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Quick-Thoughts: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

Screened at Cinépolis • ??? Viewing 

Sure, you can keep on mentioning the brilliance of Alfonso Cuarón’s directing in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban with his novel POVs, scoping long-takes, or character mimicking camera gestures, but let’s not turn a blind eye to how congenial his capitalization on newly endeavored teenage angst is in this third year at Hogwarts. Harry Potter is absolutely sick to the stomach of his Aunt and Uncle, even going as far as to threaten Vernon Dursley with his wand as he dashes furiously out into the coldness of the night solely so that he can find a way out of the hellhole. 

“I don’t care; anywhere is better than here.” – Harry

Ron and Herminoe’s hostile but subtly flirtatious quarrelling is amped up to comical degrees in Prisoner of Azkaban too, showcasing obviously a growth in hormones. In general, however, it seems as if Cuarón tried his very best to showcase the spontaneous douchiness of these developing teenagers even in the most ordinary of scenes:

“We better take this back.” – Harry

“I’m not going back.” – Ron

“Fine.” – Harry

Not to mention, all of this is complemented by some of the sharpest dialogue this franchise has ever laid ears on.

“Actually, it has nothing to do with the father; it’s all to do with the mother. You see it all the time with dogs: if there’s something wrong with the bitch then there’s something wrong with the pup.” – Aunt Marge

Plus, if this isn’t some of the fastest pacing I’ve ever experienced in a blockbuster before, then I don’t know what is. It’s a bit off-putting at first because we’ve just come from the often sluggish Chamber of Secrets, but once you warm up to the meteoric movement of Prisoner of Azkaban, it truly becomes commendable compared to any other output in the franchise. 

The special effects in Year 3 are shrewdly incorporated more so than any of the other entries in this franchise. The slow-mo/ratio-warping/fast-mo computer graphics in the addictively crafted Knight Bus sequence are done to absolute perfection. Remus Lupin’s “boggart” class lesson may just be the funniest scene in all of the Harry Potter movies thanks to the creepy CGI creatures that they dexterously modify into looking “ridiculous” — or the funniest scene could just be that momentary portion where Harry tells Ron to tell the spiders in his dream that he doesn’t want to tap-dance. I appreciate how the magical map Harry uses throughout the feature-length is incorporated to rev-up an eccentric way of persuading suspense. The gnarly human to creature/vise-versa transformations are epic, as well. The traumatizing design of the life-sucking “dementors” will furthermore live on as a continuous staple in this saga. The character doubling during the time travel moments have aged immaculately, on top of all this too.

John Williams’ best jab at a Harry Potter score happens to be a part of Prisoner of Azkaban as well, so there’s that.

I’m quite determined that the third act of Prisoner of Azkaban is one of my favorite third acts in the history of franchise blockbusters. It’s honestly almost up there with The Empire Strikes Back, The Fellowship of the Ring, Raiders of the Lost Ark, or Judgement Day’s climax/finale. There’s admittedly some conveniences plastered throughout this climax that pull back by enjoyment of it a tad bit and Harry’s sudden love for Sirius feels too sudden, as well. But, what makes this culmination so damn exceptional boils down to how Alsonso Cuarón brilliantly executes the drama of it and furthermore executes the time travel elements that help make this venture appear so grand, blowing other time-manipulative franchise oeuvres such as X-Men: Days of Future Past or Avengers: Endgame completely out of the water. I think it was a genuine benefit that the film pulled a Back to the Future Part II maneuver by allowing us to observe the past or something we’ve already seen before concurring simultaneously with the newer perspectives of the time travelers. 

Gary Oldman is thoroughly incredible as Sirius Black even with the limited amount of screentime he’s given; every performer in general though seems to be giving it their all when it comes to conveying genuine vexation during the finale. The confrontation between Harry Potter, Ron Weasly, Hermione Granger, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, Peter Pettigrew and Severous Snape still stands to be my favorite sequence in this entire franchise, even if their unrealistically coded dialogue can occasionally take one out; it’s certainly overlookable though thanks to the emotional spiel of neatly visualized reveals that pack quite the gripping punch. This entire phenomenon sort of reminds me as if the Snape vs Quirrell scenario from Sorcerer’s Stone was pulled off more cleverly, as seen in how the narrative discloses the misconception between Sirius Black’s role and Peter Pettigrew’s.

It’s baffling that Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is almost twenty-years-old, yet, it’s totality is so far ahead that even if it came out today, it’d still probably shock the contemporary. There may be five more Harry Potter movies left that I need to rewatch, but I have a pretty confident feeling that they won’t be able to top what Alfonso Cuarón nailed in the third entry of these cinematic adaptations.

Verdict: B+

Harry Potter Ranked

“Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” is now playing in select theaters.

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