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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 25.2%
Average: 17.32%
Pretty Bad: 5.51%
Total Crap: 9.84%

9 reviews, 200 user ratings

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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
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by Collin Souter

"The best book in the series is now the best film in the series"
5 stars

I had ridiculously high expectations for “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.” First, I’m a fan of the books, plain and simple. They’re fun, engrossing and undeniably addictive. I’m particularly a fan of this installment, mainly because there’s very little of He Who Must Not Be Named and because the third act remains a triumph of imagination that author J.K. Rowling has yet to top. Secondly, I am a fan of the director, Alfonso Cuaron, and had been since his 1995 American debut “A Little Princess,” for my money one of the best films ever made aimed at children, maybe ever made period. Finally, I had to wait an extra seven months for this cinematic installment, so it had better be good.

Oh, wait, it doesn’t stop there. A week prior to its release, I went back and re-read “The Prisoner of Azkaban” and still found it to be the most thrilling of the Potter books. Furthermore, I went back and re-watched the first two films and found that “Sorcerer’s Stone” has problems holding up, but “Chamber of Secrets” is definitely Chris Columbus’s best work, for whatever that’s worth. I had been seeing the trailer for “Azkaban” at almost every screening for the past several weeks and every time I would get chills. Of all the big summer blockbusters on their way to the multiplexes, I had been looking forward to “Azkaban” the most. So it had better be good.

So, with all that excess baggage going in (and I know I’m not alone in this frenzy), with all these laughably high expectations and with all the hopefulness that comes with being a fan… How is it? Well, as with all movie adaptations of beloved books, we all have a better movie in our heads, but I had a blast seeing what lurked inside Cuaron’s. This Potter film will surprise some, bother others and, above all, will finally give the fans of the books a reason to watch a movie version in the first place. Columbus’s versions succeeded in re-creating what many had pictured in their heads, from the casting to the art direction. Cuaron’s film succeeds because it doesn’t follow the blueprint. So, yeah, it’s good. In fact, it’s great!

I’ll try to keep this short. “Azkaban” begins where all Potter stories begin: The Dursleys, Harry’s Aunt, Uncle and cousin. After turning a houseguest into a human balloon, Harry hits the road and hitches a ride on a London bus. Fast-forward and Harry is back at Hogwarts with his friends Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson). This time, Harry does not get tracked down by Lord Voldemort, but by someone almost as dangerous: Sirius Black (Gary Oldman), a prisoner in Azkaban and an accomplice in the murder of Harry’s parents.

Meanwhile, Headmaster Albus Dumbledor (Michael Gambon, ably filling the shoes left by the late Richard Harris) must deal with the Dementors (prison guards of Azkaban) running around the school trying to track down Black. Also, groundskeeper Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) has been given his first teaching assignment: Care of Magical Creatures where one of his star subjects, a Hippogriff named Buckbeak (half bird, half horse), runs into a spot of trouble by slightly injuring Harry’s nemesis, Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton). The usual characters Snape (Alan Rickman), Minerva McGonagall (Maggie Smith) and the Weasly family round everything out, with the addition of Professor Lupin (David Thewlis), the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher and Professor Trelawney (Emma Thompson), who teaches the children how to foresee the future.

So, how does Cuaron’s vision fare in comparison to Columbus’s? Well, for starters, he at least has a vision and the Potter series clearly needed a personality boost. Columbus did okay in bringing Hogwarts to life by making two entertaining movies, but he played it a little too safe. Many asked why they had hired the director of the sexually charged “Y Tu Mama Tambien” to take on this installment. My question: What took so long? Cuaron has worked with children in a big fantasy movie before. He has helped adapt literary works before (“Y Tu Mama Tambien,” is all but an update on Truffaut’s “Jules and Jim”). He has a unique visual flair that always enhances the emotions, never overwhelming them. It’s a no-brainer to me.

