Warner Bros sure made some money on this deal. As popular of a book franchise as the Harry Potter series is, it only made sense that the movies would be successful as well. The third movie in the series definitely marked a change in the series. First off is the fact that, due to the death of Richard Harris, Michael Gambon was now playing the role of Dumbledore. The second is, much like with the books, this movie marked a serious turn to a darker story that was not necessarily appropriate for children. With that being said, let’s get right into today’s movie, Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban.
The plot: After accidentally using magic on his Uncle Vernon’s sister, Harry Potter runs away from the Dursley’s home and makes his way to The Leaky Cauldron in London. Once there, he finds the Minister of Magic waiting for him, who informs him that Harry must be careful and not wander outside of The Leaky Cauldron due to Sirius Black, an escaped prisoner, roaming in the area, a warning further cautioned by Arthur Weasley the next day. On the train ride to Hogwarts, the train is suddenly stopped and dementors, the spectral guards of Azkaban, search the train. When a dementor approaches the compartment the Harry, Ron, and Hermione, the dementor’s presence causes Harry to faint but he is saved by Professor Lupin, the new Defense Against The Dark Arts teacher. At the school, Dumbledore informs the students that the dementors will be surrounding the school grounds as they search for Sirius Black. Dumbledore also announces that Hagrid is now the new teacher of Care Of Magical Creatures, but his first class is ruined when Malfoy provokes and is subsequently attacked by Buckbeak, the hippogriff that Hagrid is showcasing. Later in the year, the Fat Lady’s portrait is damaged and the lady herself is found hiding in another painting, claiming that Sirius Black was inside the castle. During a quidditch match, Harry winds up being attacked by the dementors and falls off his broom. Wanting to be able to fend off another dementor attack, Harry asks Professor Lupin for help and is taught the Patronus Charm. Fred and George give Harry the Marauder’s Map, which he uses to sneak into Hogsmeade with his friends, but while there, Harry learns that not only was Sirius responsible for his parent’s death, but he is also Harry’s Godfather. One night, Harry is looking at the Marauder’s Map when he spies the name Peter Pettigrew wandering around. Harry goes looking for him but runs into Snape and Lupin, who takes the Map from Harry. Harry, Ron, and Hermione go to comfort Hagrid the day Buckbeak is to be executed but he sends them out the back when, Dumbledore, the Minister, and the executioner arrive. Ron’s rat Scabbers tries to run away and when Ron catches up to him, he is attacked by a large dog and dragged into a hole beneath the Whomping Willow. Harry and Hermione follow but when they get there, they discover Sirius Black waiting for them. Harry attacks Sirius but Remus arrives to prevent Harry from killing Sirius, then after hugging Sirius, Snape shows up and plans on bringing both Sirius and Lupin back to Hogwarts. Harry knocks Snape out and learns from Sirius and Lupin that Peter is the one who betrayed his parents and that he was disguised as Ron’s rat. Unfortunately, while they are bringing Pettigrew to Hogwarts, Remus turns into a werewolf and attacks the group before Sirius manages to lure him away. Harry chases after them and winds up being attacked by a swarm of dementors but is rescued by someone using a Patronus Charm. When Harry comes too, he finds himself, Ron and Hermione in the infirmary where Dumbledore comes to talk to them. When Dumbledore leaves, Hermione uses her time turner necklace to send herself and Harry back in time, where they are able to save not only Sirius, but Buckbeak as well.
Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban was highly praised by the critics, earning a 91% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Many critics praised the darker, more mature tones in this film and several cited it as being one of the greatest fantasy films to date. Like the other films, this was also a success at the box office. However, despite all the critical praise for the movie, it was the lowest earning film in the series, earning over $796 million worldwide. This still made it the 45th highest grossing film of all time, which means that every movie in the Harry Potter series is in the top 50 highest grossing films of all time.
This was one of my favorite of the Harry Potter movies. The three main stars were great, truly appearing to be the best of friends (which they actually could have been). Michael Gambon did an excellent job as Dumbledore, not trying to be like Richard Harris but putting his own spin on the character. The story was very good with some differences from the book but those actually helped make the movie more exciting. The darker tones in the movie fit not only the darker tones of the book, but also Harry and his friend’s leaving their childhood and entering into their teenage years. The special effects were great. The scene where the dementor approached the train compartment was incredible. In fact, most of the scenes with the dementors were great, as were the scenes with Buckbeak. The look they gave for the werewolf was different than most interpretations but actually fit with the more magic based realm of the movie. A great movie that is worth watching over and over again.
Rating: 5 out of 5