Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is a 2004 fantasy film directed by Alfonso Cuarón and distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. It is based on the novel of the same name by J. K. Rowling. The film, which is the third instalment in the Harry Potter film series, was written by Steve Kloves and produced by Chris Columbus, David Heyman, and Mark Radcliffe. The story follows Harry Potter's third year at Hogwarts as he is informed that a prisoner named Sirius Black has escaped from Azkaban and wants to murder him. The film stars Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter, alongside Rupert Grint and Emma Watson as Harry's best friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. It is the sequel to Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and is followed by Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
The film was released on 31 May 2004 in the United Kingdom and on 4 June 2004 in North America, as the first Harry Potter film released into IMAX theatres and to be using IMAX Technology. It is also the last Harry Potter film to be released on VHS as well as the last film until Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince to be rated PG in North America. The film was nominated for two Academy Awards—Original Music Score and Visual Effects—at the 77th Academy Awards in 2005.
While Prisoner of Azkaban grossed a total of $796.6 million worldwide, its box office performance ranks as the lowest-grossing in the series. Nonetheless, it currently stands as the thirty-ninth highest-grossing film of all-time.
Plot[edit | edit source]
Harry Potter, now aged 13, has been spending another dissatisfying summer at Privet Drive. When Uncle Vernon's sister, Marge, insults Harry's parents, he becomes angry and naturally causes her to inflate and float away. Harry flees with his luggage fed up with his life with the Dursleys. As Harry departs, he spots a large dog; disappears. The Knight Bus delivers Harry to the Leaky Cauldron, where he is forgiven by Minister Fudge for using magic outside of Hogwarts. Before reuniting with his best friends Ron and Hermione who were arguing about her cat for annoying his pet rat Scabbers, Harry learns upon a newspaper that Sirius Black, a convicted supporter of Voldemort who murdered Harry's parents, has escaped Azkaban, believing intend to kill Harry.
The trio is returning to Hogwarts for the school year on the Hogwarts Express when dementors suddenly board the train, searching for Sirius Black. One enters the trio's compartment, causing Harry to pass out. New Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher Remus Lupin repels the dementor with a Patronus Charm. At Hogwarts, Dumbledore announces that dementors are guarding the school while Sirius is at large. Hagrid is declared as the new Care of Magical Creatures teacher, Harry inadvertently volunteers to ride a hippogriff, Buckbeak; his first class goes awry when Draco deliberately provokes Buckbeak who attacks him. Lucius has Buckbeak be sentenced to death later. Remus teaches class to face their own fears, though he strangely goes absent on some nights, while Snape teaches the manifestation of werewolves in his place. The students are permitted to visit Hogsmeade outside school grounds, except for Harry since he doesn't have a guardian (excluding the Dursleys) to give him privilege; instead he hangs out with Remus.
The Fat Lady's portrait, which accesses the Gryffindor quarters, is found ruined and empty. Terrified and hiding in another painting, the Fat Lady tells Dumbledore that Sirius has entered the castle. During a stormy Quidditch match, dementors attack Harry, causing him to fall off his broomstick, which is then destroyed by a Whomping Willow. Dumbledore rescued Harry and recovers in the hospital wing; furious that dementors are attracted to people's emotions. Harry is given the Marauder's Map from Fred and George that shows everyone's location that they snatch from Filch's office. With the map and Invisibility Cloak, Harry sneaks out to Hogsmeade and meets his friends. Harry overhears a discussion between McGonagall and Fudge, and is shocked to learn not only Sirius is his godfather, but had been best friend with his parents and another wizard Peter "Wormtail" Pettigrew then betrayed them to Voldemort. Remus privately teaches Harry to defend himself against dementors using the Patronus charm. One night, Harry discovers the supposedly dead Pettigrew on the map, then went to search and confirm it, but is caught by Snape, and Remus confiscates the map.