All of Cuaron’s traits are on display here and it becomes readily apparent from the first scene that we are in for a different kind of film (a steadicam shot never felt so jarring). The acting has gotten noticeably better, particularly Radcliffe, who has finally tapped into Harry’s darker side. It’s as though he read an early draft of the “Order of the Phoenix” book, where Harry becomes the sullen, angry teen and went from there. He has added a great deal of depth and longing to Harry that the idea of replacing him at this point in the franchise seems unthinkable. The performances all around seem more subtle and believable. The idea of “Azkaban” being a coming-of-age film doesn’t seem that far-fetched anymore. Even the cartoonish Dursleys have been toned down.

The same goes with the look of the film. “Azkaban” has a more natural look to it. Hogwarts looks like a real place, a bit dirty, a tad run-down, kinda grimy. It looks nothing like the squeaky-clean movie set the characters inhabited the first two times around. Cuaron’s film has a grainy look to it that helps the special effects blend and not call too much attention to themselves (The Hippogriff looks particularly good). The camera dances freely around the sets breathing new life into a franchise that might have otherwise worn out its welcome by now while still shots of the countryside act as chapter stops where nature is as nature does, even when it s “up to no good.” Cuaron also fills the movie with sequences every bit as thrilling as the Quidditch match from “Chamber of Secrets.”

But, alas, us fans must still leave the theater with a laundry list of what has been cut. As the Harry Potter books get longer and longer, the films will likely get more and more frustrating. I have only one gripe with what has been cut: The origins of the names on the Map. They’re pretty important. I would like to have had two lines of dialogue explaining where they come from. I’m fine with the removal of the sub-plot involving Harry’s broom and the way in which events have been condensed. I’m also fine with the many surprising little additions that pop up, all of them welcome. We’ll all have our little gripes. Cuaron has made the Harry Potter movie I never thought I’d ever see, one with high style, biting wit and an adventurous approach. It may not appeal to every fan, but this fan’s rid-ic-u-lous expectations have been met.

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originally posted: 06/04/04 23:26:38
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User Comments

