Review: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban



Alfonso Cuarón


Steven Kloves (Novel: J.K. Rowling)


141 min.


Daniel Radcliffe, Gary Oldman, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Julie Walters, Mark Williams, David Thewlis, Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane, Tom Felton, Emma Thompson, Julie Christie, Timothy Spall

MPAA Rating

PG (For frightening moments, creature violence and mild language)

Buy/Rent Movie



Source Material


The new year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry features new troubles, new characters and a new director. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban takes a new direction as the third installment kicks the series into high gear.

Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) are back for the latest Harry Potter film based on J.K. Rowling’s popular book series. This time out, Lord Voldemort (he who must not be named) is nowhere to be seen, but the man who allowed Harry’s parents to be killed has escaped from Azkaban prison. Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) has a special connection to Harry that no one will reveal. Even when Ron’s dad Arthur (Mark Williams) makes Harry promise “not to go looking” for Black, the allusion is that Harry might want to go in search of him.

After the death of Richard Harris, Dumbledore has been recast and this time, he’s more like his character in the book. While Harris brought a quiet dignity to the role, Michael Gambon brings an outspoken mirth to the character. Harris’ performance is preferred in this critic’s book, but a case can be made for the quality of Gambon’s work.

The rest of the professors from the original films return, Snape (Alan Rickman), McGonagall (Maggie Smith) and now Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane), who’s been made the teacher of the Care of Magical Creatures class. Snape and McGonagall have much more limited roles in this chapter, but Hagrid continues to be a “large” part of the film. Meanwhile, two new teachers make their entrance into Hogwarts history. Sybil Trelawney (characterized brilliantly by Emma Thompson) is the teacher of the Divinations class and the new Defense Against the Dark Arts Teacher is the enigmatic Professor Lupin (David Thewlis). Both actors are full of vim and their vigorous portrayals of their characters are notably superior to those of their fellow cast members.

Director Alfonso Cuaron, whose y tu mama tambien and A Little Princess show he has a great range for children-friendly fantasy and adult-friendly entertainment. Here, he blends both using a great deal of symbolism to connect the various scenes of the film together. Cuaron does a superb job with the cast and creates a film that feels realistic, unlike the first two films which were great fantasy pictures but not movies that one could easily relate to. Here, we can feel Harry’s pain better than ever before and understand what it feels like to be in his shoes.

Just like Hagrid when he’s faced with the certain death of his faithful pet Buckbeak, the audience falls into the emotional trap that Cuaron creates. With The Prisoner of Azkaban , he weaves a creative web of tension, intrigue and atmosphere. For once the terror of what could be coming right around the corner is palpable and accessible. This is the film lover’s Harry Potter and will not easily be outdone unless Cuaron returns for a later installment.

Review Written

July 9, 2004

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