Thursday Night Movie Club
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
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Release Date: 28 March 1963

Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Daniel Radcliffe
Rupert Grint
Emma Watson
Gary Oldman
David Thewlis
Michael Gambon
Alan Rickman
Maggie Smith
Robbie Coltrane
Emma Thompson
Julie Christie
Timothy Spall
Harry Potter
Ron Weasley
Hermione Granger
Sirius Black
Professor Lupin
Albus Dumbledore
Professor Severus Snape
Professor Minerva McGonagall
Rubeus Hagrid
Professor Sybil Trelawney
Madame Rosmerta
Peter Pettigrew
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban poster
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban logo

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban blazes to the screen and doesn't let up for its duration... and that is the problem. It took me two screenings to really understand this movie. In some ways, it tops the first two, in others it fails. The film moves way too quickly for someone who hasn't read the book. There was a conscious effort to cut on the length of the movie due to the length of the novel... and it is a shame!

Rupert Grint, Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe.Young Harry is growing up and with it comes the growing pains. Harry has successfully defeated his arch-enemy Valdemort twice. He is beginning to learn that he doesn't have to take crap from anyone, especially his family in the "real" world. Several negative comments about Harry's parents sets Harry into a rage, with disastrous results. He uncontrollably sets an inflation spell on Aunt Marge and sends her floating above London. Harry can no longer live in this world. He packs his trunk and storms out of his household. In the words of Professor Marvel from The Wizard of Oz, "Harry is running away".

After several blocks walking in a blind rage, Harry finds himself alone on a London street with no where to go. Harry is lost. But things get worse, Harry is beset upon by a large black wolf, very rare for London streets. But in the nick of time, Harry is rescued by a triple-decker bus from the wizarding world. Harry is back where he belongs.

Harry takes refuge at the Leaking Cauldron, an inn in the heart of London that only wizards are aware of. To his surprise, the Minister of Magic does not punish Harry for the use of underage magic outside of Hogwarts, the school of wizardry. Something is not quite right here and once again, Harry is thrust into yet another mystery to solve.

Michael Gambon as Professor Albus DumbledoreApparently, Sirius Black has become the first prisoner of Azkaban prison to escape. He was sentenced to Azkaban for betraying Harry's parents to Lord Valdemort and thus bringing about their deaths. Allegedly, Black is on a mission to complete his task by eliminating Harry. Hogwarts is once again not a safe place for Harry. But this is his true home so Harry is stuck in a bad situation.

Enough about the complex plot or I'll end up writing an abridged version of the story. Several changes are present here. As usual, there is a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, one of several new characters introduced here. Michael Gambon takes over in the role of Albus Dumbledore, first enacted by the late Richard Harris. Gambon brings a much more noticeable twinkle to the eye, which only proves that Dumbledore does indeed know everything that is going on at Hogwarts and gives Harry free-reign to grow at his own pace, which is noticeably faster than anyone else, with the possible exception of Hermione.

At the heart of this tale is Harry learning much more about his parents and those who were their friends. New alliances are formed and new enemies revealed.

Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Alan Rickman, Daniel RadcliffeBut there is something disconcerting here. As directed by Alfonso Cuarón, the look and feel of the wizarding world has changed. The colors are less saturated. Hagrid's cottage and the Whomping Willow are in different locations. The grounds at Horgwarts look different than what I expected from the previous installments. Cuarón has chosen to use some "real-life" environments compared to the staged sets employed by Chris Columbus. The effect is less fantasy elements. Even John Williams music score is not very memorable.

As I wrote in my penning paragraph, it took me two screenings to understand the story and thus get absorbed into all of the suspenseful elements.

But Harry and Hermione grow leaps and bounds above their classmates and this only solidifies my longing for the next movie in the series. Once again, I will wait for the movie to be released to learn what happens to Harry and friends in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. It can't come out soon enough!