Harry Potter 3 is a marked improvement on its predecessors, but still fails to capture completely the spirit of the books.
I didn’t like HP1, and I thought HP2 was better, but still not that great. Thank goodness, HP3 is better again! Whilst none of the films has truly reflected the wonder I felt when reading the books the first time, at least this attempt goes closer than the last two.
Our child stars are growing up. Harry, Hermione and Ron are all becoming much more powerful, and the actors are also learning more of their craft. Radcliffe still seems quite one dimensional, but Grint and Watson are really coming along. (What was Grint doing in Thunderpants??) Watson in particular is becoming quite an actor, and it wouldn’t surprise me if she is the first of the three to make it big in films after leaving Hogwarts. She seems to relish the freedom gained in the new darkness of HP3, allowing her to be sarcastic, violent, impulsive, impudent and much more individual. Her development has lead to her almost stealing this film away from her more prominent co-stars.
This film is darker, following the tonal change that occurs in the source texts. This darkness allows more freedom for the director, and Cuarón does an excellent job. His take on Hogwarts is much more interesting than Chris Columbus’ – some of the scenery and sets are quite amazing, and the directorial devices he employs, like showing the passing of the seasons in the behaviour of the Whomping Willow, are fun and fresh – and this is lucky as the moving staircases and animated portraits were becoming a little old. In fact, Cuarón delivers a visual style that was distinctly lacking in the first two films.
The material is also more threatening, with murder, betrayal and terrorism. Harry is much further along in his personal journey, and has seen the dark side of the wizarding world, and the varied forces arrayed against him are now being revealed to him and us. The dementors are a fantastic creation, although they do seem distinctly modelled on Tolkien and Jackson’s Black Riders. Their menace is only slightly diminished by some poor effects.
The special effects are predominantly good, with Buckbeak the Hippogriff the best – the CGI for Buckbeak is exceptional. There are some less outstanding effects, the dementor face-sucking is the most obvious. I wonder how Stuart will feel about the climactic fight, given his reaction to the ending of Van Helsing!
The ensemble generally perform well, but Malfoy, Snape, McGonagall and Dumbledore are all minimally used, and are less effective for it – and where was Daddy Malfoy?? (Jason Isaacs was excellent in HP2, and hopefully will be back again.) Emma Thompson’s turn as Professor Trelawney didn’t quite hit the mark, especially in comparison to the excellent role played by Kenneth Branagh in HP2. Oldman is very good as Sirius Black, and David Thewlis is great as Lupin. We can look forward to more good work from them in subsequent films.
Whilst Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is not wonderful, it is a marked improvement on ep’s 1 & 2, and if the trend continues we can look forward to some great cinema by the end of the series.Rating: