Go ahead -- dive into the enchantment and imagination of Harry Potter once again. Fly with a beautifully animated hippogriff, soar to the Quidditch Cup on Harry's new Firebolt, and then, when your feet are nearly touching the ground, take a deep breath and start the countdown to The Goblet of Fire...
potter_logo.jpg - 44989 Bytes
(2004) Film Review

This page was created on June 4, 2004
This page was last updated on June 9, 2005

Review by Jenn Wright
Review by Michael Ray
Trailers, Photos
About this Film
Spiritual Connections

Dial up modems will take a few moments


Click to enlargeDirected by Alfonso Cuarón
Novel by J.K. Rowling
Screenplay by Steven Kloves

Cast (in credits order)
Daniel Radcliffe .... Harry Potter
Richard Griffiths .... Uncle Vernon
Pam Ferris .... Aunt Marge
Fiona Shaw .... Aunt Petunia
Harry Melling .... Dudley Dursley
Adrian Rawlins .... James Potter
Geraldine Somerville .... Lily Potter
Lee Ingleby .... Stan Shunpike
Lenny Henry .... Shrunken Head
Jimmy Gardner .... Ernie the Bus Driver
Gary Oldman .... Sirius Black
Jim Tavaré .... Tom the Innkeeper
Robert Hardy .... Cornelius Fudge
Click to enlarge Abby Ford .... Young Witch Maid
Rupert Grint .... Ron Weasley
Emma Watson .... Hermione Granger
Oliver Phelps .... George Weasley
James Phelps .... Fred Weasley
Chris Rankin .... Percy Weasley
Julie Walters .... Mrs. Molly Weasley
Bonnie Wright .... Ginny Weasley
Mark Williams .... Mr. Arthur Weasley
David Thewlis .... Professor Lupin
Devon Murray .... Seamus Finnegan
Warwick Davis .... Wizard

Produced by
Michael Barnathan .... executive producer
Chris Carreras .... associate producer
Chris Columbus .... producer
Paula DuPré Pesman .... associate producer
David Heyman .... producer
Callum McDougall .... executive producer
Mark Radcliffe .... producer
Tanya Seghatchian .... executive producer

Original Music by John Williams
Cinematography by Michael Seresin
Film Editing by Steven Weisberg

MPAA: Rated PG for frightening moments, creature violence and mild language.
Runtime: 142 min

For rating reasons, go to FILMRATINGS.COM, and MPAA.ORG.
Parents, please refer to PARENTALGUIDE.ORG

Trailers, Photos
Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban
John Williams

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Book 3)
by J. K. Rowling, Mary GrandPré (Illustrator)

For most children, summer vacation is something to look forward to. But not for our 13-year-old hero, who's forced to spend his summers with an aunt, uncle, and cousin who detest him. The third book in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series catapults into action when the young wizard "accidentally" causes the Dursleys' dreadful visitor Aunt Marge to inflate like a monstrous balloon and drift up to the ceiling. Fearing punishment from Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon (and from officials at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry who strictly forbid students to cast spells in the nonmagic world of Muggles), Harry lunges out into the darkness with his heavy trunk and his owl Hedwig.

As it turns out, Harry isn't punished at all for his errant wizardry. Instead he is mysteriously rescued from his Muggle neighborhood and whisked off in a triple-decker, violently purple bus to spend the remaining weeks of summer in a friendly inn called the Leaky Cauldron. What Harry has to face as he begins his third year at Hogwarts explains why the officials let him off easily. It seems that Sirius Black--an escaped convict from the prison of Azkaban--is on the loose. Not only that, but he's after Harry Potter. But why? And why do the Dementors, the guards hired to protect him, chill Harry's very heart when others are unaffected? Once again, Rowling has created a mystery that will have children and adults cheering, not to mention standing in line for her next book. Fortunately, there are four more in the works. (Ages 9 and older) --Karin Snelson

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Thirteen year-old Harry Potter (DANIEL RADCLIFFE) has reluctantly spent yet another summer with the Dursleys, his dismal relatives, “behaving himself” and not practicing any magic. That is, until Uncle Vernon’s bullying sister, Aunt Marge (PAM FERRIS), comes to visit. Aunt Marge has always been particularly horrible to Harry and this time pushes him so far that he “accidentally” causes her to inflate like a monstrous balloon and drift away!

Fearing punishment from his Aunt and Uncle (and repercussions from Hogwarts and the Ministry of Magic, which strictly forbids students from using magic in the non-magic world), Harry escapes into the night.

He is promptly picked up by the Knight Bus, a fantastic triple-decker purple vehicle that whisks him off to the Leaky Cauldron pub. Upon arrival, Harry is met by the Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge, who inexplicably doesn’t punish the teenager for his errant wizardry and instead insists that he spend the night at the Leaky Cauldron before heading back to Hogwarts for his third year of study.

It quickly transpires that a dangerous and enigmatic wizard, Sirius Black (GARY OLDMAN), has escaped Azkaban prison and is believed to be searching for Harry. Legend has it that Black was responsible for leading Lord Voldemort to Harry’s parents and ultimately to their subsequent deaths; it is also believed that he is determined to kill Harry too.

To make matters worse, Hogwarts is playing host to the Dementors, the terrifying Azkaban guards who are stationed at the school in an attempt to protect the students from Black. The Dementors suck the souls from their victims and, unfortunately for Harry, they seem to have more of an effect on him than the rest of his classmates. Their ominous presence chills the young wizard to the bone, rendering him virtually helpless, until Professor Lupin (DAVID THEWLIS), the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, trains Harry in how to use the Patronus Charm to shield himself from the Dementors’ paralyzing effects. Meanwhile, Harry’s third year at Hogwarts is filled with exciting new creatures like Buckbeak, a magical half-horse, half-eagle creature called a “Hippogriff”; eerie encounters with Divination Professor Sibyll Trelawney (EMMA THOMPSON) and the omen of death known as the “Grim”; and breathtaking adventures, including clandestine visits to the wizarding village of Hogsmeade, deciphering secrets hidden in the enchanted Marauder’s Map, and a terrifying trip to the Shrieking Shack (the most haunted dwelling in Britain).

Jenn is a writer with degrees in literature and theology. She will be co-writing the Narnia coverage for Hollywood Jesus, which will be debuting the summer of 2004 in anticipation of the first movie's 2005 release.

Go ahead -- dive into the enchantment and imagination of Harry Potter once again. Fly with a beautifully animated hippogriff, soar to the Quidditch Cup on Harry's new Firebolt, and then, when your feet are nearly touching the ground, take a deep breath and start the countdown to The Goblet of Fire...

Our favorite wizard trio isn't all that's growing up.

Just when you thought they couldn't get any better, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban delivers a plethora of fun and fantasy for adults and children alike. From the opening musical sequence to the cleverly animated credits at the end, Harry Potter fans are in for 136 minutes worth of sheer treat.

potter2.jpeg - 5616 BytesWhile this film tends to depart from its textual counterpart more than the previous two, most of the detail- and time-shuffling differences make sense by the time the credits are rolling (after all of us bibliophiles have gotten past the initial disorientation they caused). Also, though somewhat darker (and, perhaps scarier, particularly for younger children) than the first films in the series, Prisoner of Azkaban also carries a heavier dose of humor than we've yet seen, a good bit of which centers around the budding adolescence of the students. Other nuances include seeing the students in "street" clothes (rather than their wizarding robes) for the first time -- which fleshes out certain details from the books that have thus far been largely glossed over. The Weasleys' poverty, for instance, becomes more apparent, with Ron's ill-fitting and somewhat worn-looking clothing, and the infamous Weasley Christmas Sweaters donned by all of the Weasley children. And Hermione's nascent femininity delicately reveals itself as well, making the occasional (subconscious) grips of Ron's hand or arm that much more endearing.

