Movie Review
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Prisoner of Azkaban poster
By Craig Younkin     Published June 5, 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
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.
I've become a huge Harry Potter fan over the course of the first two movies, and so I was more than eagerly anticipating this third installment of the series. And as the first two thirds of the film rolled by, I was ready to call this one the best of the three and the only great movie to come out in 2004 so far. Only then like most of the other movies I was really anticipating this year, it kind of let me down.

Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) are now teenagers in their third year at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, just this is not the happiest of school years. The man responsible for the death of Harry's parents, Sirius Black (Gary Oldman), has broken out of Azkaban prison with the intent on finishing what he started. Hooded guards from Azkaban prison known as the Centours have stationed themselves at Hogwarts in order to stop him in his tracks. As Harry learns of Black's connection with his parents, he finds himself more inclined to seek revenge.

New director Alfonso Cuaron proves he has a knack for dark storytelling, shifting the previously lighthearted tone while still keeping up with the humor and fun of the series. There is also a more emotional core to this third mystery, which makes the final showdown between Harry and Black ring with tension. Of course there are surprises in store but unfortunately in the last half-hour Cuaron loses his hold on their conception (the last act is really anti-climatic). The plotting gets confusing and the rushed way in which things are presented leaves the audience very little time to take it all in. As the credits rolled I was more tempted to ask, "What just happened?" rather than "I wonder what the next movie will hold?"

Radcliffe, Watson, and Grint still work wonders, however. I think of these movies as buddy pictures and these three talented performers have established one of the most endearing friendships I've seen on film. The rest of the cast seems to be downsized for this one, which was pretty disappointing because I was hoping to see more of Gary Oldman. But David Thewlis does enter the proceedings as a new professor and he shares some really good scenes with Radcliffe.

The special effects, especially those used to create the creepy Centours are another key element in the film ? they make the Hogwart's experience as magical as ever. Still, a finely tuned finale seems to be missing from this third installment of the Potter series, as things just seem to happen too fast to grasp or care about (it would probably be a better idea to read the book first). The movie isn't a total bust, though, and it hasn't ruined my admiration for these stories at all; I can't wait for number four, which is coming out next year. As it stands, number three is just a small blemish on a fun and inventive series.
Craig's Grade: B
Craig's Overall Grading: 340 graded movies
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'Prisoner of Azkaban' Articles
  • 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
  • Gareth's review A-
    June 4, 2004    Director Alfonso Curan keeps the franchise moving along and stays true to the vision that Chris Columbus started while imprinting his own unique style. -- Gareth Von Kallenbach