“I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.” Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) is the third installment to the Harry Potter franchise based on the popular book series by J. K. Rowling. Our three heroes Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint), are back in their third year at Hogwarts when dangerous criminal Sirius Black, played by Gary Oldman, has escaped from Azkaban prison with the intention of bringing chaos to the wizarding world. The film features new director Alfonso Cuarón and the casting of a new Dumbledore played by Michael Gambon. YouTubers Chris Stuckmann, Jeremy Jahns, Jeremy Hannaford and Nathaniel Wayne from the channel Council of Geeks, share their retrospective reviews on the magical film.
Something Alfonso Cuarón brought to this movie was a layer of richness that the previous two films didn’t have. There are so many small moments in this film that build this world that add a level of magic and fantasy to it.
Immediately YouTuber Chris Stuckmann notices a vast difference in the tone and mood of the film compared to the first two, which were directed by Christopher Columbus. New director Alfonso Cuarón brings a much darker and grittier tone to the film through the colors, lighting, and intricate details needed to portray the growth in the characters and storyline, according to all the YouTubers. YouTuber Nathaniel Wayne finds the new direction in filming, a welcome change from the two previous films being more of a “Harry Potter theme park-type universe” where everything is new and wondrous, to an atmosphere much more realistic and lived-in to that characters that inhabit the world.
Let’s be blunt about it, Alfonso Cuarón is a much better filmmaker than Christopher Columbus is. It’s as simple as that. Chris Columbus is a director who just shoots the script you give him … he doesn’t bring a lot of his own flavor to it. Alfonso Cuarón on the other hand definitely brings his own feel, his own flavor, he’s doing his own thing.
In agreement, YouTuber Jeremy Jahns also feels the new tone of the film amplifies the sense of wonder, mystery and even beauty throughout each scene. Everything down to the smallest details capture what the film needs to progress as Harry, Hermione and Ron get older and are faced with more serious and difficult obstacles.
Tonally speaking you look at this and there’s so many shots that are just magical. When Harry is riding Buckbeak the Hippogriff and his claws are just dangling in the water, it’s just beautiful. There’s also the imagery of the dementors around Hogwarts, I was like I want that painting on my wall. It’s beautiful in almost a horror aspect kind of way.
Much of Cuarón’s visual aesthetics are so encapsulating, it is then carried out through to the end of the film series. Like many who have watched the films during their youth and are now re-watching them through an adult lens, YouTuber Jeremy Hannaford changes his tone from least favorite film to one of the most favorite films and praises the director’s efforts in creating the closest representation of J.K. Rowling’s vision from text to screen claiming “the cinematography is alive. It has a pulse.”
Alfonso basically took what Columbus had done, tossed out everything that had been established for him, did it himself, and made it better.
Another aspect of the film Hannaford very much enjoys is the added horror element with the introduction of the soul-sucking dementors and the traditional werewolf lore represented by Professor Lupin, played by actor David Thewlis.
The horror of the first two films was kind of kiddy. This one, it spooks you. Not only with the dementors but also the representation of the werewolves, when Lupin turns into a werewolf. It’s kind of a mix of the traditional style of werewolf as well as the wendigo, the American wendigo.
With the addition of the added horror element to the film, Stuckmann makes notes of the editing style which also brings a feeling of suspense and a “sitting on the edge of your seat” type anticipation to some of the scenes including when Harry first encounters the dementors and when he is taking the Night Bus to the Leaky Cauldron.
When Harry is walking through this very deserted area in the middle of the night, I instantly realize this film is going to be better than the last two just on the merits of the editing alone. This is a very suspensefully edited film.
Time travel is a tricky element to implement into films. Waynes finds the time travel usage fails to give enough details and backgrounds of the plot for the audience to understand the character situation. He uses the example of when Harry thinks he is being saved from the dementors by his father who uses the patronus charm against the creatures. However, when the film uses the time travel element to fill in the logical gaps, we realize it was not Harry’s father and was actually the time traveling Harry himself who produces the patronus thought to be from his father. In the book series, all the details are explained; however, due to the condensed nature of films, there are no explanations given, leaving the audience somewhat confused unless they have previous knowledge from the book series.
It doesn’t make sense because they don’t explain the things that need to be explained in order to understand why Harry would have ever thought that was his father. So Harry sounds insane when he says I saw my dad save me because we have no reason to understand why he thought that. That drives me absolutely up the wall.
On the other hand, Stuckmann feels that same time travel scene brings a unique storytelling technique that emphasizes the importance of certain details in enhancing the mystery of the plot.
I absolutely love the back in time sequence. It feels so in the moment. There’s something incredibly visceral about this, so important, so drastically imperative about this sequence. There’s just something about the way its edited together, acted, directed … that just makes it so exciting this entire finale is so well done.
Ultimately Stuckmann gives the film an A rating, citing it as one of the best Harry Potter films. Singing a similar tune, upon first watching the film in theaters during its initial release, Jahns was not a fan. Now after re-watching, it is one of his most favorite films out of the franchise: “I watched this movie in awe. My jaw was dropped for a lot of it.” For Wayne, though it is his favorite book in the series, it is not his favorite film due to the stickiness of creating a cohesive time travel story on screen. A step up from the first two films that Hannaford says “still hits all of the emotional notes that you got when you read the book.”
YouTubers Chris Stuckmann, Jeremy Jahns, Jeremy Hannaford and Nathaniel Waynes from the channel Council of Geeks, rate and review the latest movies and TV shows on their channels regularly.