1/06/15 suck perfect for kids and retarded your must watch LOTR! 1 stars
1/07/11 Stack Clearly the best and most sophisticated of the series. 5 stars
8/17/10 Lenny Zane Last HP film before I lost track of story. Better than 1st; not as good as 2nd. 3 stars
1/28/10 Dane Youssef The movies finally have a life of their own. Now Harry is alive. This one rivets. 5 stars
8/11/09 the dork knight Cofnusing as all hell. I liked the time travel bit at the end. 3 stars
7/26/09 David When harry potter movies started getting dark. 4 stars
7/14/09 cody a good movie in the series, harry gets enough of his aunt and uncle. 3 stars
11/01/08 Annie G My favorite of the series so far (out of 5) – best adaptation. 4 stars
3/30/08 Pamela White slower action but watchable 3 stars
7/27/07 Bitchflaps Hands down the best in the series so far. Cuaron brings the story to life. 5 stars
7/11/07 Hello Stranger it did justice to the characters. they expanded and felt like they were growing up finally. 5 stars
6/02/07 danielle its awesomeeeee 5 stars
4/18/07 Stevo UK Will entertain the kiddies, but the darker bits could scare them. 4 stars
9/02/06 Stanley Thai Better than the second film. This series is full of wonder. 5 stars
8/09/06 Dragon The Artist How many damn times do I need to repeat myself? They all dragged a little. 3 stars
8/05/06 David Cohen Where are the school robes? Who moved Hagrid's hut? Film series going down fast! 3 stars
6/23/06 George Despite the fact you can follow what its about, The Novel adapting is undeveloped 3 stars
6/23/06 Arunita Did not do full justice to the book,made Harry look like a total whiner. 1 stars
6/02/06 Marcia Zarwetten-Grassi Have't yet seen GOBLET OF FIRE, but hope it's better than this. 3 stars
4/22/06 Jack Chamber of secrets rocks. This one dosen't 3 stars
3/09/06 Anthony Feor Harry is on thin ice 3 stars
2/10/06 Meredith Harshaw Geez, previous poster -- MEAN GIRLS is FICTION! Get over it! 4 stars
2/10/06 Regina George didn't really survive the school bus accident Since they can time-travel, why don't they go all the way back & save Harry's parents? 3 stars
12/28/05 tony Not the greatest film 3 stars
11/27/05 Daveman Best film of the series, much better than the Goblet of Fire 5 stars
11/24/05 chris brilliant sequel 5 stars
11/23/05 Quigley story is way confusing, but acting is good, CG is great, and gary oldman is awesome as heck 3 stars
11/16/05 Adrian Despite the WTF ending, this is a different but excellent Harry Potter movie. 5 stars
11/12/05 van zwaar potters a TWAT,wizard with a bomber jacket n baggy trousers LMFAO 1 stars
11/07/05 Fan no.1 I luv this movie and Daniel Radcliffe. He is really cute. And i hate those who dislike him. 5 stars
11/03/05 jayvee chun the best of the series yet. Alfonso for president! 5 stars
10/31/05 Bronwyn Best movie out of d 3 4 stars
10/27/05 dobo fuks potter wat a shite ripoff,with about as much depth to its story as a smelly floata in the loo 1 stars
10/12/05 Tom Burns A great sequel. loved it. 5 stars
9/14/05 Jonathon Holmes the best Potter film yet, despite the rushed ending; one of the years 10 best 5 stars
9/03/05 Amin Wow! Wonderful 5 stars
8/28/05 Quigley good directing can't save this confusing excuse for a movie. ship this and watch LOTR, kids 2 stars
8/28/05 Carolyn Rathburn Awesome, loved its magic hated Harry didn't get to move out of his Uncles. 5 stars
8/17/05 JAMES STAP STAP NO PAMUK 4 stars
8/12/05 Littlepurch Book changed but it all adds to film quality. Clever additions in time travel sequences. 5 stars
7/25/05 Jake An exellent companion piece to the book 5 stars
7/23/05 DM My, how much difference a change in director can make. 5 stars
7/20/05 Chris Much better than the previous two movies 4 stars
6/29/05 .... potters a fag 1 stars
6/21/05 xyz beeeeeeeeeeeesssssttttt movie ever been made in this universe 5 stars
6/14/05 gellatina whatever you say harry potter is the best 5 stars
6/13/05 anvesha rai harry potter not too good 1 stars
5/31/05 lucy fantastic 5 stars
