Film: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Series: Part 3 of Harry Potter
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Distributor: Warner Home Video

In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry, Ron and Hermione, now teenagers, return for their third year at Hogwarts, where they are forced to face escaped prisoner, Sirius Black, who poses a great threat to Harry. Harry and his friends spend their third year learning how to handle a half-horse half-eagle Hippogriff, repel shape-shifting Boggarts and master the art of Divination. They also visit the wizarding village of Hogsmeade and the Shrieking Shack, which is considered the most haunted building in Britain. In addition to these new experiences, Harry must overcome the threats of the soul-sucking Dementors, outsmart a dangerous werewolf and finally deal with the truth about Sirius Black and his relationship to Harry and his parents. With his best friends, Harry masters advanced magic, crosses the barriers of time and changes the course of more than one life. Directed by Alfonso Cuaron and based on J.K. Rowling ‘s third book, this wondrous spellbinder soars with laughs, and the kind of breathless surprise only found in a Harry Potter adventure.


Some movie-loving wizards must have cast a magic spell on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, because it’s another grand slam for the Harry Potter franchise. Demonstrating remarkable versatility after the arthouse success of Y Tu Mamá También, director Alfonso Cuarón proves a perfect choice to guide Harry, Hermione, and Ron into treacherous puberty as the now 13-year-old students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry face a new and daunting challenge: Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) has escaped from Azkaban prison, and for reasons yet unknown (unless, of course, you’ve read J.K. Rowling’s book, considered by many to be the best in the series), he’s after Harry in a bid for revenge. This dark and dangerous mystery drives the action while Harry (the fast-growing Daniel Radcliffe) and his third-year Hogwarts classmates discover the flying hippogriff Buckbeak (a marvelous CGI creature), the benevolent but enigmatic Professor Lupin (David Thewlis), horrifying black-robed Dementors, sneaky Peter Pettigrew (Timothy Spall), and the wonderful advantage of having a Time-Turner just when you need one. The familiar Hogwarts staff returns in fine form (including the delightful Michael Gambon, replacing the late Richard Harris as Dumbledore, and Emma Thompson as the goggle-eyed Sybil Trelawney), and even Julie Christie joins this prestigious production for a brief but welcome cameo. Technically dazzling, fast-paced, and chock-full of Rowling’s boundless imagination (loyally adapted by ace screenwriter Steve Kloves), The Prisoner of Azkaban is a Potter-movie classic. —Jeff Shannon

Barnes and Noble

As noted at the time of its theatrical release, the third Harry Potter film is somewhat darker in tone than its predecessors, but the change in mood was certainly beneficial—Azkaban is clearly the best of the series to date. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) begins his third year at Hogwarts under an ominous cloud: A killer wizard named Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) has escaped from prison, and there’s every indication that he’s heading for the well-hidden sorcery school to do young Potter in. The bulk of the film finds Harry, accompanied by loyal friends Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint), trying to unravel the tangled strands of a mystery, with occasional help from their favorite new teacher, Professor Lupin (David Thewlis). The relatively benign witchcraft on display in the first two Potter films takes a backseat to more malignant occultism in Azkaban; the constant threat of impending death, along with some genuinely frightening scenes involving lycanthropy, makes this installment somewhat problematic for very young viewers. Seeing it from the security of home will lessen the impact on kids, but parents might want to prepare their most impressionable children for a slightly more scary time than they would normally have at Hogwarts. Director Alfonso Cuaron skillfully employs atmospheric visual effects and gives the film a more genuinely gothic look than the earlier Potter entries. Recurring cast members Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, and Robbie Coltrane are seen to good advantage; and Michael Gambon, taking over as Dumbledore for the late Richard Harris, figures prominently in a time-shift subplot that’s extremely well worked out. Oldman is suitably menacing as the accused killer, and Thewlis brings genuine warmth to his sympathetic but complex character. Prisoner of Azkaban abounds in the delightful fantasy trappings that engage a youthful sense of wonder, but the darker undercurrents of its complicated plot make it unusually engrossing for older viewers as well. Ed Hulse

Related Works

Album:Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban

John Williams

If the commercial constraints of genre and chronic Hollywood sequelitis threaten to musically straitjacket even a legend like John Williams, the veteran playfully rebuffs such cynicism in his rich, mirthful score for this third chapter of the Harry Potter cycle. Whether inspired by a willful desire not to repeat himself, the continued reinvention of his jazz roots that brightened his scores for Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can and The Terminal, or the story’s requirement for a handful of fresh themes, Williams informs his work here with an…

Book:Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Book 3 of Harry Potter

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Book 3 of Harry Potter

J.K. Rowling

For twelve long years, the dread fortress of Azkaban held an infamous prisoner named Sirius Black. Convicted of killing thirteen people with a single curse, he was said to be the heir apparent to the Dark Lord, Voldemort.

Now he has escaped, leaving only two clues as to where he might be headed: Harry Potter’s defeat of You-Know-Who was Black’s downfall as well. And the Azkaban guards heard Black muttering in his sleep “He’s at Hogwarts… he’s at Hogwarts.”

Harry Potter isn’t safe, not even within the walls of his magical school, surrounded by his friends. Because on top of it all, there may well be a traitor in their midst.

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