Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Severus Snape

Image via Wikipedia

A Harry Potter film is a big responsibility, given the popularity of the books. Get it wrong, and thousands of kids the world over are disappointed. So not only do you have to ensure that both the weans and their parents are entertained, but you also have to stick as close as possible to the book, for continuity reasons.
Frankly, that can’t be an easy remit. Especially as those working on the earlier films had no idea how the series would end – apart from Alan Rickman, who got a personal spoiler to help him play Severus Snape.

Mind you, I’d sussed that one out by about book 4 anyway, and I’m sure I’m not alone.

Anyway, director Alfonso Cuarón had the daunting task of producing the third film in a series, with a major cast member Richard Harris, who played Professor Dumbledore) recently deceased of Hodgkin’s disease and a predecessor, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, that was quite honestly bloody awful. Although that could also be considered an advantage, as he could only do better than the previous incumbent.

The directing is significantly superior to the first two films, with an appropriately dark atmosphere. Yay. There are still problems, mostly related to the very nature of the books as a story of and for children, written by a relatively inexperienced author (although the third book in the Harry Potter series is a vast improvement on the first two). On the whole, it’s a pretty good children’s film. Yes, it has weaknesses. No, they’re not the end of the world.

I tell you what, let’s start with the bad points first and get them out of the way:

  • The DVD extras suck, don’t bother getting a fancy special edition.
  • The final script is patchy, and you really need to have read the book first to follow the plot, e.g.: why on earth cut the bit where Lupin explains that he knows how to use the Marauder’s Map because he helped make it?
  • There’s a fair amount of bad acting, not all of it from the kids, and some really bad dialogue
  • The CGI werewolf doesn’t really cut the mustard. We’ve all seen better, although the transformation scene itself is pretty good.

Good points:

  • It has Gary Oldman and David Thewlis in it. Gary Oldman is magnificent as Sirius Black.
  • Also Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, Pam Ferris, Robert Hardy, Emma Thompson, David Bradley, and a number of other much-loved faces doing cameos.
  • That hippogriff is amazing. I want one.
  • Some of the youngsters are starting to show some talent

The film itself lasts two and a quarter hours, so make sure there’s plenty of popcorn to hand and that everyone has Been beforehand. Once that’s all sorted, sit back and enjoy. Recommended.

Oh, by the way, Emma Watson can’t punch her way out of a paper bag, but her body double is pretty convincing.

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