In Harry Potter’s third year at Hogwarts life does not get easier. In fact he finds out that mass murderer Sirius Black has escaped Azkaban prison and is dead set on finding him. As the year marches on Hermione seems to be everywhere at once, the Divinity professor drives Harry & Ron crazy with forebodings of doom, and the three friends discover that perhaps there is a mysterious secret the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher is hiding. Much to Dumbledore’s chagrin, the Ministry of Magic begins to interfere with Hogwarts by sending Azkaban’s Dementors to protect the school from Sirius Black.
Part of what I love about each installment of the Harry Potter series is the new cast that gets added to each film. In The Prisoner of Azkaban we get Gary Oldman as Sirius Black, Emma Thompson as Professor Trelawney. They are great characters and fabulous actors that become enjoyable parts of the rest of the series. Also, Azkaban is the first film with Michael Gambon as Dulbledore; Richard Harris died between films two and three and Gambon masterfully fills his shoes and still makes the role his own.
The Prisoner of Azkaban is also the first in the series to be directed by someone other than Chris Columbus, and let me say I shouted “halleluiah” when I found out he was not going to do all of the films. For this film the masterful Alfonso Cuaron took the reins and for the first time the Harry Potter series had something is never had in the earlier films – atmosphere. Suddenly, Harry was the dark, tousled boy he always was in the books, and the world was not as shiny and friendly as Chris Columbus portrayed it in the first two films. This film was a directorial turning point in the series, and while Azkaban is one of the weakest in terms of what it does to the franchise in continuity, it gave the series the starts of the tone that needed to be set.
While I do think that the front end of the Harry Potter films were weaker than the later films there is no bad film in the Harry Potter franchise. I am excited to see how the films finish out.
Director: Alfonso Cuaron
Writer: Steve Kloves
Harry: Daniel Radcliffe
Sirius Black: Gary Oldman
Ron: Rupert Grint
Hermione: Emma Watson
Professor Lupin: David Thewlis
Dumbldore: Michael Gambon
Professor Snape: Alan Rickman
Professor McGonogall: Maggie Smith
Hagrid: Robbie Coltrane
Professor Trelawney: Emma Thompson
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!