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Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban

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Judy Thorburn

Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban

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“HARRY POTTER – THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN” – SERIOUS ABOUT SIRIUS

Let me start off by stating that, although I have not read any one of the immensely popular Harry Potter series of books written by English author J.K. Rowling, I am an ardent fan of the two previous movies from which they are adapted.  The first chapter, The Sorcerer’s Stone and its sequel, The Chamber of Secrets kept me enthralled by the magical and mystifying world of adolescent wizard in the making Harry, his friends and their adventures.  I loved all the fantasy characters, the spectacular visual effects and at the center of it all, the story.

This third installment of the franchise has Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron (Oscar nominated Y Tu Mama Tambien) taking over from Chris Columbus, and he brings a new look and feeling that is much darker and scarier than before.  I could not tell you if his vision is true to the novel. I will leave that to the readers.  However, this new direction is somewhere I didn’t expect to go.  As a tale written for the younger generation, I found many frightening images that would be way too scary and disturbing for adolescents. Parental guidance is definitely advised!

As this new movie chapter begins, young Harry is now in his teens, which alone brings angst, a new self-discovery and problems with coping in his ever-challenging environment.   In Harry’s world of wizards, monsters, evil spirits, and danger, you can only imagine what he has to contend with, and what he will learn as he uncovers new truths.

The opening sequence shows Harry (Daniel Radcliff) has had enough of the verbal abuse and bad treatment by his Uncle and Aunts while living with them after the death of his parents.  The newly empowered wizard is ready to embark on his third year at the Hogwart School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. But, not before first letting his anger take over to show his evil Aunt Marge (Pam Ferris) that she is finally going to suffer the consequences of badgering him one too many times.  After using his powers to turn Auntie M into a giant human balloon sending her to float high above the city, Harry packs his bags and leaves home. Only it is not to long before he is picked up by a magical triple-decker emergency night bus and whisked away for an overnight stay at the Leaky Cauldron pub, before heading back to school.

Upon arrival Harry soon discovers there is a new and very dangerous threat to be reckoned with.  It seems that a once close friend of Harry’s parents, Sirius Black (Gary Oldman), believed to be in cahoots with their murderer Lord Valdemort, has escaped from Azkaban prison and is looking to find Harry and finish the job.   It’s now up to Harry to try and protect himself with the help of returning trusted mates, brainy and resourceful Hermoine  (Emma Watson), and goofy but loyal Ron (Rupert Grint).  And, it won’t be easy since there is another terrifying threat lurking about.  The Dementors, the frightening, “grim reaper” looking guards have surrounded the school and, unfortunately, Harry seems to be sensitive to their deadly power.  Only by knowing how to use a special shield, taught to him by new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher Professor Lupin (David Thewlis) can Harry be able to defend himself, and search for the answers to questions that will have an impact on his life.

As far as the acting, Radcliff, Watson and Grint have matured nicely into their roles and again are just dandy.  Returning characters include the gentle giant Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) who has been promoted to Care of Magical Creatures teacher and the dark and ever brooding Professor Snape (terrific Alan Rickman).  But, the wonderful Maggie Smith (Professor McGonagall) is given very little to do, as is Michael Gambon who stepped in as a less impressive, Headmaster Albus Dumbledore after Richard Harris died. We are also introduced to some new and eccentric characters, some of which have more impact on the plot than others.  For a touch of humor, Emma Thompson makes a hilarious cameo appearance as ditzy, frizzy haired, coke bottle spectacled, divination professor Sibyll Trelawney. But, if you blink you would have missed Julie Christie, in a very forgettable, unimportant part.

Now don’t get me wrong.  The Prizoner of Azkaban is filled with some pretty awesome special effects and fantastic movie escapism.  I especially enjoyed a plot element involving Hagrid’s (CGI created) magical half horse, half eagle creature called a Hippogriff, and the sequence when the students interact and learn to control the shape shifters by imagining something amusing. And, my favorite segment involved time manipulation and the way questionable pieces in parts of the puzzle began to fit together as a result. Harry can always depend on Hermoine to work her inevitable girl power to meet any challenge.

But, unless you have previously read this story, it is easy to get lost in the confusing narrative about halfway through the film.  There is a lot of information to take in and much is not easily explained.  Major plot elements and characters are thrown in without a comprehensive understanding of whence they came.  It is obvious to me that the filmmaker was trying to squeeze in too much in the 2 and ½ hours.

So, as eye catching and imaginative as it may be, the Prisoner of Azkaban is guilty on many counts. You’ve heard my charges.  Now you be the judge.

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