5/27/05 tony Is harry potter going downhill.Not his best role or movie. Very slow at some parts.But good 3 stars
5/20/05 Julia Nielson I think this movie was absoultly amazing 5 stars
4/23/05 Quigley the worst of the three. dark and pretty lame. whoever says LOTR stinks is mindless. 2 stars
4/19/05 Nicole Baugh The books and movies are getting darker but Harry is growing up. Great movie. 5 stars
4/19/05 Bonnie James I liked the first directors vison better and missed the old Dumbeldore 3 stars
4/16/05 Carol Conway Great movie 5 stars
4/03/05 virginija risteska I love daniel radcliffe and i love this movie.It is fantastic 5 stars
3/31/05 hannaho As the books get longer, it's harder to pack it all in 2-1/2 hours. 3 stars
3/23/05 Suzanne Butler Great cinematography, excellent movie! 5 stars
3/13/05 sbpat21 So spectacular and just plain gothic 5 stars
3/08/05 Nic T It was an excellent movie I will always treasure. 5 stars
3/05/05 Carolyn Rathburn Absolutely loved it. Hurrah for Harry 5 stars
3/05/05 Gloria Anderson I love all the HP movies 5 stars
3/02/05 David Tsung good but not great 4 stars
3/01/05 Jeanette T. Satisfying as an art film; less satisfying as entertainment 4 stars
2/28/05 Diane Stedner Good Need to Watch 4 stars
2/27/05 dbx Bigger mistakes, but also bigger successes than the first two! 5 stars
2/27/05 Beverley Mooren Thank you for sponsoring the contest. 4 stars
2/27/05 Charlene Javier Cuaron is a god. 5 stars
2/26/05 Theresa Wagner Great for kids 4 stars
2/26/05 Denise great 4 stars
2/26/05 James Kiang While I felt the movie was shot well, some of the location changes were a bit jarring. 3 stars
2/15/05 Bob what kind of shit are our kids watching? a homo wizard which likes the wand up his ass 1 stars
2/14/05 Angela Saunders Another great Harry Potter installment! 4 stars
2/05/05 youreo This was a bit darker than the previous ones. It seems to be a pattern. 4 stars
1/31/05 Bonnie James First two were better 3 stars
1/18/05 Ionicera captured the spirit of the books better than the first two 4 stars
1/14/05 JJ yes it could be far far better like rotk 3 stars
1/12/05 Travis S. Could it BE any better! ;) ***** 5 stars
1/10/05 Jim Better and darker than the first two 4 stars
1/07/05 Meredith Harshaw Geez, previous poster. MEAN GIRLS is FICTION! Get over it! 4 stars
1/07/05 Regina George didn't really survive the school bus accident Since they can time-travel, why don't they go all the way back & save Harry's parents? 3 stars
12/29/04 y2mckay I'm no HP fan, but this was a surprisingly decent movie 4 stars
12/07/04 yo gooey ur a little hp ass lovin fag,who licks out toilet bowls i hate hp,but i like this film abit,only downpoint is harry is in it 3 stars
12/05/04 poppertop205 I love these movies, and this one is the best yet! 5 stars
12/05/04 pothead its not fantasy..its muppetsy 2 stars
12/04/04 Denise much better than the last 4 stars
12/01/04 jennifer def. worse than 1st 2. director SUCKED, whats with the "ethnic" touches and crap? 2 stars
11/28/04 Charlene Javier Just watched it again on DVD. Truly wonderful! 5 stars
11/27/04 Destiny Pifer Awesome movie!! 5 stars
11/17/04 Karen The best film ever Dan Radcliffe was so HOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
10/26/04 Puspa Allamanda The worst fucking film I ever seen 1 stars
10/26/04 lotrEEproper owns this shi& gives lotr a run 4 its money does it!!umm sure little 12 y old ROTKEE beats all 3 hpfilms 1 stars
10/21/04 Meredith Harshaw Geez, previous poster! MEAN GIRLS is FICTION. Get over it! 4 stars
10/07/04 Regina George didn't really survive the school bus accident Since they can time-travel, why don't they go all the way back & save Harry's parents? 3 stars
9/30/04 Ionicera Best of the Potters so far 4 stars
9/26/04 Daveman Finally, a Harry Potter film that could give The Lord Of The Rings a run for its money. 5 stars
9/02/04 Victor Hom Masterpiec based on a masterpiece novel 5 stars
8/25/04 danny so bad it made poke'mon look good 1 stars
8/19/04 courtney the best of 3 the book will tell you about black when the movie dosent though 5 stars
