Except for the childish nonsense of the bus in the beginning, it's the most entertaining entry of the three I've seen-the first three. It's also the most darker and adult. This new refreshing air is worth, above all, of the technicians and, also enough, of the Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón.The special effects are impressive. In fact, together with those of "Jurassic Park", they are the digital ones that have surprised me the most; even more than those of the trilogy of "Lord of the Rings", and not because they are better or more quantity, but because they are infinitely more imaginative and elegant.The story of Rowling offers, finally, really unexpected twists. Play with our subconscious and, above all, with our prejudices: I was expecting to see Voldemort again reincarnated, resulting bored by the repetition of history, but how would expect the triangle formed by Sirius Black, Remus Lupin and Peter Pettigrew! (Obviously I have not read any of the books yet, I do not know what opinion the lovers of the novel will have about it.)Although we start from a fantastic and magical world, I have been very surprised by the meticulous work in which time travel is minimally coherent. Many other modern writers should take note (I am blatantly referring to those responsible for "The Butterfly Effect" and "A Sound of Thunder").
Why do so many people hail Cuarón as if he's doing something genius with this film? He altered the beginning to add some stupid joke with the wand lighting under the covers (Lumos Maximo would shoot a flare out of the wand. Lumos simply lights it up. - Read the books). And as a 3rd year Harry shouldn't have any trouble with the spell to light his damn wand. It's a dumb joke and it's not even funny when old man Dursly comes in grunting with his weird splotchy cheeks. Who did the make-up on this, btw? This is the worst make up job on everyone except the main cast that I have ever seen in a Harry Potter film. Really, except for the kids and the main teachers everyone seems like they are just plastered on and shoved into the background. Just keep them out of focus. It'll be fine. Sorry, nope. I noticed.Next, let's talk about the annoying change of Tom the barman/innkeeper at the Leaky Cauldron from a mild mannered Englishman to a weird jokey hunchback. Again, Mr. French, this is not funny. I don't know who you are trying to amuse but this is just sad. You don't make fun of the physical disabled anymore. Don't you know that? And then there's the Knight Bus shrunken heads with Jamaican accents. Yes, because you're not being racist at all by assuming all shrunken heads would come from places with people of darker skin. And did you read the books? This scene wasn't supposed to be about comedy. It was more about the dread of being completely alone with no one to help. Instead Cuarón again chooses to add some more awkward humor that simply isn't funny and is really just as offensive as Jar Jar Binks.And then there's the change to the Fat Lady. Suddenly she's become a wanna-be opera singer who can't sing and breaks a glass just to pretend she can? What? That's not funny and it's not even focusing on the discussion between the kids, which should be the focus instead of this unfunny change to a painting that's already been established in the series. No. Just, no. That's poor direction, even if it was just written on the script he was working from. Sorry, but any good director would actually at least take the time to watch the first two movies as part of their research and to at least try to make his movie match the first two for continuity. I mean, for cripes sake we have continuity directors listed among the crew. Tell me what do you guys do? Because it doesn't seem to be working here at all. And again, right after the Fat Lady, another annoying thing added for a stupid reason. Apparently the director found it necessary to show that all the paintings were connected by adding a giant snake slithering through all of them. Just one thing. Who painted a picture of a giant snake and where is that hung in the damn castle? No one! That's who. And nowhere! Seriously? And why is there a painting of a monkey in a cage. Who paints a monkey in a cage and hangs it in Hoggwarts Castle? Oh, I know. Some weird Mexican director who thinks he is more clever than he really is. Come on, man.Okay, okay. I've been harping on the affects and comedic changes a bit. Lets switch gears here for a sec and I'll tell you a few things I did like. The acting was very good, apart from Tom that is. And the director's work with Oldman, Thewlis and Gambon was remarkable. I really loved the new iteration of Dumbledore. And all the Professor Lupin stuff was great, right up until he turned into the dumbest looking werewolf I've ever seen on film. And this was after such a great addition with the Dementors. Really, the version in this film was better than any of the following films. I don't know why they decided to go more standard "grim reaper" in the rest. The look of the Hoggsmead and the Shrieking Shack were spot on, right up until they again showed some stupid shrunken heads, This time a parody of the Fates from Hercules. Do you have any jokes that are your own, Cuarón?Oh, I must mention Buckbeak, the Hippogriff. This looked great and was all well done right up until we do the magical ride around Hoggwarts part just for the sake of adding some fast moving adventure to the scene. I mean, it's fine. It was fun and looked great, but it made no sense and when you think about it it's the worst teaching ever. Really? A teacher just has you put your hand out to greet him then just lumps you up on a flying creature's back and shoos you off like you've ever even ridden a horse before? Harry hasn't, btw. He hasn't ridden anything but a bus and a train in his whole life and you're letting him take off on a dangerous creature he just met and could easily fall to his death from at heights of up to 200 feet over the damn school grounds? Are you freaking insane? You are so fired it's ridiculous and it wouldn't take Malfoy's insipid whinging to make it possible. Seriously, it also totally breaks up the continuity of the scene. I mean, he takes off flies around, comes back down and Malfoy says, "I can do that!" and