Movie Review
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Prisoner of Azkaban poster
By Gareth Von Kallenbach     Published June 4, 2004
US Release: June 4, 2004

Directed by: Alfonso Cuarón
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe , Emma Watson , Rupert Grint , Gary Oldman

Running Time: 136 minutes
Domestic Box Office: $249,538,952
Director Alfonso Curan keeps the franchise moving along and stays true to the vision that Chris Columbus started while imprinting his own unique style.
One of the most anticipated films of the year, ?Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban? has arrived this summer instead of the fall debut of the previous chapters. The film is based on the third book series by J.K. Rowling that tell of the adventures of young wizard Harry Potter and his friends while attending Hogwarts Academy of Wizardry and Witchcraft.

The movie opens with young Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) on summer break with his guardians who have grown leery of Harry and his powers, as they still do not treat Harry well and make false comments about his deceased parents. Unable to take the lies, Harry stands up for his family honor and practices magic outside of school even though it is forbidden and runs away from his guardians.

In no time Harry is aboard a magical bus that whisks him to the Ministry of Magic where Harry is absolved of using magic outside of school and reunited with his friends Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) as they prepare to board the train to school. Before they can depart, the trio learns that Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) has escaped from the dreaded Azkaban prison and is likely after Harry as Sirius betrayed Harry?s parents.

Upon arriving at school, Harry learns that Sirius may indeed be heading to the school to get Harry, causing extreme security measures to be taken. Despite the added protection, it is evident that Sirius has compromised the school and that Harry is soon facing a threat greater than any of them know. Thanks to the assistance of former caretaker and now instructor Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane), Harry and his friends set out to stop Sirius and save the day and uncover the true connection between Sirius and Harry.

The film has a much darker tone than the previous two films, as while the humor, fantasy, and effects are present there is more of a sinister tone (even the color schemes appear more muted and foreboding than in the past films). Despite having some nice effects the film never relies on eye candy to be its drawing card, as the interesting and lovable characters are what enables this film to shine.

The acting is also first rate, as Radcliffe continues to grow and Coltrane gives a solid performance. Maggie Smith and Michael Gambon (who seamlessly replaces the late Richard Harris) are sadly underused in the film, as they are almost a cameo presence and their stern but kind presence is missed.

The film moves along at a steady pace, though there are a few slow parts in its 140-minute run time. Director Alfonso Curan keeps the franchise moving along and despite the darker tone he stays true to the vision that Chris Columbus started in the first two films while imprinting his own unique style. The only real issue I had is that certain situations are left hanging at the conclusion, leaving me a bit unsatisfied. I know this was necessary to set the stage for the later films but at times it seemed like I was watching a setup for the next film rather than a complete story with ongoing threads.

With that being said, the film will delight fans (it should be noted that despite its PG rating, some younger viewers might be frightened by some moments of the film) and already has me looking forward to ?Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.? That aside, ?Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban? is a modern day classic that more than lives up to the hype and is well worth seeing for fans of all ages. The fourth film in the series is already underway and I must say that for many people, myself included, I look forward to seeing what future adventures Harry and his friends have in store for audiences.
Gareth's Grade: A-
Gareth's Overall Grading: 50 graded movies
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'Prisoner of Azkaban' Articles
  • Craig's review B
    June 5, 2004    Alfonso Cuaron proves he has a knack for dark storytelling, shifting the previously lighthearted tone while still keeping with the humor and fun of the series. -- Craig Younkin
  • Friday Box Office Analysis (6/4)
    June 5, 2004    For the weekend, Harry Potter should be heading for a gross of $110 - 120 million, and will challenge Spider-Man for the biggest three-day opening in history. -- Lee Tistaert