Potter and the
With The Prisoner of Azkaban, the Harry Potter-series moves a step closer from simplyfied set piece children's action to a story about real people in a fantastical world. The new director Alfonso Cuarón (Y tú mama tambien) brings more space to his sets, making the ambience more felt and the world of Hogwarts more vivid. Unlike Colombus, Cuarón has the ability to explore his characters as human beings, and compared to the two previous outings, The Prisoner of Azkaban pays a delightful amount of attention to the everyday school-life of our protagonists. Some of these scenes (like Lupin's training sequence, or Hagrid's hippogriff training) are detailed and rewarding because they don't rush things. It also helps the film that Steve Kloves has been more economical with his screenplay, narrowing down the running time to a more viewer-friendly 136 minutes.
It is a delight to have the likes of David Thewlis and Gary Oldman coming in and freshen things up with two highly interesting characters. The plot and structuring of the climax is a lot more clever than in The Chamber of Secrets, but still The Prisoner of Azkaban can't avoid coming off as 'another step towards something more important'. The likes of Voldemort is discussed and mentioned without ever having importance to the film's plot. That would have been unheard of in the good old pre-film-series days of cinema. But here it is completely natural - if you're a hardcore Potter-fan, that is. Like the last Colombus-film, The Prisoner of Azkaban isn't something you'll get much out of separately without knowledge of the two previous films. Characters come and go within seconds and without further explanation.
The acting is fairly good, even though very few of the characters demand bottomless thespian depth. Oldman, Thompson, Spall and Grint have carefree fun with their characters, and Michael Gambon fills Richard Harris' shoes sans problems. As for Daniel Radcliffe, he is required to cry once, which he can't quite. Hopefully, the filmmakers will avoid laying on too challenging scenes for the young actor in the future. Both the actor and the character seem more at home when things stay in the surface.