gets bitten? I mean, come on. Oh yeah, and those dumb Monstrous Book of Monsters. LOL :D I don't get it. You're trying to give this a darker tone and then you're filling it with jokes intended for a five year old? Couldn't have the scene as it was in the book been enough, instead of the goofy chasing it around and stomping on it crap? And why was it spouting pieces of paper everywhere it went? Was it eating itself? Gah!This brings me to one of my favorite additions made with this movie, which is a bit of a blunder in itself at points when you think about things in later films (I won't get into that), but the Marauder's Map was just beautifully done, with the multi-fold pages and the pop-outs and the moving ink it was exactly as it was described in the books. I don't know if the director had much to do with that though. I'm pretty sure those effects would have been the same regardless.And then another complaint, the Whomping Willow. While I like that it changed with the seasons and began using it's growing willow vines as whips, I think the whole riding the tree crap was overplayed and ham-handed. A simple chase and dodge would have made more sense than the wild ride followed by a very convenient or extremely lucky drop into exactly where you wanted to go by the whipping tree branch you're holding onto.And then we get to that dumb looking were-wolf again. Man, is that thing horrible. It doesn't even look like a wolf. It hardly has any fur. It's all skinny and gaunt. I mean, wth is that? It looks like a were-weasel. And let's not forget he completely changed the layout of Hoggwarts for no reason just too add all kinds of stupid clock references. Hello, we know the time turner is a big thing in this film you don't need to keep pointing it out to us like we're a bunch of 5 year olds.Some say all these decisions were artistic and that makes this the best of the Harry Potter films, but I'm sorry. I completely disagree. Changing things in a film that is supposed to fit in with a series for the sake of your own art is not a good thing for the series. It doesn't work. It doesn't fit and it doesn't make for a good part in a series. You don't have a guy come in to do an addition on your home and let him run wild with the design just because he has a vision and end up with this weird slat roofed, brick thing sticking out of your hard tile roofed, stucco house. It's the same with film. Look at what you're working with. Make it match that. You wanna make art? Make your own stand alone films. Don't try to play with a team if you're not a team player.And then I come finally to the last badness. The worst scene in the film and simultaneous one of the most important. That part where Daniel Radcliff said to the director "I wanna try something my way." And the director said, "Okay." And then actually used that cut. OMG it's horrible. He looks horrible. It makes him look like the worst actor in a B movie and this is not a B movie. The scene, can you guess it? It goes like this.Hermione: "Harry, what is it?"
Harry: "He was their friend.. and he betrayed them. HE WAS THEIR FRIEND! I hope he finds me. 'Cause when he does, I'm gonna be ready! When he does, I'm gonna kill him!" And then he does this stupid lip thing and heavy breathing, which is supposed to read as anger but reads more of overacting. Really, you should have shot more than one take Cuarón.That's all. I'm sorry, but I disagree with the majority on this one. This was not a good Harry Potter movie. It was barely acceptable and obviously the studio agreed because Cuarón was not asked to continue working on the films.
These days Alfonso Cuaron has proved himself to be one of the finest film directors of his generation thanks to him making great films like "Children of Men" (2006) and "Gravity' (2013) along with adding this movie to his resume of memorable films back in 2004. "Prisoner of Azkaban" is the third of 8 films in the entire Harry Potter franchise and it is a really good movie even though it isn't really as original as the first two movies in the series, even though Cuaron is very engaged with his storytelling here. Like the first two films the main characters along with Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) who still continues his adventures at Hogwarts with his two good friends Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ronald Weasley (Rupert Grint), but the threat against Harry is much more serious against him this time. The threat to Potter and his friends is realized after he returns to Hogwarts and is told by Professor Lupin (David Thewlis) that a convicted murderer by the name of Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) from the prison of Azkaban who is supposedly out to kill Potter. After the other professors find out about this threat Professor Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) tells all Hogwarts students that they have set creatures that look like the Grim Reaper called Dementors at every single entrance on the grounds of the Hogwarts campus. Black was convicted in Voldemort's plot to kill Harry Potter's parents but towards the end of the movie Black becomes a changed man, for reasons that I will not spoil. The visuals are still breathtaking as ever, and the supporting characters along with Black and Lupin, as well as the likes of Dumbledore, Snape (Alan Rickman), McGonagall (Maggie Smith), Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane), Trelawney (Emma Thompson) are expertly written. There are also other great components of this movie including the script by Steve Kloves who also wrote the screenplays for the first two films, as well as mind-blowing editing, excellent cinematography, brilliant performances, and the haunting score by the legendary John Williams are what make this movie work on a full scale. Though I have no problems with this movie, I do have a problem with Warner Bros. for not honoring the replacement request from Richard Harris who originally played Professor Dumbledore, of which Harris wanted his good friend Peter O'Toole to replace him after his death. Though Michael Gambon was excellent as Dumbledore I do happen to think that O'Toole could have done him one better. Despite that I still think that this is one of the finest films of 2004.