3 1/2 Stars
Spanish Director Alfonso Cuaron’s crack at the Harry Potter series results in a rousing good time that is notably darker and far more serious than previous installments. This time around Harry and his cohorts Hermonie and Ron are thrust into a plot that sees them fighting off floating spirits and escaped convicts in the continuing battle against Lord Voldermort and his heathens. Deviating from the (relative) innocence and bright colored platte established by Chris Columbus and his crew over the first two films, Prisoner of Azkaban is void of sunlight or any vibrant images. The entire film has a hazy, overcast sheen that cast it’s leads in pale hues. The colors become so washed out it virtually becomes a black and white film for long stretches. Which is appropriate given the power struggle between forces of good and evil that dominates the majority of the picture.
While retaining the base elements of the series, Cuaron has fashioned a gothic-looking tale that does more for the film than the murky plotting. The biggest problem with the story is that a feeling of redundancy has begun to set in and the story feels more like the (author) and screenwriters are spinning their creative wheels rather than telling a meaningful tale. The Potter films are becoming known for their new cast additions. This time David Thewlis is Professor Lupin an instructor keen on teaching Harry the proper defense against the forces of dark magic. The other major asset is Gary Oldman as Sirius Black, a man that has spent twelve years in prison for a crime he may not have committed. These two outstanding actors are used to great effect (though I would have liked to see Oldman get more screen-time) and their performances hit the right note of playfulness and solemnity.
Wonderful images dot the movie, I especially like the Dementors a group of levitating skeletons covered in dark cloaks that roam the campus and have the ability to steal souls. Another nice touch is the inclusion of a time-traveling subplot that works better than one might think given it’s overuse in other lesser films. In the end Prisoner of Azkaban is style over story; the elements don’t jell as seamlessly as they have in other entries. Luckily there is so much cinema magic and memorable images throughout to still qualify Azkaban as superior entertainment.
Director: Alfonso Cuaron
Stars: Daniel Radcliff, Emma Watson, Gary Oldman