8/11/04 f up Darker versions are always better 5 stars
8/06/04 Anthony G hott ass bitch 2 stars
7/29/04 Phoenix Black THE BEST YET!! EXCELLENT! LOVED IT! 5 stars
7/24/04 Kelly Fantastic book turned into a fantastic movie!! 5 stars
7/24/04 Littlepurch Best of the 3. Not for loyalty to the book but wel plotted and hilarious.Fat Lady the BEST! 5 stars
7/24/04 Sandy Turynowicz Very interesting 5 stars
7/21/04 Steve Adams Very long, but worth it 5 stars
7/21/04 CY NG This is darker & tighter (directing, editing, & acting) than 1st two movies but still fun. 4 stars
7/21/04 Laura Shangraw I didn't care for it 2 stars
7/20/04 Chris They did an excellent job with this movie 5 stars
7/20/04 zimtk Finally, a Potter movie for the ages. Thank you, Mr. Cuaron, for daring to be different 5 stars
7/19/04 Jessica Gill For one that hasn't read the books, I'm glad that they went in a darker direction. 4 stars
7/17/04 legend The best Harry Potter film so far. I enjyed this one more than the first two. 4 stars
7/09/04 Diesel PPffftttt, silly. 1 stars
7/08/04 Adel Can Movie Be better ? 5 stars
7/03/04 American Slasher Goddess Even better then the previous two 5 stars
7/02/04 Haydn humphry The best ever 5 stars
7/01/04 C brilliant film and books wasted on children 5 stars
7/01/04 Mikey Crunt A good honest family film. 4 stars
6/28/04 Richard Crap! 1 stars
6/27/04 Sarah GREAT! by the way, the scar wasn't on the wrong side, it was reflected by the glass 5 stars
6/26/04 M I still dont get it!! its like a really bad sunday morning kids show with better FX 1 stars
6/26/04 Graham Funnier. Scarier. Better acted. Better filmed. Just better than the last two. 4 stars
6/25/04 Marce What? No threesome? Aww.. ;) 5 stars
6/24/04 Kathy Willis I noticed that in the scene with the boggart, Harry's scar was on wrong side 5 stars
6/24/04 Lavance nothing like the book, HOW COULD YOU LET THEM DO THIS TO YOUR BOOK Mrs. Rowling 3 stars
6/24/04 almen jess gruba Its very awesome 5 stars
6/23/04 CandyChick Great movie but i think they left to many imortant bits out 3 stars
6/23/04 Rubi Alfonso Cuaron definitly brings new things to the movie 5 stars
6/23/04 Littlepurch I didn't even like the book but film was gr8. Loved the 'Back To the Future'-esque moments! 5 stars
6/22/04 Marc Basque Better than Philosopher, but doesn't reach the thrilling excellence of Chamber. 4 stars
6/20/04 Mark good 5 stars
6/20/04 Smitty A Deus ex Machina time travel ending, but a good film otherwise with nice pacing 4 stars
6/20/04 dfcdfvdwvfrf Its not as spooky as the bk, but i must say its gr8! 5 stars
6/19/04 kir disapointing, and whats with the titanic scene? 2 stars
6/19/04 Amanda Craig *WAY* too much was cut, but the acting & scenery are very good. 4 stars
6/19/04 Ena A good movie from a good book 5 stars
6/18/04 M Boring!!!! a little boy, a magic stick, satanic rituals blah blah blah 1 stars
6/17/04 Dean Total example of a director thinking he's more important than the film 1 stars
6/17/04 alien assassin a wothy follow up to "Chamber of Secrets". Can't wait for "Goblet of Fire" 5 stars
6/16/04 Scorpix Too many elements from the book were missing. It was interesting, but not fantastic. 3 stars
6/15/04 MF Best one of the series so far. I liked it darker 5 stars
6/15/04 charlie disappointed 1 stars
6/15/04 Katrina Way too many scenes were changed oiut of proportion or skipped out completely, I hated it! 1 stars
6/15/04 Laura should have chucked a 3 1/2 lotr to keep it all in 2 stars
6/15/04 Jack Bourbon Lots of Hogwash, but entertaining in spots 4 stars
6/14/04 Nulthien Dark, alluring, haunting and chilling. Fantastic transition from book to movie. 5 stars
6/14/04 Jamie sordello very dissapointing, does not contain the spirt of Harry Potter. 2 stars
6/14/04 George 2 Babyish 1 stars
6/14/04 Sarina I didn't think it was that good. It was rather disapointing to be honest. 3 stars
6/14/04 ezrgd The change to Cuaron was perfectly timed, the series is progressing nicely 4 stars
