Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
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While “The Prisoner of Azkaban” was a critical success, I’ve discovered a lot of the hardcore fans disliked this movie a great deal. As for the financial success it’s pretty much a no-brainer; these films are made because there’s automatically a built-in audience, but as far as critical success, critics loved the work done by Alfonso Cuaron, and I’m one of them. While it may be true I’ve never read the book, I prefer looking at it from a perspective of an outsider and this is the best installment of the franchise so far. I liked the first film, was on the fence for the less than exciting sequel, but this happens to be the best I’ve seen for this so far. As for the “Harry Potter” franchise, I’ve never clicked with this or its less than–how shall I say–sane fans, but this is a great cinematic marvel.

Cuaron whose composed films like “Y Tu Mama Tambien” which are less than kiddy films, manages to refresh the franchise with a fantastic new vision that is often dark without ruining any of the novelty which is starting to wear out. Cuaron puts his imprint on the film with the first twenty minutes which start on a rather dark and weird turn of events setting the stage for the movie. As for Harry Potter, we’re able to delve in to the dark side of Harry that he’s been avoiding and fearing for the first two films and this sequel manages to successfully explore his dark persona and potential for carnage as a dark wizard. Meanwhile Emma Watson blooms as Hermoine who is managing to grow as both a character and powerful wizard as she finally manages to get her revenge on Malfoy and helping Potter on his journey to unwrap the mystery, while Weasely slowly morphs in to an awkward teen with a liking to Hermoine.

As always the film is filled with some amazing special effects, but the real strength lies on the directing in which Cuaron tackles the same darkness he conveyed in his past films in to this which turns from child’s play to a more mature story in the end. While parents may grow weary of the darkness injected in to the series, and perhaps the darkness that will be lost in the next film, this is still the Harry Potter they love. I know, as a non-fan it’s not my place to be so presumptuous, but who gives a crap, this film was really good. Cuaron is possibly the best director of the series managing to maintain the wonder from the first film, and darkness from the second. As for every installment we’re introduced to new characters from the books and they’re rather the oddballs.

Emma Thompson plays the goggle-eyed Mrs. Professor Sybil Trelawney, and David Thewlis is utterly scene stealing as Professor Lupin who has a connection with Potter we learn in the climax, and is an amazing character. For the returning cast, Alan Rickman steals the show yet again as the hard boiled but sweet underneath Professor Snape. I mention Rickman in particular simply because his character happens to be my favorite of the bunch and his darkness along with his power make him a menacing anti-hero. Gary Oldman also manages to chew scenery to a great extent as Sirius Black, an escaped convict of Azkaban who is on his way to get Harry Potter for reasons unknown until the shocking climax.

We’re also introduced to some new fantasy elements that are truly amazing like the Dementor’s the creatures whom resemble the ringwraiths in the “Lord of the Rings” films, but become Harry Potter’s specter of horror, we’re also shown a beautiful Gryphon sequence, and one of the most imaginative in which a creature can form a child’s worst fear and they’re taught to turn it in to something they can laugh at. Cuaron handles the elements of fantasy with a lot of skill and gives the adult audience more to look at while the children will be stunned, all of which include one of the best werewolf transformations I’ve seen in years with some great special effects to accompany it. Cuaron tops himself this time around managing to tell a story while setting a precedent for oncoming directors of the series which will be difficult to top.

For all the wonders the story hands out, the climax ends up completely losing focus with a revelation that is and was both confusing and very disjointed. I was never really sure what the explanation on the plot twist, or the finale was all about, nor did I really seem to want to unwrap the mystery because truly, it’s just so anti-climactic. I sought out explanations for the actual purpose of the plot twist in the climax and it’s never really explained, so the plot ends up becoming more complicated then it should be as the characters through circumstance explain what is going on, but I’ve never been more confused. This received bad reaction from hardcore fans since it’s basically a very loose adaptation, but I didn’t read the book, so as a newcomer to this film though disjointed in the climax, the film is basically the best of the franchise so far with excellent direction, great acting, beautiful special effects, and a dark story many will enjoy.