Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban

The Harry Potter franchise is now so set in stone that it doesn’t matter that original director of the first two films Chris Columbus has handed the reins over to Alfonso Cuaron, things will not change that much. Cuaron would never have been allowed to change the look of the films, but he is like a prospective son-in-law who must keep the filmic bride in the manner to which she is accustom to.

Daniel Radcliffe returns as Harry Potter, the world’s favourite speccy sorcerer and is once again at odds with his non-magical family. After yet another row with his Uncle Harry decides that enough is enough and storms off into the night. Whilst out in the cold night, he notices a large black dog peering at him from the bushes as just as it is about to advance Harry is whisked away by a purple triple Decker bus which is for magical folk only.

As soon as Harry is safely within the folds of the Ministry of Magic, he is told that the man who killed his parents Sirius Black (much underused Gary Oldman) a nefarious wizard who was sentenced to life imprisonment in the notorious Azkaban prison has escaped and is presumably looking for Harry Potter.

Harry then heads to his beloved Hogwarts School Of Witchcraft And Wizardry, with his friends Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint). On the journey Harry is “attacked” by a Dementor, a race of vile creatures who act as the prison guards at Azkaban and who have descended on Hogwarts under the hope that Black will be heading there to find Harry. Luckily he is saved by the new Teacher Against The Darks (yes another one, they don’t last long do they?) Professor Lupin (David Thewlis) who goes on to become a mentor of sorts to Harry.

Once at Hogwarts Harry tries to carry on as normal, but the presence of the Dementors is having and adverse effect on him and added to that the fact that Sirius Black has been sighted in the vicinity of Hogwarts which brings more dangers closer to the young wizard.

Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban is better than the other two films in some respect as the danger towards Harry is more real, but with such a long time before anything really interesting happens, the film suffers greatly. 

The overall recipe is very familiar from the last two Harry Potter films and it is becoming very repetitive. There might be a new director onboard in the shape of Alfonso Cuaron, but to be totally honest he would never have been allowed to change the look or feel of the film – no studio would let a director tamper a franchise as precious as this one.

The performances range wildly with Daniel Radcliffe coming off badly as the now-teen struggles to convoy actual emotion. He spent the first two films standing around in awe while things unfurled around him, but when emotion is required, there must be limits to his magical powers in the acting department. The rest of the ‘children’ cast are now looking radically older as puberty waits for no man (or woman) and playing characters who are supposed to be only three years older than the first film is unconvincing. Having said that, if the roles were recast then the continuity of the series would be in grave jeopardy. So how long we have to suffer Rupert Grint’s Ron mugging and whining and Emma Watson’s annoying know-it-all Hermione is anyone’s guess. Even Harry’s alleged nemesis Malfoy is still a lame-arsed, one-dimensional character that is as threatening as a mild case of the crabs.

The adult cast fare much better with the extremely underused Gary Oldman (who is noticeably absent for the first 120 minutes) playing the villainous Sirius Black with a flamboyant flair. David Thewlis is also very good as the unfortunately afflicted Professor Lupin. Richard Harris is sorely missed as Dumbledore as Michael Gambon doesn’t quite fit the bill and seems to be doing a poor imitation of the late Harris.

It doesn’t matter how many plot points go astray as so many are left unexplained to non-Potter aficionados that by the end of the film most of those members of the audience probably don’t care. The one-note story line which some might say has been weaving its meandering way through the last two films too, it semi-engaging at best. The bloated package delivered this time around is not helped with an unbelievably lazy ending involving yet another coincidence. The most annoying thing about the whole Harry Potter universe and something that I’ve maintained from the first film is the fact that whenever there is any problem there is, luckily, always some spell or potion or in this case a time travelling device, which no one mentions before that pops up to save the day. This is one of the least satisfying dénouements in any of the films.

Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban is better than the other films in the series, but it takes so long to get to the interesting parts i.e. Gary Oldman that by the time it comes around does it really matter.

Score 6/10