26 October 2010

The Harry Potter Retrospective: Part III

The Prisoner of Azkaban – Alfonso Cuarón

Here the retrospective starts to get interesting as we hit the first film that really launched the series from being just a money making machine for children into a decent film series with great direction and taking the source material and making a piece of art. Cuaron’s direction here is sublime and you really feel the sense of danger and the pacing of the film that sets it off compared to the past two films. The first two films were the bases of the whole franchise, they needed to draw the audience and numbers in and then just make them purr with delight, here they take what they know and what they’ve seen and put into a bin. They abandon the traits of the first two and just make a really decent film that would be a standalone product. Of course using parts from the Chamber of Secrets like the location, the characters, the humour, but the art style, the editing, the camerawork, even the lighting here is darker and sleeker. More money being pumped into production? Perhaps. Writers finally figuring out to place the best parts into the film to please the fans? Maybe. Having a better director with a sense of style and flair that takes the best parts and moves them into a new starting level for the series? Defiantly. Also being one of my favourite books of the collection, the team have done well to keep to the source material, and when it’s the best, you kinda have to. The dark plot, the villains and the twists give it a fresh look and feel but at the same time still has the childish sensibility in its characters, placing mere children in great danger and somehow succeeding through growing intelligence and sometimes luck. Plus throw in one of the best characters of the whole series, Sirius Black, who may become your favourite too.

The plot is great compared to the standard and obtuse affair with the first two with the gang finding themselves being surrounded by Death Eaters, the dementors of the Harry Potter series, who literally suck the life out of you. A killer from the high-level security wizard prison Azkaban has escaped, and everyone is on high alert, considering his connection to being on the same side as Lord Voldemort. His connection to Harry is clouded in mystery in the beginning but by the end of it, you’ll realise his significance in the whole series. Along the way, he meets a new defence against the dark arts teacher, Remus Lupin, a friend of James Potter and the gang, who is also a werewolf. The end twenty minutes is wonderful, with a great twist and a great pace which never lets up. Everything leading up to it feels right, with Potter being both torn in how he is treated and how he wants to be treated. To be the boy who lived is a hard feat and to be famous for something he can’t undo is beginning to show. All of the main characters, and some sub characters show they sign of growth in hair and face, but the attitudes still hold the same. Harry still is lost in a world he only knew about two years ago, Ron is still picked on for his heritage and his hormones begin to trouble him, plus his jealously issues, and then we have Hermione, the know-it-all who is hell-bent on doing every class and succeeding whilst at the same time, having her friends back and saving their lives, on more than one occasion.

A great film with some great sequences and wonderful art direction, this is one of my favourites and probably is yours too, but don’t hold your horses just yet, as the action packed next film, The Goblet of Fire is one of the best all rounded piece of the series, so look forward to that soon.

Simon Childs

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