Film review: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

1 Comment

Harry Potter

You’ve probably heard by now that the new Harry Potter film is the best of the three so far, and you’ve heard right. Alfonso Cuarón was an unusual choice for a director but an inspired one—he brings to the films almost everything Chris Columbus didn’t. For me however (and I can see Potter fans drawing their wands and readying a painful spell as I prepare to write this), it still lacks that certain something that would turn it into classic fantasy.

The first pleasant surprise is how much better Azkaban looks than its predecessors. Chris Columbus has that annoyingly safe way of making his films look like the sets are lit with thousand blub lights so we don’t miss the work of his clever art directors and set designers. Cuarón instead swallows his world in shadow and desaturated colour that perfectly suits the menace of the wraithlike Dementors. It’s most obvious in the Quidditch game, a setpiece that formerly has looked like one of those virtual reality rides at Vegas, and this time is played in the middle of a thunderstorm and makes you feel just how precarious it would be to fly around at 10,000 feet clutching a broomstick. In fact the flying scenes are all excellent—when Harry rides a hippogriff above Hogwarts you share in his fear and exhilaration.

I suppose the films are successfully reflecting the deeper and darker themes of the books as the series continues. But although I did really enjoy this film, I caught myself wishing I was more emotionally involved even as I was watching. Perhaps I’m asking too much of a ‘summer blockbuster’, perhaps it’s due to the forgettable score by John Williams, perhaps the scene when Gandalf and the Rohan charged down the hill to Helm’s Deep has spoilt me forever, but Harry Potter just missed the mark. Here’s hoping the next film delves even deeper into the dark shadows of Harry’s world.

3 and a half marauder’s maps out of 5.

One Comment (+add yours?)

  1. anaglyph
    Jun 29, 2004 @ 16:17:15

    Agree mostly. I thought the music wasn’t too bad though, much better than either of the other two. And I’m not much of a Williams fan, let me tell you. I thought the tilt toward a more medieval flavour was in keeping with Cuaron’s take on the visuals.

    Loved the bird and flying motifs and the obvious sexual allusions of same. Loved the style of the film. Thought it got messy around about the denouement with all the explanations of who did what and so forth, but that’s a fault of the book too.

    I concur on your rating.