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BMZ Review: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: The IMAX Experience
By Paula Tagle


© 2004 Warner Bros. All rights reserved.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: The IMAX Experience
Written by: Paula Tagle
Source: Big Movie Zone
Date: 2004-06-04


Category: Reviews

Another go for the Harry Potter film series with its third installment, this time Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban succeeds where the previous two films dulled due in large part to Director Alfonso Cuarón.  Breathing much-needed intelligent life into the Harry Potter universe, Cuarón communicates a deeper and darker vision, yet one that emphasizes rich characters, visual treasures and narrative depth.

Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) returns to Hogwarts for his third year only to quickly discover the escape of murderer Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) from Azkaban prison.  Rumor has it the dangerous Sirius seeks to find Harry, yet the prisoner remains a distant threat throughout most of the film.  Rather, Dementors released from Azkaban to retrieve Sirius prove to be the most immediate horror, having the power to suck the happiness out of people.  Lacking the ability of discernment, Dementors will attack any that cross their path.

The initial introduction of the Dementors reveals perhaps the most foreboding and suspenseful sequence in the Harry Potter film series, an indication of the darker, more menacing tone of the film.  However, like the previous two Harry Potter films, superfluous characters and plot devices bog down the film, like the hateful Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) who just appears ridiculous and annoying.  The film adaptations from J.K. Rowling's novels tend to translate into meandering, digressive screenplays, but luckily Azkaban keeps such redundancy to a minimum.

Rather, the film presents an obvious growth in characters – Harry is no longer a pushover, Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) appears less abrasive, even charming at times, and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) appealingly fumbles along.  Standout additions include David Thewlis as Professor Lupin, the new Defense against the Dark Arts teacher, who hides a secret connection to Sirius Black, and a very funny Emma Thompson as Divinations professor, Sybil Trelawney.

Visually, the film carefully melds CGI and live-action lending a natural and genuine feel.  The IMAX DMR™ conversion – a process that takes the original 35mm film print and digitally outputs it to 70mm size and resolution – works best in scenic approach shots to Hogwarts, and in a particularly fascinating sequence with Harry riding a flying Hippogriff above the school grounds.  The scale of the IMAX version, however, leaves some dullness and blur where proper Large Format films would appear sharp and vibrant.  Nevertheless, it is this dullness that makes non-action-driven, conversation scenes quite dramatic without being unnerving.

A palpable maturity pervades then both the story and its characters, a subtlety not overlooked by director Cuarón.  It is this movement out of the brighter, sterile storytelling that gives the film its intriguing and unusual appeal.  The IMAX Experience particularly works well infusing the fantasy and suspense sequences with a grander, bold scope while keeping the drama of quieter, character-driven moments.  By far, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is the best of the film franchise so far with its welcoming complexity, enthralling visuals and cheeky humor.

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