Released in 2004, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is the third installment of the Harry Potter films. Directed by Alfonso Cuarón and based on the books by J.K. Rowling. It is widely considered one of the best movies in the franchise, partly due to Cuarón’s fresh and innovative approach to the story and characters.
The story of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban follows Harry (played by Daniel Radcliffe) and his friends Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) as they begin their third year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
The story begins with Harry accidentally inflating his Aunt Marge after casting on a spell on her, leading him to flee the Dursleys’ home. He is picked up by the Knight Bus and learns about Sirius Black, a notorious prisoner who has escaped from Azkaban and is believed to be after Harry.
Upon returning to Hogwarts, Harry encounters new threats and challenges. The presence of Dementors, the ghastly guards of Azkaban, around the school, poses a significant risk to Harry. These creatures force him to relive his worst memories, particularly those of his parents’ deaths. Professor Lupin, the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, becomes a mentor to Harry, teaching him how to perform the Patronus Charm to fend off Dementors.
The storyline unfolds with a series of mysterious events involving Scabbers, Ron Weasley’s pet rat, and a large black dog that seems to be stalking Harry. Hermione Granger, displaying unusual behavior, appears to be attending more classes than physically possible. This puzzle is later explained by her possession of a Time-Turner, a magical device that allows her to attend multiple classes simultaneously.
Hagrid, now a teacher for the Care of Magical Creatures class, introduces the students to a hippogriff named Buckbeak. Draco Malfoy, a student from Slytherin House, insults Buckbeak, leading to an attack for which Buckbeak is later sentenced to be executed. This event deeply affects the trio, particularly Hagrid.
The plot thickens with the revelation that Sirius Black was a close friend of Harry’s parents and is believed to be responsible for their betrayal to Voldemort. However, as the story progresses, it is revealed that the true traitor was Peter Pettigrew, who has been hiding as Ron’s pet rat, Scabbers. Sirius, who is actually Harry’s godfather, seeks not to harm Harry but to protect him and seek revenge against Pettigrew.
A dramatic confrontation takes place in the Shrieking Shack, where Sirius, Professor Lupin (revealed to be a werewolf and an old friend of Harry’s parents), Harry, Ron, and Hermione confront Pettigrew. The truth about the betrayal of Harry’s parents comes to light, but Pettigrew escapes, preventing Sirius from being exonerated.
The story culminates in a desperate attempt to save both Sirius and Buckbeak from unjust punishment. Using Hermione’s Time-Turner, Harry and Hermione travel back in time, enabling them to rescue Buckbeak and help Sirius escape on the hippogriff. The film closes with Harry learning more about his father and his past, finding a father figure in Sirius, and receiving a Firebolt broomstick as a gift, signifying hope and resilience amidst the darkness.
Emma Thompson appears as the eccentric Divination professor Sybill Trelawney, and her over-the-top performance provides a welcome dose of comic relief. Thompson fully embraces the quirks of her character, delivering lines with exaggerated dramatic flair and donning a series of increasingly outrageous outfits.
Another notable supporting actor in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is Michael Gambon, who took over the role of Albus Dumbledore after the death of Richard Harris. Gambon brings a different interpretation of the beloved character, imbuing him with a more dynamic and impulsive personality.
One of Dumbledore’s key roles in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is to provide guidance and support to Harry as he faces the possibility of an attack from Sirius Black. He meets with Harry regularly to discuss his fears and concerns, and he provides him with valuable information about the wizarding world and the nature of the threat he is facing.
Maggie Smith returns as Minerva McGonagall, the stern but caring head of Gryffindor House, and delivers a powerful performance in a scene where she confronts Sirius Black.
Robbie Coltrane as Hagrid, Warwick Davis as Professor Flitwick, and Alan Rickman as Professor Snape also return, each bringing their unique personalities and quirks to their respective roles. Draco Malfoy also returns as Harry’s nemesis.
Cuarón makes use of the advances in CGI, to bring to life the magical world of Hogwarts and its inhabitants, from the Hippogriff Buckbeak to the terrifying Dementors. The movie also features a fun scene where Harry and Hermione use a Time-Turner to go back in time, which is expertly executed.
The movie’s art direction, cinematography and special effects are also noteworthy, creating an immersive wizardry world. Seeing the Great Hall again and again is always a nostalgic and magical moment when watching any of the Potter films. It’s no wonder that Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban has become a fan favorite and a beloved part of the Harry Potter franchise.
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