Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) directed by Alfonso Cuarón is a movie about our dear hero, Harry Potter and a mountain of misunderstandings. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) is a wizard who attends Hogwarts, a school for young wizards and witches. In his third year at Hogwarts, Harry (as he often does), finds himself in the eye of danger with his friends Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) as backup. This time, the danger is Sirius Black, a notorious murderer, has broken out of Azkaban (a high-security prison which no one had ever escaped from before) who is coming after Harry.
This installment of the Harry Potter series like all the others is fantasy and adventure, however, it mixes with this thriller elements. The constant action at the end of the movie is preceded with many allusions and symbols at the beginning. As a result, the audience gets a sense that something important and/or dangerous is about to happen but they are kept on the edge of their seats as to when it’s going to happen.
One of the many reasons I love this series so much is because of the many lessons and morals you can learn from the story. The over-riding moral in this film is: don’t judge a book by it’s cover. You shouldn’t make assumptions based on rumors, you should always get the facts before you judge. Secondly, remain loyal to your friends, and defend them when the need arises.
What makes this series of films so special is the characters themselves. Cuarón took initiative in this movie to ensure that even in darkness, the characters shone through. These characters have minor flaws which mostly have to do with their tempers and quick judgements; however, they are very likeable characters. When watching this movie you can’t help but to root for this trio as they face dangers in order to find the truth and save those who are dear to them.
Cuarón used many elements in order to paint the mood of the film. His unique understanding of darkness allowed this film to be a success. His portrayal of the movements and the sounds of the dementors (the supernatural guards of Azkaban) really set the stage for the rest of the movie. His shooting style was also exceptional and really added to the aesthetic qualities of the movie. His transitions of seasons with a wide span on the whomping willow were delightful. I especially loved his complex shots where he moved quickly through the inside of the clock tower. They were such beautiful moving shots and I could not get enough.
Although there are some Man vs. Nature elements, Man vs. Man and Man vs. Self were most prominent in this film. Man vs. Man is evident in the panicked search and hiding tactics utilized by Harry and his friends in regard to Sirius Black. However, at the same time, as the plot unfolds, the audience is made aware that there is a lot of internal conflict seen within many characters.
I found that the strongest part of the story was the aesthetic value it portrays and the continuity of established characters and their growth. Just one look at the film allows the viewer to get a strong something wicked this way comes vive. The use of cool tones, the use of creeping ice, and the darker atmospheric color all work together harmoniously to set the mood. Harry, Ron, and Hermione, grow closer together in their bonds and they are willing to do anything in order to protect the others. Something I found a bit lacking in this movie is the use of the same iris fade-out to scenes. There are several more creative ways that a scene could have shifted of faded away.
Cuarón was definitely the right choice in directing this film because many of his trademarks are seen in the source material (the original book). His use of darkness which is pierced by light is very fitting in this movie because of the light that is emitted through certain spells used in this movie. There is also the use of foreshadowing which is rampant in this film. Be wary, if you see something that is repeated in a manner in the film, it will become important later on. His unique implementation of music was amazing. He truly captured the fun yet challenging atmosphere that Professor Lupin would have invoked in his class on the countering of Boggarts.
Although I was a latecomer to the Harry Potter book series, I first fell in love with the movies. The Prisoner of Azkaban always stuck with me because it was such a shift in the atmosphere and mood that the preceding films did not have. Although the books were not done being published, Cuarón correctly estimated where the series was going to go. People always joke that the beginning of each Harry Potter film always got darker and darker and I am convinced that Cuarón’s vision is one of the factors why this came to be. I am a 100% fan of this genre and this universe and you could probably bribe me into helping you study if you buy me Harry Potter merchandise. This movie is a solid 8/10 strawberries.