Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

 

IMDB: 7.8/10


As we here at GWW reflected on the Red Sox fantastic 2013 campaign, we realized that October 2014 will mark ten years since our beloved BoSox broke the Curse in the fateful fall of 2004. As a result, we felt old. In an attempt to feel even older, we will from time to time remember other favorites celebrating their tin anniversary in 2014. Remember, the next ten years could be even better, but don’t get your hopes up.

 

The third Harry Potter story changed the game…

 

and the Dementors were the chief game changers.  Both in the novel and film version they marked one of many turning points – a turn to something darker.  Truly, something wicked this way did come, and this song still gives me the heebie-jeebies.

 
For the books, Azkaban was when Rowling’s style and vision began to really gel.  In the movies, this was the first of the Harry Potter installments I remember thinking was an excellent feature in its own right – that is, as (relatively) a standalone piece from the books.  Perhaps it had something to do with the astounding Alfonso Cuarón taking the helm for the director of the film… yes, yes it most certainly did.  If we forgive Ms. Rowling for introducing the ill-suited notion of time-travel in this installment, this is one of her more intricate works (there are many theories out there as to how these Time-Turners ‘fit’ in the HP universe, but it would’ve been nice, SOMEWHERE, in ONE of the books for her to address, explain an ounce, or at the very least bring up again!)  With Cuaron at the helm, the movie too reflected some truly fun storytelling, twists and reveals.

 

I have always loved this hallway scene.

 

The third book opened up Rowling’s world to new landscapes (secret passageways, Hogsmeade), and new nooks and crannies, peeling back the edges on her constructed magical history and giving the world the greatest magic words since “Open Sesame”: “I solemnly swear I am up to no good.”

 

Cuaron wisely followed suit and started giving us peeks into the darker corners of the Potterscape.  And let me reiterate – IT IS DARK.  And twisted.  On top of those to-this-day-terrifying-to-me Dementors, the film gave us the first look at Azkaban and the inmates residing inside, all decidedly non-children’s books concepts.  The inmates, obviously, included Sirius Black, played by the always, always, always welcome Gary Oldman.  Black’s escape further opened up the door for the murky backstory of Harry’s parents lives – and demise – and introduced us to the weird world of animal shape-shifters, werewolves and Remus Lupin, my personal favorite, played by an outstanding David Thewlis.

 

Here one must give the highest credit to Cuaron, for without him there is no telling what directional trap these movies may have fallen into.  This is in no way a slight to the first two films.  Rather, the source material was different in Azkaban and Cuaron was up to the task in a major way.  The aura he creates in the the film from the lighting, the music, the scenery – the way he FRAMED and expanded on Hogwarts visually (some from a natural expansion of the book as mentioned, mostly just some phenomenal vision by a visionary director) set the tone for each following movie.

Don’t believe me?  Just go back and just look at the opening titles of all the Harry Potter films:

 

Of course, the books themselves delved deeper and deeper into the magical depths and the rise of true evil. The cinematic flourishes laid out in Cuaron’s beautiful work undoubtedly left an undeniable effect on the subsequent films.

The third installment in the series marked an interesting dynamic for me.  The book came out when I was young and was a decided turn towards the weird (saying something for a book about MAGIC).  I remember it quickly becoming my favorite to the point where up until the movie came out, I made a tradition of reading it every Christmas Eve, as a sort of magical present to myself.  So the movie’s release in 2004 marked a unique meeting of my life past and present.  A beloved story of my pre-adolescent days was now being presented in glorious, haunting form in the visual medium I have now become so enamored with – though at the time was just beginning to appreciate.  This was the perfect storm of film, truly, for me.  The subject matter was one I already actively fanboyed.  The film told a story I adored in vivid, haunting moving-picture detail and featured not only a ridiculously good adult cast (I didn’t even get a chance to delve into Emma Thompson’s brilliance as the kooky Professor Trewlaney), but also a strong female lead I was immediately infatuated with (heaving sigh… oh, Hermione).

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About Author: Will McMahon

Will has eclectic movie, television and music tastes. He likes Batman, horror movies and Mark Ruffalo. Has seen every episode of 'The O.C.' at least twice, so take him with a large grain of salt. Accomplished beard grower. Bad movie enthusiast. Lyrical genius. Some have said he is a real-life version of Nick Miller from 'New Girl.' No word on whether or not this is a compliment.

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