Trading Cards Hogwarts Timeline
WHEN Mexican film-maker, Alfonso Cuarón, was first announced
as the director of the third Harry Potter instalment, The Prisoner
of Azkaban, eyebrows were raised, particularly as he had no track
record for handling such big budget material.
But the appointment seems like a master-stroke, for Cuarón
has worked magic with the franchise, helping it to come-of-age,
while adding a darker emphasis to proceedings.
This looks and feels like a Harry Potter for the older generation,
one which deftly mixes its thrills and special effects, with a
compelling human factor that had largely been missing from the
first two films, thanks, in no small part, to the growing maturity
and confidence of Daniel Radcliffe in the lead role, and to Cuaróns
ability behind the camera.
Having so expertly tapped into latter-teen anxieties in his last
film, Y Tu Mamá También, the director once again
gets it right for what it feels like to be 13.
Harry Potter is now older and more cynical, struggling to contain
the darkness that lies within, as well as that which surrounds
When his family name is offended by an acid-tongued aunt, during
a meal at the Dursleys (at the start of the movie), Harry wastes
no time in casting a spell on her, even though it places him in
breach of Hogwarts School policy.
But far from being castigated for
his actions, Harry is welcomed back with open arms, due, in no
small part, to the fact that a murderous wizard, Sirius Black
(Gary Oldman), has escaped from Azkaban prison with the intention
of finding, and possibly killing, the young magician.
Once at Hogwarts, Harry finds an unexpected ally in the form
of David Thewliss new teacher, Professor Lupin, but must
run the gauntlet of the Dementors, the wraith-like Azkaban guards,
now stationed at the school, who seem as keen on sapping his life
force, as they are on recapturing Sirius.
The ensuing adventure finds Harry confronting the truth about
his parents murder, as well as coming to terms with his
own powers and helping them to become stronger.
But while all of the usual components are in place, such as the
wonderful support from the likes of the superb Alan Rickman and
Robbie Coltrane, as well as Harrys friends, Emma Watson
(Hermione), and Rupert Grint (Ron), what makes this so special
is the new-found malevolence which permeates throughout.
Cuarón imposes his striking visual style from the outset,
opting to use wide-angle lenses to bring out the most in each
scene. As a result, there is so much going on, you could spend
hours gazing at the backdrops, while also being kept enthralled
by whats happening in the foreground.
The so-called risk factor in bringing him in quickly
turns out to be one of the most calculated gambles in recent memory.
And whats more, Cuarón proves equally adept at juggling
the action sequences, with the characterisation which is tantamount
to the success of JK Rowlings novels.
The set pieces consistently thrill, particularly when centred
around the films exciting new creatures, such as a werewolf,
the Dementors and, most strikingly, a magical half-horse, half-eagle
Hippogriff, known as Buckbeak.
But they never threaten to detract from the human emotions on
show, particularly in the moments between Radcliffe and Thewlis,
which lend it a very strong emotional core.
If there are misgivings, the film is probably a little too long
for its own good, and Oldman feels under-employed, only arriving
in the latter stages. But this shouldnt detract from an
otherwise entertaining romp, that manages to stretch its appeal
to a much wider age-range, while keeping its fans enthralled into
Cuarón has conjured a genuinely crowd-pleasing movie that
really ought to leave audiences spellbound.