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Movie Review: “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Theatrical Release: 6/4/2004

Theatrical Release: 6/4/2004

Synopsis

Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) is about to begin his third year at Hogwarts, but it is beginning to look like this year will be just as mysterious and dangerous as the last. Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) is the most wanted man in the wizarding world. He has been in Azkaban—a prison for dangerous wizards—for many years, but he has managed to escape. Many people in the wizarding world know his name and fear him, but Sirius Black has unfinished business to attend to, and that unfinished business is Harry Potter. Harry Potter has never heard of Sirius Black before now, but learning he is the likely target of Sirius Black has put him on edge.

To make matters worse, the Ministry of Magic—knowing Sirius Black's connection to Harry Potter—has stationed dark creatures called Dementors at Hogwarts this year. Their placement at Hogwarts was meant to protect the students and catch Sirius Black, but these creatures are dangerous to anyone who crosses their path. Harry, Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione (Emma Watson) are trying their best to get through the school year, while also trying to solve the mystery of Sirius Black. However, with Dementors seemingly around every corner, the introduction of the suspicous new Professor Lupin (David Thewlis), and Professor Snape (Alan Rickman) having it out for them even more than usual, the three young wizards are going to have a tough time staying out of trouble.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.

The ProsThe Cons

Time & The Plot (+8pts)

Professor Trelawny (-2pts)

Sirius Black, Lupin, and The Dementors (+8pts)

Hogsmeade (-2pts)

Hogwarts (+8pts)

Buckbeak (-3pts)

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Pro: Time & The Plot (+8pts)

I thought the filmmakers did a really good job of handling the plot for this movie. They handled the concept of time really well, as they did so in a way that provided the movie with plenty of mystery, and provided satisfying reveals to the mysterious questions that were introduced. There were also a lot of moving parts to this story, as there was Professor Lupin's story, Sirius Black’s story, the Dementors, and all of the other characters running around Hogwarts. In the book, J. K. Rowling had a seemingly infinite amount of time to flesh out all of these things, and intertwine them together, while also playing with the concept of time.

In a book, an author has is not limited by run-time, and has the room to make everything work without sacrificing other things. Often times, when books get adapted into movies, filmmakers run into the problem of not being able to develop everything properly. The filmmakers of this movie had a real challenge on their hands, regarding everything they needed to balance. However, I thought they did an excellent job of balancing all of the moving parts, and of bringing this story to the screen in an engaging, mysterious, climactic, and satisfying way.

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Con: Professor Trelawny (-2pts)

To keep this brief, I thought this character was too silly for this movie, especially considering the character was really not necessary to the story. The rest of the movie was dark, ominous, and mysterious. Then there was Professor Trelawny with her crazy, homeless lady hair, and her mad scientist glasses. She just came across as crazy, but so much so that she was just silly, and it made her character feel out of place in this movie. Emma Thompson is always great, but this role was not a very good one, and once I saw the whole movie, and realized she did not really have any impact in the overall story, I was pretty confused as to why the filmmakers wanted her in here.

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Pro: Sirius Black, Lupin, and The Dementors (+8pts)

I do not want to talk about any of these three things with too much detail, as I do not want to spoil any of their roles in this story, but I thought that all three added a lot to this movie. With Sirius Black came the primary mystery of the story. Harry Potter was trying to figure out the story of what happened to Sirius Black, and how Sirius' story was intertwined with Harry's. Also being the escaped prisoner of Azkaban, Sirius added a sense of danger to this story, a danger that hung over this movie like a dark cloud.

Then there was the mysterious Professor Lupin, who clearly had a dark secret, and I enjoyed seeing that secret uncovered. Finally, there were the Dementors, who were pretty simple in terms of their role in the story. They were really just nameless, faceless, dangerous mythical creatures that were thrown into this story, but they made things feel even more dangerous than they would have been if it was just Sirius Black on the loose. Sirius Black, Professor Lupin, and the Dementors were great additions to this franchise, and they each added an interesting extra layer to this story.

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Con: Hogsmeade (-2pts)

I was fine with exploring a new area of the wizarding world, but I thought it was pretty dumb that Harry was not able to go. For starters, he was not allowed to go because he did not have permission from a parent or guardian, which was a weird rule when considering all of the other things the students of Hogwarts were allowed to do without permission from their parents or guardians. Then there was the fact that the professors of Hogwarts literally busted Harry out of his legal guardian's custody in order for him to attend Hogwarts in the first place, so why are they suddenly enforcing rules regarding getting permission from those very same guardians? There was also the fact that I knew he was going to end up in Hogsmeade anyway, and I knew there would be no real consequences of his rebellion, which just made this part of the story seem pointless.

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Pro: Hogwarts (+8pts)

What more is there to say, other than the fact that Hogwarts and the wizarding world is a great setting filled with great characters, and I enjoyed revisiting it all. I enjoyed getting to see Harry, Ron, and Hermione getting into trouble again, and I enjoyed revisiting the mysterious and interesting wizarding school, as it now felt familiar, but it was also filled with plenty of new, magical things, which kept it interesting. Then there were the extra layers that things like Azkaban, Professor Lupin, and the Dementors added to this world. J. K. Rowling did a great job of creating a magical and fascinating world that readers would want to revisit time and time again, and I thought the filmmakers did a great job of translating that fascinating world to the screen once again. With the school itself, and the characters inside it, the filmmakers effectively established a world that I really enjoyed exploring in this movie.

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Con: Buckbeak (-3pts)

I liked seeing the character of Buckbeak, and I thought the filmmakers did a good job of making the audience care about him. That being said, I did not think the storyline around him worked. Given the danger all over Hogwarts on a normal year, the fallout of the interaction Buckbeak and Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) seemed far too severe. I also thought the method the that was used deal with the situation seemed unnecessarily dramatic, as I felt the characters in the wizarding world would have a far more effective—and far less messy—way of dealing with such things.

Ultimately, I thought the whole thing got a little too much focus, considering how insignificant the scene between Buckbeak and Draco felt. This whole storyline just felt drawn out, over-dramatized, and the method of dealing with Buckbeak seemed too barbaric for the wizarding world. It also seemed odd that the responsibility of saving the day fell on three students. This was a really good movie, but this storyline stood out to me. It stood out as one that I thought could have been handled a lot better, as there were just a number of things about it that did not work for me.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C-

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

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Grade: A- (92pts)

This movie was easily one of my favorite movies in the Harry Potter franchise. It was not perfect, but the filmmakers managed to balance a lot of interesting things, and they managed to do it almost flawlessly. There were the introductions of Sirius Black, Professor Lupin, and the Dementors, with each adding another level of mystery and suspense to this story. Then there was getting to follow Harry, Ron, and Hermione again, while getting to revisit the wizarding world, Hogwarts, and all of the other characters inside.

On top of all of that, the filmmakers—with plenty of credit going to the story written by J. K. Rowling—played with the concept of time in a really clever way. They used the concept of time in a way that added to the mystery, and made for a very satisfying climax. There was a lot that the filmmakers wanted to do in this movie, and they managed to do it all in a way that got me even more interested in this world than I already was. Sure, I had a few minor issues with the movie—such as the Buckbeak storyline, the unnecessary and illogical Hogsmeade permission thing, and the bizarre Professor Trelawny—but as a whole, this was a strong movie, and it was one of my favorites in the franchise.