Warning: This review contains spoilers.
Director Alfanso Cuaron takes over the helm of the Harry Potter franchise and to many people this is their favorite Harry Potter film date. In my opinion, Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban is the weakest film in the franchise.
There are some good thing about this movie. The characters are still evolving and the actors are still doing a terrific job portraying them. David Thewlis was a great Professor Lupin and made the character his own. It’s just that this movie’s a bit of a mess and it does not really feel like a Harry Potter movie.
The book is one of the best book of the entire series. This is where the adaptation falls flat. It doesn’t do justice to its source material and jumps over the relationship between James Potter, Lupin, Sirius Black and Peter Pettigrew so quickly that you just don’t get to know Sirius Black as much as you should. He’s super evil in one scene five minutes the next he’s lovable, charming and completely sane. His transformation is done so quickly that it’s hard to get attached to his character, who is brilliantly portrayed by Gary Oldman. Gary Oldman just didn’t have much to do in this movie. He was kind of wasted and that’s really a shame.
The opening to which Harry blows up his aunt like a balloon is fantastic. It’s probably one of the best scenes in the whole film. There’s just no resolution or consequences to that action. It’s simply glossed over when he goes by the nightbus (which is a really fun sequence) to meet Fudge.
He then meets Ron and Hermione at the Leaky Cauldron and they go to Hogwarts after Ron’s father warns him not to go looking for Sirius Black.
The students are attacked by the Dementor’s on the train, which don’t look all that great to be honest. They’re nothing like they are described in the book. The Dementor’s in Order of the Phoenix look a lot better and a lot scarier than they do in this movie.
Dumbledore warns the students that the Dementor’s are at large and lurk around the castle.
The rest of the film is just more of the same. Harry attends his classes and learns about Werewolves and Professor Lupin teaches him how to do a Patronus in order to defend himself from the Dementors. Hagrid is the new care of the Magical Creatures
Harry has a Quidditch match and is attacked by Dementors, causing him to faint and the destruction of his Nimbus 2000. Sirius Black infiltrates the castle and Dumbledore makes everyone sleep in the great hall.
There’s also the subplot of the students going to Hogsmead and Harry can’t go because his permission slip wasn’t sign by a close relative. Fred and George Weasley give him the Marauder’s Map which is a map of Hogwarts and what everyone is doing at every hour during the day inside the castle. This leads to a scene that is really seen as exposition where McGonagall reveals to us that Sirius Black is in fact Harry’s godfather and that he was the one who betrayed Harry’s parents (which doesn’t happen at all that way in the book and comes up as poorly executed in the film). This entire segment of the film doesn’t work. It’s very poorly handled and comes off preechy.
Nothing really interesting happens until the final act where they witness Buckbeak’s execution and Ron is taken under the Whomping Willow by a mad dog. They discover that it’s none other than Sirius Black, Harry’s godfather.
Harry is about to attack him when Lucius appears, seemingly working with the enemy. The two friends explain to the trio that Peter Pettigrew is Ron’s rat and transform the animal back to its normal size.
Like I already mentioned, it glosses over the friendship of James, Lupin, Pettigrew and Sirius and their involvement with the Marauder’s Map so quickly or who Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs even refers too (which are the nicknames they all four of them had given to themselves when they frequented Hogwarts).
Lupin turns into a werewolf, Peter escapes (why not just have knocked him out or put a spell on him?) and Sirius transforms into a dog and fights Lupin. The CGI still holds up good. It’s not incredible, but it is believable. The werewolf looks convincing and this is probably the most interesting part of the entire film.
The time travel element sort of makes sense but it just wasn’t executed as well as it was in the book unfortunately. Not much happens here while in the book it really feels as if everything has led to this moment.
They manage to save Buckbeak, Sirius Black and return to the present where everything is fixed. Dumbledore seems like he knows about what happened and Ron seems terrified to see them appear out of nowhere in the hospital wing because of his leg injury.
The final scene feels so out of place too. Harry receives a Firebolt, which is the fastest broomstick in the world) from Sirius Black (which happens in the middle of the book, by the way) and Harry flies it ending the film with a freeze frame. And every film that ends with a freeze frame is great. (Insert sarcasm here).
It’s clear that they had no idea how wrap the story up and decided to throw this element in at the very last scene which has no impact or purpose being there.
Overall, this is not a horrible film, just a disappointing one that could have been much better than what we got. It’s just the script and the story that are a bit of a mess compared to the first two. There are some entertaining sequences, some good character moments but it’s still the weakest movie adaptation of the series so far and doesn’t do justice to it’s source material.
Next Review: Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire