‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’ is the third installment of J.K. Rowling’s popular book series and the latest film adaptation hitting theaters on Friday. This new film is filled with change and follows a decisive curve into a dark and scarier place than the previous Potter movies. Gone are the glowing chambers filled with former director Chris Columbus’s golden touch, replaced now by the choppy and moody darkness spread on thick by the series new director, Alfonso Cuaron.
Pacing is difficult in the ‘Prisoner of Azkaban’. Maybe its because the Harry Potter stories take place during a complete school year, and the film attempts to cram in all the details in it can, but at 150 minutes the movie hangs and drags, stirring occasionally when the next effects laden scene crawls by.
Perhaps I fell under a spell from my overpriced soda but at times while watching ‘The Prisoner of Azkaban’ I felt like I was just going through the motions of a Harry Potter story. Less of the cohesive plotline I once read and more like a series of Harry Potter-ish things happening in front of me. Look, see Harry, Harry and pals take the train to Hogwarts, and then we some expensive magicky stuff and then Harry and the team are playing Quiditch in the rain. You get the idea.
‘The Prisoner of Azkaban’ does have a plot thread that explains the spooky story of the Dementors and their pursuit of escaped convict Sirius Black, righteously played by Gary Oldman whose screaming face appears in the animated wanted posters throughout the movie. Oldman as always is terrific but we barely get to see him in action. And this type of talent wanting carries as there isn’t enough screen time having fun with the other stars like Emma Thompson as the bespectacled Professor Treelawny, nor with the Harry Potter regulars like Alan Rickman as Professor Snape or Robbie Coltrane as the hairy and hilarious Hagrid, who this year is taking on teaching the Care of Magical Creatures course.
Newcomers and fellow ‘Singing Detective’ alumni do their best to hold up their end of the Potter ship, first with David Thewlis as the sympathetic and suspicious Professor Lupin who befriends Harry and teaches him some defensive spells for the lurking threats ahead. And then we are introduced to the super talented Michael Gambon as the new Dumbledore, who does his best to carry the character forward, but let’s face it, Richard Harris is a pretty hard act to follow and it will be impossible to erase his memory whenever Dumbledore is on-screen.
‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’ is my favorite of the Harry Potter books so far but after seeing this new film I may just stick to the printed word and skip the movies altogether. It does make me wonder how the movie makers will adapt the next two books, which are seven and eight hundred page whoppers, that will need a week as a TV miniseries or run the movie in fast forward to fit it all in. Lost in this latest trip to Hogwarts but still a Harry Potter fan, for Movie Magazine this is Purple.
© 2004 - Purple - Air Date: 6/1/04
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
USA - 2004