(Check out the list so far)
The Movie: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
One Sentence Plot Summary: Harry Potter and Hermione Granger have to go back…back to the future…to help Harry’s uncle and learn some hard truths.
Why It’s on the List: I think people are beginning to have conflicting feelings about this franchise with the new play, the ongoing prequel series that is desperately trying to recapture the magic (pun intended), and J.K. Rowling constantly putting her foot in her mouth. I think people associate this series more with being able to binge it on their cable channel or streaming service of choice as opposed to seeing the films individually.
While I think all eight movies have a baseline of quality, it’s clear that the first two are designed to be mostly children’s films. They’ve got a master of family fare in Chris Columbus and he does a perfectly solid job introducing the world. Undoubtedly, his participation in casting Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson will be his legacy. In order for this franchise to have any meaning, new filmmakers would need to come in and elevate the material and bring more darkness.
Alfonso Cuaron does not have an extensive filmography, but his introduction into the Harry Potter world made a huge difference. The lighting is completely different in emphasizing greens and blues instead of oranges and yellows. The score takes on a more menacing tone. It rains a lot. Even Michael Gambon (taking over for the departed Richard Harris) adds some darkness to Dumbledore. This is the movie where I actually took Harry Potter seriously beyond just a kids movie.
I’ll address the follow-ups later, but even the time travel is about as tight and well explained as any other movie I’ve ever seen. Clearly, something is going on with Hermione appearing in various classes out of nowhere, but the idea of time travel isn’t brought up until the necessary point. I think this is ultimately the most important film of the franchise because it transitions the Potterverse into something more serialized and less episodic and also raises the stakes by introducing multiple new characters who play an important role in future sequels. Honestly, none of the other films were even considered for this list, but you can see vestiges of Cuaron’s style in them.
*JK Rowling’s Twitter…woof. This has nothing to do with the movie!
*There has been a lot of discussion about sexism and racism within this universe – far too much to get into here – but I would say the shrunken heads with dreadlocks are a clear representation of those issues.
MVP: Alfonso Cuaron’s influence can be seen throughout this movie. He’s the type of director who tried to make the actors write a character analysis essay. He strayed away from the book, stripped it for essential parts, and created a far more cohesive film than previous efforts. It’s a shame he didn’t direct any other sequels films because I think the series would have been even better.
Best Performance: These movies are always difficult to assess because the casting is top shelf. Taking every good British actor and having them be a part of the Hogwarts world is shockingly a great idea. I think Daniel Radcliffe had it tough playing Harry. Not only did he have to go through puberty right before millions of people’s eyes, but he had to play the lead character. Leads can often be boring, but he was always able to balance Harry being a chosen one figure and still being a scared boy. He also got to be angry and make mistakes, too.
Best Quote: “The very first time I saw you Harry, I recognized you immediately. Not by your scar, by your eyes. They’re your mother; Lily’s. Yes, I knew her. You mother was there for me at a time when no one else was. Not only was she a singularly gifted witch, she was also an uncommonly kind woman. She had a way of seeing the beauty in others, even, and perhaps most especially, when that person couldn’t see it in themselves. Your father, James, however, had a certain, shall we say, talent for trouble. A talent, rumor has it, he passed onto you. You’re more like them then you know, Harry. In time you’ll come to see just how much.” – Professor Lupin
Is there a sequel? Yes, five more.
How are they? I would say they are all good. Number four is probably my second favorite of the series as it continues the momentum of this one. David Yates took over for the duration and was a good shepherd if not always the most distinctive filmmaker.