potter3.jpeg - 5616 BytesOnce you get past the physical differences in the young characters (Neville is long and thin, rather than short and wide, and Harry's face is rapidly losing that roundish look), the other evidence of maturation shows itself -- that is, the remarkable growth in ability and confidence of the three young stars. Their skills are growing with them, and it is truly a delight to see child actors gently becoming Actors in the truest sense of the word. In addition, the casting of the newcomers is impeccable -- from goggle-eyed Emma Thompson as Professor Trelawney, to David Thewlis as the quiet, suspect Professor Lupin; from fierce-looking Gary Oldman as the fiercely loyal Sirius Black, to Timothy Spall as the rat Peter Pettigrew -- there is no doubt that the cast is first-rate. And while Richard Harris' Albus Dumbledore is a gentler, more ethereal professor, Michael Gambon does a fine job of filling Dumbledore's wizard-slippers. In short, director Alfonso Cuaron took an existing abundance of amazing talent and used it to equally amazing ends in creating this whimsical yet somehow down-to-earth film.

So, aside from the magnificent acting, exceptional CGI, brilliant music, superb cinematography, and world-class story-telling, what are the redeeming qualities of this magic-filled movie? Is there more here than a decent story well told?

potter1.jpeg - 5616 BytesIn a word, Yes. First, we hear the word "mercy" several times towards the end of the film. Admittedly, it may be a different flavor of mercy than we may be used to, but Harry does refuse to allow the life of a guilty man (Pettigrew) to be taken by his father's friends (Lupin and Black). However, his reasoning behind this act of "mercy" may well merit some discussion. He prevents the execution, as he states, in order to keep his father's friends from becoming killers, not for the sake of preserving the life of the rat Pettigrew. So one might question whether granting life in this case is truly merciful, since, as he also states, his fate is with the dementors. (See the movie -- you'll get it.) At any rate, mercy is mentioned, and the topic may warrant a thought or two, particular for children who may be uncertain about the very idea.

Also important, in the books as well as in the films, there is an undeniable theme of sacrifice which, while somewhat offset by deliberate rule-breakage ("for the right reasons"), cannot be ignored. A few examples: Hermione risks her safety (as well as her status as a model student) in order to rescue Ron from the Black "dog" -- not to mention her feverish attempts to rescue Buckbeak, the hippogriff, from the executioners. Ron risks his own life when he attempts to warn his two friends of the danger they're in when facing Sirius Black for the first time. Sirius Black risks his life trying to protect the kids from Professor Lupin, who had become a werewolf. Professor Snape risks his life to rescue the three students from Black and Lupin (hoping, all the while, to get them in major trouble). And Harry puts his sanity on the line, defending Sirius from the looming dementors (which, by the way, give the distinct impression that they could -- and would love to -- suck the soul out of any of us).

And then, of course, there is the basis of the whole story: a mother and father who died saving their infant son from Lord Voldemort -- a bold sacrifice which gave the baby an unmatched source of power against evil. (Sound familiar?)

So go ahead -- dive into the enchantment and imagination of Harry Potter once again. Fly with a beautifully animated hippogriff, soar to the Quidditch Cup on Harry's new Firebolt, and then, when your feet are nearly touching the ground, take a deep breath and start the countdown to The Goblet of Fire (due out in 2005). Don't worry -- we'll be plopped in our theater seats, breathless with anticipation, before you can say "Twist the Time-Turner Three Times Through the Thickest Thicket" ten times fast.

Review by Michael Ray
Email: dramaman23@yahoo.com
Web site: Beyond Film

Mike is a film reviewer with a background in community theatre directing and acting. He is working on his Masters degree at Denver Seminary and has a B.A. in English and a minor in Theatre from Colorado Christian University. He is a musician, preacher, artist, puppeteer, editor, and writer.
Click to enlargeThere comes a time in the life of all boys and girls when the wistful days of childhood begin to blur into the awkward world of growing up. The high-pitched song of a child in the sandbox is replaced by the cracking voice of a young adult in junior high. Just as the humans in this series are growing up and advancing in their maturity, so the films themselves should get better with each new addition. However, as any film buff knows, most series do the opposite, the glory of the original regresses upon further entries. Thankfully, in the Harry Potter series, this hasn't happened. The third film, The Prisoner of Azkaban, is a fantasy gem that reaches its glorious adolescence along with its young stars.