After Harry, Ron and Hermione witness Buckbeak's unseen execution, Scabbers bites Ron and runs. When Ron gives chase, a large dog appears and drags both Ron and Scabbers into a hole at the Whomping Willow's base, which happens to be an underground passage to the Shrieking Shack. The trio find that the dog is actually Sirius, who is an Animagus. Remus arrives and embraces Sirius as an old friend. He admits to being a werewolf when Hermione exposed it, and explains Sirius is innocent of betraying James and Lily to Voldemort. Snape also arrives to detain Sirius, but Harry uses Expelliarmus charm on him for interfering. It is revealed that Scabbers really Pettigrew, another Animagus who committed the crime for which Sirius was convicted, and deceiving the Weasleys for twelve years. When Voldemort was hunting down the Longbottom and Potter Family back in the day, Pettigrew deemed a coward and surrendered them to the dark lord. After forcing him back into a human, Remus and Sirius prepare to kill him initially but Harry convinces them to turn Pettigrew over to the dementors. Harry begins to see Sirius as a surrogate father.
As the group departs, the full moon rises; Remus transforms into a werewolf, and Sirius transforms into his dog form to fight him off. In the chaos, Pettigrew escapes in his rat form. Sirius and Harry are attacked by dementors and Harry sees a figure in the distance save them by casting a powerful Patronus charm. He believes the mysterious figure is his father, and passes out. He awakens to learn Sirius has been captured and will be sentence to the Dementor's kiss. Acting on Dumbledore's advice, Harry and Hermione travel back in time with Hermione's Time Turner, and watch themselves and Ron repeat the night's events. They save Buckbeak from execution and witness the dementors overpower Sirius and past Harry. The present Harry realizes it was he who conjured the Patronus, and does so again. Harry and Hermione then rescue Sirius, who escapes on Buckbeak. Remus resigns to prevent uproar from parents over a werewolf teaching their children. Sirius delivers Harry a Firebolt broom, the fastest broom in the world, and Harry happily takes it for a ride. Sirius even offered Harry to live with him at 12 Grimmauld Place, the Black's household.
Cast[edit | edit source]
- Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter
- Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley, Harry's best friend.
- Emma Watson as Hermione Granger, Harry's other best friend and the brains of the trio.
- Robbie Coltrane as Rubeus Hagrid, the Hogwarts gamekeeper and the new Care of Magical Creatures teacher.
- Michael Gambon as Albus Dumbledore, the Hogwarts Headmaster. Gambon assumed the role after Richard Harris, who played Dumbledore in the previous two films, died on 25 October 2002. Despite his illness, Harris was determined to film his part, telling a visiting David Heyman not to recast the role. Four months after Harris's death, Cuarón chose Gambon as his replacement. Gambon was unconcerned with bettering or copying Harris, instead giving his own interpretation, putting on a slight Irish accent for the role, as well as completing his scenes in three weeks. Rumours of Ian McKellen being offered the role started to spread, but when confronted, he turned the rumours down, stating that he has played a similar character in Gandalf of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. He also stated it would have been inappropriate to take Harris' role, as the late actor had called McKellen a "dreadful" actor. Harris's family had expressed an interest in seeing Harris's close friend Peter O'Toole being chosen as his replacement.
- Richard Griffiths as Vernon Dursley, Harry's Muggle uncle.
- Gary Oldman as Sirius Black, an escapee from the Wizarding prison Azkaban and Harry's godfather. Oldman accepted the part because he needed the money, as he had not taken on any major work in several years as he had decided to spend more time with his children. He drew inspiration from Cuarón, whom he described as having "such enthusiasm and a joy for life," and compared Sirius to John Lennon. He was "surprised by how difficult it was to pull off", comparing the role to Shakespearean dialogue. Oldman suggested Sirius's hairstyle, while Cuarón designed his tattoos. He had read the first book, and his children were fans of the series. The part made Oldman a hero with his children and their schoolmates.
