Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

Title: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Release Date: May 23, 2004
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Production Company: Warner Bros. Pictures

This is probably the best of all the Harry Potter movies.  Not just because it adapts a book I like, but because of the effort that director Alfonso Cuarón puts in to make it an actual adaption to film rather than Chris Columbus’ paint-by-numbers recreation of the books.  Several elements, such as the motifs of clocks and time, the humorous animations of the Marauders Map, and the recurring gags of the Whomping Willow are all nice touches.  But best of all, under Cuarón’s direction, the students of Hogwarts really feel like children rather than characters.

Cuarón did get an advantage in directing the third film.  Columbus had covered all the exposition about the Wizarding World in the first two movies, so that could be stripped away.  And the ensuing films would be based on longer, sprawling novels that were more difficult to condense.  Nevertheless, I still find it disappointing that Cuarón didn’t return for any of the later movies.


Rating: ****

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkeban by J.K. Rowling

Author: J.K. Rowling
Title: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkeban
Narrator: Jim Dale
Publication Info: Listening Library, 2000 [Originally published, 1999]

The third volume in the Harry Potter series may be my favorite of them all.  It’s hard to compare since the later books are so different from the earlier books that they’re almost a different genre.  The Prisoner of Azkeban is the last of the shorter, self-contained novels and the most well-plotted of the three.

In retrospect, it’s really impressive how well Rowling sells Sirius Black as a villain, knowing that he will become Harry’s mentor and father-figure.  I also like how this book establishes the background of the Marauders which sets the stage for the return of Voldemort and the Second Wizarding War in book 4.  But mostly it’s a ripping yarn, a mystery that somehow ties together a werewolf, a magical map, time travel, and Dementors, Rowling’s creepiest creatures of all.

Rating: ****