Click to enlargeCredit director Alfonso Cuaron for Potter's new step into maturity. This director brings a fresh style and dark moodiness to the proceedings. The artistic design of the film is different from its two predecessors: pale light washes the walls inside many rooms, looming clocks chime with a gothic stature, and skulls and bones decorate the fringes of many shots. Gone are the neatly trimmed lawns at Hogwarts; the on-location shots capture a more rugged outdoor landscape. Strange, exotic creatures appear, including an amazingly believable hippogriff. Costumes are also different, as the kids have put away their classic school uniforms for a more contemporary teenage look. With his best work in recent years, John Williams' score adds to the magical, creepy tone of the movie.

Click to enlargeThe core child actors have continued to improve in each movie, especially Daniel Radcliffe. He seems much more comfortable in front of the camera now, and his chemistry with the other kids is fun. Speaking of chemistry, Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) have some ever-so-slight romantic subtext to explore this time. Other notables are David Thewlis as Professor Lupin, the new Defense Against the Dark Arts instructor, and Michael Gambon as Dumbledore (replacing the late Richard Harris). Gary Oldman also has a brief turn as Sirius Black.

Click to enlargeHarry (Radcliffe) is indeed no longer the wide-eyed boy of the Sorcerer’s Stone or Chamber of Secrets. When teenage anger and insult lead to a humorous encounter with the Dursleys and his visiting Aunt Marge, Harry leaves home. He ends up back at Hogwarts, where he learns that an escaped prisoner, Sirius Black, is on the loose and may be after him.

Part of the joy of the Potter series comes through the incredible plotlines that spring from the mind of J.K. Rowling, and Azkaban's twists and turns are no exception. This is a mystery, fantasy, time-travel science fiction, and prep school flick all rolled into one. Unfortunately, while the overarching plot is indeed intriguing, some of the finer details (such as new character relationships) are left unexplained and can be confusing to the nonreaders in the audience. In this sense, The Chamber of Secrets was superior, for the story translated better onto the screen.

Click to enlargeOverall, the best part of the Harry Potter series is the grand themes that Rowling weaves throughout the stories. She uses bits of mythology, fairy tale, and folk stories in her work, which have always been vehicles to carry profound human truth and morals. In addition to incorporating her wide knowledge of British folklore and history, she includes stories and characters from other cultures as well (Look for some of Cuaron's Mexican influences). Rowling thus follows in a grand tradition of using fairy stories to convey Truth.

Click to enlargeA major theme running through Azkaban is the nature of identity. In Harry's case, he continues to identify with his parents, specifically his father, and Harry learns that some of his father's gifts and abilities are his as well. We as humans all share in the image of our Father God and His image remains irrevocably part of us. All the love, joy, peace, happiness, and goodness in the world identify us with our Creator.

The Professor Lupin character tries to veil the darker side of his identity because of the destruction it causes, but he cannot completely hide it and it's eventually revealed. We all have a dark part of our nature that we try to conceal from others. This part of our identity doesn't match the image of our Creator. For Harry, he wants to hide his fear and be brave like his father. Then there's the character Peter Pettigrew, who ultimately becomes more like an animal than a human as his dark identity consumes him.

Click to enlargeThe nature of thoughts is also an important theme in Azkaban. Positive, hopeful thoughts are the only defense against the terrifying Dementors. Harry can defeat the Dementors only by focusing on uplifting beliefs. Also, the shadow-dwelling Boggarts are eliminated through humorous thoughts and laughter. The Bible tells us to focus on virtuous thoughts (Philippians 4:8) and even to change the evil thoughts we have about life in general (Romans 12:1,2). Like Harry, our minds must be transformed in order to overcome evil and achieve victory.

The universal themes, the sharp directing, and a twisting plot combine to make Prisoner the most mature Potter film yet. It’s a joy to watch these characters grow into their place in movie history. Adolescence can be an awkward stage, but in this case, the film handles it with ease.with ease.

Michael Ray's BLOG


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