- Alan Rickman as Severus Snape, the Potions master at Hogwarts.
- Fiona Shaw as Petunia Dursley, Harry's Muggle aunt.
- Maggie Smith as Minerva McGonagall, the Transfiguration teacher at Hogwarts.
- Timothy Spall as Peter Pettigrew, a friend of Harry's parents said to have been killed by Sirius Black.
- David Thewlis as Remus Lupin, the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts. Thewlis, who had previously auditioned for the role of Professor Quirrell in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, was Cuarón's first choice for the role of Lupin. He accepted the role on advice from Ian Hart, the man who was cast as Quirrell, who told him that Lupin was "the best part in the book." Cuarón told Thewlis that he thought Lupin was gay, pitching him as a "gay junkie", although his idea turned out to be incorrect. Thewlis had seen the first two films and had only read part of the first book, although after taking the role he read the third. He was excited about the prospect of making a children's film, and thoroughly enjoyed filming.
- Emma Thompson as Sybill Trelawney, the Divination teacher at Hogwarts.
- Julie Walters as Molly Weasley, the Weasley matriarch and a mother figure to Harry.
Production[edit | edit source]
Development[edit | edit source]
With Prisoner of Azkaban, production of the Harry Potter films switched to an eighteen-month cycle, which producer David Heyman explained was "to give each [film] the time it required." Chris Columbus, the director of the previous two films, decided not to return and helm the third instalment as he "hadn't seen [his] own kids for supper in the week for about two and a half years." Even so, he remained on as a producer alongside Heyman. Guillermo del Toro was approached to direct, but considered the film "so bright and happy and full of light, that [he] wasn't interested." Marc Forster turned down the film because he had made Finding Neverland and did not want to direct child actors again. Warner Bros. then composed a three-name short list for Columbus's replacement, which comprised Callie Khouri, Kenneth Branagh (who played Gilderoy Lockhart in Chamber of Secrets) and eventual selection Alfonso Cuarón. Cuarón was initially nervous about accepting as he had not read any of the books, or seen the films. After reading the series, he changed his mind and signed on to direct, as he had immediately connected to the story. Cuarón's appointment pleased J. K. Rowling who loved his film Y tu mamá también and was impressed with his adaptation of A Little Princess. Heyman found that "tonally and stylistically, [Cuarón] was the perfect fit." As his first exercise with the actors who portray the central trio, Cuarón assigned Radcliffe, Grint and Watson to write an autobiographical essay about their character, written in the first person, spanning birth to the discovery of the magical world, and including the character's emotional experience. Of Rupert Grint's essay, Cuarón recalls, "Rupert didn't deliver the essay. When I questioned why he didn't do it, he said, 'I'm Ron; Ron wouldn't do it.' So I said, 'Okay, you do understand your character.' That was the most important piece of acting work that we did on Prisoner of Azkaban, because it was very clear that everything they put in those essays was going to be the pillars they were going to hold on to for the rest of the process."
Filming[edit | edit source]
Some sets for the film were built in Glen Coe, Scotland, near the Clachaig Inn. The indoor sets, including ones built for the previous two films, are mainly in Leavesden Film Studios. The Hogwarts Lake was filmed from Loch Shiel, Loch Eilt and Loch Morar in the Scottish Highlands. Incidentally, the train bridge, which was also featured in the Chamber of Secrets, is opposite Loch Shiel and was used to film the sequences when the Dementor boarded the train. A small section of the triple-decker bus scene, where it weaves in between traffic, was filmed in North London's Palmers Green. Some parts were also filmed in and around Borough Market and Lambeth Bridge in London.
The Honeydukes set in this film is a redress of the set of Flourish & Blotts that was seen in Chamber of Secrets, which, in turn, was a redress of the Ollivanders set from the first film.
