Sunday, January 22, 2006


HARRY POTTER & THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN Daniel Radcliffe Directed by Alfonso Cuaron
Reviewed by Byron Merritt


I’m going to admit something here that I probably shouldn’t: I haven’t read ANY of the books in the HARRY POTTER series (don’t hurt me!) It might be because everyone says "Oh you just HAVE to read this!" that puts me off. I’m not the type of person to follow all the lemmings over the cliff. I tend to enjoy more obscure stuff. But I digress...

What I don’t mind doing, though, is watching cinema and I’ve thus far seen all of the "Potter films." And this one I found to be quite different. Although the second in the series (THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS, 2002) was pretty dark, it pales (brightens?) in comparison to this third installment.

Harry is breaking the rules and barely getting away with it. He’s using his powers outside of school and in general muggles population (he causes a relative to inflate to great size and drift away). And when he can no longer stand staying with his aunt and uncle, Harry decides to leave and seek refuge in the outside world. The trouble, though, is that a dark creature seems to be stalking him. Was that a wolf peering at Harry through the brush?

Eventually Harry makes it back to Hogwarts and discovers that a psycho prisoner—Sirius Black, played by the wonderful Gary Oldman (BATMAN BEGINS, 2005)—has escaped his cage and may be stalking him. Was Sirius responsible in some way for Harry’s parents’ death?

Dementos, dark specters that resemble wraiths, are assigned to the perimeter of Hogwarts and Harry has some very uneasy feelings about them. They seem inordinately interested in him, too.

With the help of Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint, HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE, 2001) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson, HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE, 2001) Harry is led down a dark path, a path believed to contain the secret to his mother’s and father’s death.

Friends and enemies are often intertwined within the same characters as this third story unravels. Director Alfonso Cuaron (Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN, 2001) gives some excellent direction to a film that could’ve easily gotten out of control. With the multiple twists and turns (i.e., time travel, werewolf friends, etc.) this film flowed smoothly and was packed with angst and action.

The special effects (specifically the early bus ride) are pulled off nicely and give a slight sense of the whimsical without going overboard. But the previously mentioned wraith-like Dementos are pretty creepy and could easily freak-out children under 12 years old (so be careful, parents.)

Again, not having read any of the books in this series, I have no idea where the storyline is going. But things tend to be darkest before the storm (forgive the cliche), then they clear. So my assumption is that things will come to a head very soon for Harry and his Hogwart friends. Damn! I might have to pick up one of the novels now!


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