As Harry Potter returns for another year at Hogwart’s, sinister shadows from his past seem to be catching up with him.
Yet another accidental discharge of magic, as Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) gets agree with Uncle’s sister, Aunt Marge (Pam Ferris), seems to force Harry in to a decision to leave the Dursleys and find another home.
Lost and without a home, he is picked up by the Knight Bus and transported to The Leaky Cauldron.
There, the Minister of Magic (Robert Hardy) tells him not to worry about the accidental magic but Mr Weasley (Mark Williams) tells Harry of Sirius Black (Gary Oldman), a dark wizard who has escaped Azkaban.
A whole cycle is complete when it is revealed that a collection of ragtag individuals stood up to Voldemort the first time, including Harry’s parents and his Godfather. That Godfather is none other than the same mass murder, Sirius Black.
And now, apparently, Sirius Black has escaped to kill Harry.
This movie is intended to fill in the missing parts of Harry’s family story. The introduction of Sirius Black give a menacing undertone to the movie. Indeed Harry is almost a prisoner in Hogwart’s as he has no permission to visit the local town from his guardian, Uncle Vernon (Richard Griffiths).
It all works rather well. With the characters in the know trying to protect a wronged friend and a mysterious hidden enemy from the past there is obvious confusion and fear amongst the adults, let alone the children.
The loss of Richard Harris is tempered by a sublime (and different) performance by Michael Gambon as Dumbledore. Although I think we’d all have loved to see Richard Harris’ take on the later stories, Michael Gambon proves an appropriate replacement.
Loads more effects and a tonne of transmorphing visuals keep up the ambiance of Harry’s magical world. Several more subplots allow the individual characters to grow a little.
All three leads are by now very comfortable with their characters. However, there is a closer inspection of Harry himself here, and Daniel Radcliffe seems up to the challenge.
David Thewlis (as the cursed Defence against the Dark Arts tutor, Prof. Lupin) and Emma Thompson (as the slightly loopy Divination tutor, Prof Trelawney) introduce yet more freshness – and more plot devices – into the ever richer story.
A strong story with dark undertones, still a PG though (surprisingly), Prisoner of Azkaban allows the audience to really get immersed in the wizarding (or witching) world, believably.
Things to look out for: Knight Bus, “You tell those spiders, Ron.“, Buckbeak, “That felt good!“, Prof. Hagrid, werewolf, “Nice Doggie…“, animagus, traitor, time travel, more Quidditch, Prof. Trelawney, Marauder’s Map, best end credits of the series
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Michael Gambon, Robbie Coltrane, Richard Griffiths, Maggie Smith, Fiona Shaw, Tom Felton, Alan Rickman, Mark Williams, David Thewlis, Emma Thompson, Gary Oldman, Julie Walters
Rating: dark family history – with monsters, very highly recommended
Part of “Harry Potter, The Complete 8-Film Collection“