Released 6/4/04 Rated: PG
The Prisoner of Azkaban is the third installment of the Harry Potter series. However it is the first to take on a new director, and while I do believe that Hollywood needs some experimental directors, I don’t think such an anticipated franchise is necessarily the place for it. Every time I watch this movie I scream the same question about seven or eight times, maybe more; What’s with all the landscape shots??! Do we really need three or four extreme long shots of the castle? And the blue birds flying around the grounds… ugh. I honestly felt there was a little too much emphasis on unimportant things, such as the landscape, or random objects. Like an umbrella caught in a rainstorm. ???
Overall I feel this film doesn’t give enough time to certain story elements, leaving the viewer to question multiple plot twists with: how did you come up with that? I believe this is due to us not spending so much time in the classroom as we have in the previous installments. This is, after all, a school. I think it’s safe to put a few spoilers in this one; please skip the numbered paragraphs if you still have yet to see it.
1) Hermione’s time turner. Hermione is taking so many courses this year that she has to go back in time to take them all! Obviously no one is supposed to know about this, and yet we see her wearing it as a necklace in class. I thought it was ok when it was half hidden in one of the Defense Against the Dark Arts scenes, but it’s in full view for Care for Magical Creatures, which I didn’t think was appropriate. However, with all the time we didn’t spend on Hermione’s appearing/disappearing act throughout the year, we certainly would have been confused come time for her to whip it out to transport herself and Harry back in time to fix the predicament they were in. I did like, however, the faint ticking noise in the background when Harry and Hermione were back in time and racing against the clock.
2) Professor Lupin’s condition. According to the movie, Lupin only missed one class, which Snape oversaw. No one mentioned a continuation of his absence over the year, we didn’t see a physical change in him like he was ill, and Snape barely had any interaction with Lupin. Had the two done so, there would have undoubtedly been some hidden accusations from Snape. After all, he doesn’t trust Lupin, and really wants his job.
3) Buckbeak’s trial. We barely spend any time with Hagrid, and considering he’s now a teacher, that’s a little odd. There was only one Care of Magical Creatures class on Hagrid’s first day. Unfortunately we don’t see Hagrid again until after the holidays and after the trial. So it’s kind of an abrupt back-to-this-plot-line type thing because the audience has forgotten about it! So again, if we’d had had more time in some classes than we did castle exterior shots, some of this could have been prevented.
4) (This one doesn’t deal with class time, but) Sirius Black’s escape. He’s in the beginning of the movie; he’s in the end of the movie. Where was the hype in the middle of the movie? He should have been the topic of most conversations. There should have been a few ‘sightings’ posted in The Daily Prophet. It just seemed like they forgot the weight of this feat. This man escaped from the one place that was designed to keep witches and wizards ‘like him’ in. He’s the first to do it, ever, and what? That’s it? Not only that, but everyone assumed Sirius was headed for Hogwarts. In the book there was proof, but here that is just simply what was done. Automatic target. Harry Potter! He’s after Harry! Put dementors around the school!!
Another thing that was different this year was the wardrobe choices. The students were out of their school uniforms more so than they were in their uniforms. I don’t think I liked it as much as I’m sure the actors did, but it did bring about the realization that these kids live here the whole time. It was realistic to have differences between uniform-wearing among the students, and it gave everyone some personality. The guys had their ties loose or completely undone, or someone didn’t have their shirt tucked in, or they rolled up their sleeves. But it was nice to have a change from constant school uniforms. I would have liked a little more equality between the two sets of wardrobes, but I realize that’s hard to do when you’re going to Hogsmeade all the time. Which also wasn’t explained! No explanation that Hogsmeade was the village down the road from the school, or that it was a trip taken only every few months, or that it was only available to third-years and up. All we knew was that the students needed a signed permission form, which Harry didn’t have. Apparently it was expected that the audience already knows all this stuff so what was the point in explaining any of it? Some people only watch the movies, so it’s important to not alienate those audience members.
I felt in the beginning some of the dialogue seemed a little forced. Like there was no real meaning behind it; it was just something they had to say. Slightly awkward. Also, the revelation on Scabbers seemed to be missing a crucial piece of the scene: Ron’s reaction. But apparently it was no big deal. Ron just kinda sat quietly in the corner. Considering how furious he was that he thought Crookshanks ate his rat, you’d think Ron would have something more to say.
Now for some positives. LOL. The dementors were perfect! They were creepy, they were tall, they were everywhere! They even sucked the happiness out of the flowers! The frost they emitted was a nice touch. Buckbeak was another perfect accomplishment! This creature looked so real. He was beautiful and majestic. Everything worked; he didn’t look awkward at all, which happens sometimes with fantasy creatures.
The best scene in the movie had to be when Neville was facing the boggart in the Defense Against the Dark Arts lesson. 🙂 Emma Thompson was brilliant as Professor Trelawney. Unfortunately, she’s not as crazy as she is in the book because we don’t get to see her that much. Gary Oldman as Sirius Black, while he never really saw him until practically the end of the movie, was great. And the one visual element that I did like in this movie was the camera passing through the gears of the giant clock. It fit giving the climax of the film, and just looked cool.
Over all, needed some more work.