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Matt's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Review

Updated on April 16, 2011

Every Harry Potter fan on this planet has a favorite installment in the series.  This one happens to be mine.  The book, meticulously plotted out by JK Rowling receives a slam-dunk adaptation to the big screen.

Observations

- Adaptation – This is the biggest question mark when a book is made into a movie. The first two movies constituted almost slavish adaptations to the books. Prisoner of Azkaban included most of the major elements of the narrative, but loosened up the adaptation in various areas just enough to have a little fun with the material. The result is the performances are better, the dialogue is much more fluid and the movie functions much better as an entity separated from the novels.

- No film is perfect – Hermione’s storyline is a bit more streamlined in the movie than it is in the novel. In the movie, attention is called to the fact that Hermione seems to be capable of being in two places at once, as well appearing out of nowhere (now you see her, now you don’t). The necessity of the time-turner is due to the fact that Hermione has an overloaded class schedule, but it’s never actually shown how hard she’s working. Her falling-out with Ron is also dumbed down somewhat for purposes of the movie. A nitpick? Maybe, but it’s also a problem with the narrative within the film. Why does she have the time-turner? If she dealt with the workload so well, why would she give up the extra classes for year 4?

Pacing – This is an issue that I want to address because it’s a prevalent one in film. Modern films tend to be paced a lot faster than older films. Compensating for modern attention spans? While I thought the pacing in this film was largely perfect, there were a few places where they could have lingered in the moment a bit longer – the confrontation in the Shrieking Shack for instance, happens awfully fast. Here’s the problem with that: there’s no time for the revelations to sink in. The viewer is forced to process a lot of information in a very, very short space of time – good luck with that if you haven’t read the book. Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix would go on to be utter disasters in terms of pacing. Fortunately, there was just that one scene in this film that I felt moved a little too quickly.

Performances

- The three leads under the eye of Alfonso Cauron, put forth performances noticeably superior to the first two films. Radcliff improves the most noticeably of the three, but Emma Watson wasn’t far behind. Repurt Grint continues his trend of comedic timing, but is much less needed for purposes of exposition than he was in the first two movies.

- Nearly stealing the show completely was Gary Oldman as Sirius Black. This is NOT his best performance to date, but he shows his skill magnificently, winning the viewers over with less than 15 minutes screen time.

- David Thewlis also delivers an excellent performance as Remis Lupin, who basically takes on the role of Harry’s parental figure for this installment of the series.

Music, Cinematography, and Special Effects

- John Williams is a composer of such skill and legend at this point that he’s nearly beyond criticism. For those unfamiliar with John Williams’ work, you can be assured that this soundtrack will stand very well on its own without the context of the film, and will transport you into Harry Potter’s world in a way that no other composer’s work ever could.

- This is a great looking film, even more visually fascinating and breathtaking than the first two films. You’ll notice a lot of visual differences in this one versus the first two, but any changes were for the better in my opinion. Atmosphere is palpable. Look for the scene where Harry rides a Hippogrif for the first time, I guarantee your jaw will drop.

There was some shotty effects work in the first two films, but I can find little to criticize about this one in terms of special effects. Even the Dementors, which couldn’t have been easy to achieve, were done very effectively.

The Bottom Line

This is arguably the best that Harry Potter has to offer. Complete with a full cast of characters, solid performances by the three leads, and all the thrilling magic you could ask for, this is the first Harry Potter film to really nail it on every conceivable level. 9/10

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