6/14/04 asdf Better than the first two. 5 stars
6/13/04 Zefram Mann Almost perfect. They left out the part that explains why Snape is such a prick to Harry. 4 stars
6/13/04 too-much-coffee mistress Easily the best of the three. Please come back for 5, Cuaron! 5 stars
6/13/04 alberto nice - children's first film without their uniform! 3 stars
6/13/04 kate very intriguing 5 stars
6/13/04 Nancy Loved the darker, edgier tone. Funny, scary, gripping! 5 stars
6/13/04 Kooler Too long, again. Oldman shoulda been more evil. So many great actors, so little to do. 3 stars
6/13/04 Daveman Maybe I'll change my rating when my enthusiasm dies down, but damn, was I impressed? 5 stars
6/12/04 Melina haven't read the books, liked this one the best! 5 stars
6/11/04 dils this installment was by far the worst. it does not tally up with the last two movies.. 2 stars
6/11/04 eddie queener great but too short 5 stars
6/10/04 Stewart Shaw Excellent. Wish it were a weekly series 5 stars
6/10/04 Large Farve David Thewlis rocked. Best. Prof. Ever. 5 stars
6/09/04 Inga Loved it but would have loved more detail 5 stars
6/09/04 dale h excellent 5 stars
6/09/04 Eppie Black Too Much of Snape's and Lupin's subplots cut. 4 stars
6/08/04 paganchyk Could have used five more minutes to explain things, but beautiful 4 stars
6/08/04 BrianWilly Wicked funny and exciting. The darker tone and imagery is a great shift. 5 stars
6/08/04 Harryfan felt movie was rushed but still great 5 stars
6/08/04 Shoanna Dean I was the best film i'v ever seen. It was awsome, great and amazing 5 stars
6/08/04 Pemika S. Lovely to see Harry and the gangs grow up. My most favorite in the three parts 5 stars
6/08/04 CWarner Read the books & really enjoyed the movie! 5 stars
6/07/04 nick2k i liked it...then again, i'm not nitpicking since i've never touched the books. 4 stars
6/07/04 POBR25 Appeals to an older audience-best of the three so far 4 stars
6/07/04 kentsan left out MAJOR plot points, lupin's character was all wrong, where's the Quidditch Final? 1 stars
6/07/04 Lust4DetH Borefest. Ending is anti-climatic. 2 stars
6/06/04 Ty Awful, boring slow! They should fire the director, editor, and cinematographe.BLAND!!! 2 stars
6/06/04 Marjanne Catches the spirit of the book and makes the emotions much deeper. Perfect 4 stars
6/06/04 SpiritofEowyn this film lacked continuty, it made Major mistakes that any editor would cut. I hated it. 2 stars
6/06/04 bullit16 Very good, though it left out a lot of key moments and info from the book 4 stars
6/06/04 michaelb14 A little disappointing, left out some rather important plot points 3 stars
6/06/04 Rich Hermione in jeans-- at Hogworts!! 1 stars
6/06/04 Wolf Maybe it was the new Dumbledore or the puberty-voices; I'm waitng for the sequel. 3 stars
6/06/04 Captain Highcrime All that sorcery and they couldn't conjure up Roy Orbison 4 stars
6/06/04 Marce Simply magical! 5 stars
6/06/04 Chance Loved it 5 stars
6/06/04 Alex The best 4ever!!!!!! 5 stars
6/05/04 Mysterycat Too much cut out...Very choppy 3 stars
6/05/04 Tom Staight My ridiculous expectations also met! Woohoo! 5 stars
6/05/04 Harry Fan Hated the film!! Not to include the Quidditch Cup Match is a disgrace! 2 stars
6/05/04 david prigge I sometimes wonder if movie-makers actually take the time to watch the films they make 1 stars
6/05/04 Denise Worst of the 3!!! Huge disappointment, the whole story line was wrong! 1 stars
6/05/04 Christina SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES!!!!!! Its stuck in my head now, crap. 5 stars
6/05/04 FragileHalo AAAAAAH, everything was wrong and the kids got really ugly! 1 stars
6/04/04 Titus This was so very well done. 5 stars
6/03/04 Littlepurch Considering I didn't like the book, this is a fantastic adaption.LOADS left out but so wot! 5 stars
6/01/04 James Kustes This is my second favorite book next to the fifth. 5 stars
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  04-Jun-2004 (PG)
  DVD: 19-Oct-2010



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