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June 2004

By Wilson Morales

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Distributor: Warner Bros.
Director: Alfonso Cuaron
Producer: Chris Columbus, David Heyman, Mark Radcliff
Screenwriter: Steven Kloves
Director of Photography: Michael Seresin
Composer: John Williams
Cast: Daniel Radcliff, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Robbie Coltrane, Tom Felton, Michael Gambon, Gary Oldman, Alan Rickman, David Thewlis, Dame Maggie Smith, Tomothy Spall, Emma Thompson, & Julie Walters.


With the exception of Junebe "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King", it's very difficult for a third installment of a franchise to sustain its vision and still be engrossing for its fans. At times, sequels lose it audience due to a poor script or a change in filmmakers and producers, who have different views on the franchise. Alfonso Cuaron has taken over for Chris Columbus' direction duties and has done a remarkable job. Dark and intense, but compelling and mature, "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" is the best of three Harry Potter films presented on the big screen thus far.

In this latest chapter of Harry Potter, the illustrious wonder boy is back home again with his relatives, The Dursleys, learning not to put his wizardry to use as they constantly him through Cinderella work-like chores. Young wizards are forbidden to use their powers while out of school, but for Harry, the resistance is futile, as Aunt Petunia keeps baiting him until he loses control and let's just say, has her fly away. As he attempts to run away, he is soon picked up and taken by the elder wizards to secure location because word has been put out that Sirius Black, a former friend of Harry Potter's parents, and the man responsible for their death, has escaped the prison of Azkaban. Taking him back to school at Hogwarts, Harry and the rest of the students are under the protection of the Dementors, the black hooded flying prison guards that Sirius Black June fear. Hanging out with his best friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger puts Harry 's mind at ease. Among their new teachers are Emma Thompson as Professor Trelawney, David Thewlis as Professor Lupin, the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, and trusted friend Hagrid as the Care of Magical Creatures teacher. Michael Gambon has replaced the late Richard Harris as Dumbledore. Professor Lupin takes Harry under his wing and teaches him some wizard skills for "extra credit". With all those around him and the new skills he's learning, Harry's going to need a lot of strength and patience to overcome the evil lurks nearby.

J.K Rowlings, the author of the Harry Potter books, has not only taken her characters to new heights, but she has also let them grow over the course of each book. At the age of 13, Harry has learned a lot for his age for his true destiny has yet to be determined. The book and the film has a dark twist and Cuaron clearly established Rowlings visions of it with his use of clouds and mist to illustrate the settins that awaits the characters. Cuaron, who previously had directed the children's classic "A Little Princess" instilled his gift of working with children. While instilling his cinematic style of filmmaking and incorporating more depth, more emotion, and more adventure, Cuaron never loses the spirit left behind by Chris Columbus, the director of the first two films and the producer of this film.

Screenwriter Steven Kloves has to be given a lot of credit for faithfully adapting the book and bringing in so new and returning characters without it getting disjointed. He gives Thewlis's character more depth and compassion than any of the characters in all three films. Not only does the writing get better throughout the film, but there are several unspoken actions that clearly set many things in motion for future Potter films such as jealousy, anger, and romance.

All of the three leads (Radcliffe, Watson, and Granger) are quickly getting older than their characters, and it shows as Granger is growing taller, Watson looks more beautiful, and Radcliffe more mature, but the three have learned more about the craft of filmmaking that they're able to sink themselves a year or two below their age and play their part admirably.

Shorter than the previous films, fans won't have to yawn or feel that scenes are long winded. They will embrace the maturity of the characters, ponder the mystery that is set for them and enjoy the adventure that will bring them back for more.