Things get darker in the latest Harry Potter flick. And that's a good thing.
Yesterday, we went off after closing time to watch the latest Harry Potter movie, Prisoner of Azkaban. The group consisted of eternal Potterhead Vin, Dino, Ralph and myself. Carl was also somewhere in the theater that night, unfortunately we weren't able to link up until after the showing.
Anyway, here's the review.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban takes place yet again another year after the last film's events. After he unintentionally casts a spell on a dreadful relative of the muggle Dursley family, young wizard Harry Potter (David Radcliffe) leaves his unhappy foster home in a rage. One quite perilous ride on the magical Knight Bus later, however, and Harry's back on his way to Hogwarts with a bit of sobering news- Sirius Black (played with sinister glee by Gary Oldman), a convicted murderer in the wizarding world, has apparenlty escaped the inescapable prison of Azkaban. It's only later, after meeting up with his dachinkos Hermione Granger (the blossoming Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) that he is informed of the full implications of this event. Black, apparently, was a disciple of YOU KNOW WHO, and the first thing on his agenda after escaping Azkaban is to kill a certain young wizard with a mark on his forehead.
I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this latest HP film, more so that I actually got to read the book. New director Alfonso Cuaron does MARVELOUS things with the camera and imagery of Hogwarts- I've never seen the place look so magical as it does in POA. Despite the flawless production, gorgeous locales and eye candy though, Cuaron's focus is always on the characters, and this shines though and produces quite exceptional performances from the now-veteran cast.
It's great to see the young leads still in the film, despite the fact that they are all getting taller and older. The familiar faculty are also present, notably Alan Rickman's venomous Professor Snape and Robbie Coltrane's likeable giant groundskeeper-turned-professor Reubius Hagrid. The new Dumbledore, Michael Gambon has big boots to fill, taking over from the late, great Richard Harris, but I quite liked him. He has the look down, and the new Dumbledore shows more spritely charm and wizardly power- something missed a bit due to the health of the previous actor. As for the other new faces, David Thewlis for me is a convincing and sympathetic Lupin, the yet again ill-fated DADA professor of this chapter, while Emma Thompson is a bit too kooky, but quite engaging as Professor Trewlaney.
What ultimately makes POA work though, is that it isn't as slavish to the books as the previous films were. Granted, since I read Azkaban I was kinda looking for stuff like more explanation of the Animagi, the revelation of the significance of the Marauders' Mapmakers identities made more clear and so forth... but again, the film doesn't bog down because of it. In fact, despite the obvious length of the movie, I was rooted to my seat, captivated.
I also liked POA for the overall darker look- the frequent rainy days, the use of the Whomping Willow to show the passage of time, the flying camera, the texture of everything in Hogwarts, Cuaron's mastery of darkness, the amazing realization of the Marauder's Map... this is a great film to watch on DVD, in an aircon room, with snacks and a soda, on a rainy day. Obviously, I'll be getting this disc when it becomes available.
Wonderful movie, with sights, sounds and feelings full of magic, wonder, humor, frights, menace, adventure and youthful energy that a Potter movie should. My favorite in the series, so far. Get your friends together in a prison break and watch this one now, now, NOW!