Rowling allowed Cuarón to make minor changes to the book, on the condition that he stuck to the book's spirit. She allowed him to place a sundial on Hogwarts' grounds, but rejected a graveyard, as that would play an important part in the then unreleased sixth book. Rowling said she "got goosebumps" when she saw several moments in the film, as they inadvertently referred to events in the final two books, she stated "people are going to look back on the film and think that those were put in deliberately as clues." When filming concluded, Cuarón found that it had "been the two sweetest years of my life," and expressed his interest in directing one of the sequels.
Effects[edit | edit source]
Cuarón originally wanted to move away from CGI toward puppetry. He hired master underwater puppeteer Basil Twist to help, using puppets to study the potential movement of the Dementors. Once it became apparent that puppetry would be too expensive and unable to portray the specific elements of the Dementors, Cuarón turned to CGI; however, he and his team did use footage of Dementor puppets underwater as a basis for the flowing movements of the computer-generated Dementors.
The Knight Bus segment when Harry is being taken to The Leaky Cauldron uses the technique known as bullet time, popularised in The Matrix series of films. This segment takes humorous advantage of the magic quality of the Harry Potter world by having the Muggle world go into bullet time while inside the Knight Bus, Harry, Stan Shunpike and Ernie Prang (and the talking shrunken head) keep moving in real time.
Music[edit | edit source]
- Main article: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (soundtrack)
The Academy Award-nominated score was the third and final score in the series to be composed and conducted by John Williams. It was released on CD on 25 May 2004. In general, this film's music is not as bright as that of the previous films, with distinct medieval influences in the instrumentation. One of the new themes, "Double Trouble," was written during production so that a children's choir could perform it in Hogwarts's Great Hall in one of the film's earlier scenes. The lyrics of "Double Trouble" are from a ritual performed by the Weïrd Sisters in Act 4, Scene 1 of Shakespeare's Macbeth. The film's trailer prominently features the cues "Anticipation" and "Progeny" by Brand X Music, a trailer music band.
Differences from the book[edit | edit source]
Prisoner of Azkaban was, at the time of publication, the series' longest book. The increasing plot complexity necessitated a looser adaptation of the book's finer plot lines and back-story. The film opens with Harry using magic to light his wand in short bursts, whereas in the same scene in the book, he uses a flashlight, as performing magic is illegal for wizards under the age of seventeen. Also in the book, there is no shrunken head in the Knight Bus, while in the film, a rude shrunken head talks through most of the Knight Bus scene. The connection between Harry's parents and the Marauder's Map is only briefly mentioned, as is Remus Lupin's association to both the map and James Potter. Additionally, it was never mentioned who the Marauders were or who the nicknames (Mooney, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs) belonged to. Some exposition was removed for dramatic effect: both the Shrieking Shack and Scabbers the rat are mentioned only very briefly in the film, while they receive a more thorough coverage in the novel. Most of Sirius Black's back story is also cut, with no mention of the manner of his escape from Azkaban.
On account of pace and time considerations, the film glosses over detailed descriptions of magical education. Only one Hippogriff, Buckbeak, is seen, and only Malfoy and Harry are seen interacting with the Hippogriff during Care of Magical Creatures lessons, and most other lessons, including all of Snape's potions classes, were cut from the film. The Fidelius Charm's complicated description is removed entirely from the film, with no explanation given of exactly how Black "betrayed" the Potters to Lord Voldemort. Many of this scene's lines are redistributed amongst Cornelius Fudge and Minerva McGonagall; in compensation, McGonagall's exposition of the Animagus transformation is instead given by Snape.
In the film, where Harry and Hermione have travelled back in time and are hiding outside of Hagrid's hut, it is heavily implied that Dumbledore somehow knows that they are there, as he distracts the other characters at key moments or slows down the proceedings (such as by suggesting that he sign Buckbeak's execution order as well, then after Fudge agrees he says it will take some time as he has an extremely long name), which allows Harry and Hermione time to free Buckbeak unseen. In the book, Dumbledore merely comments that the executioner must sign the order, right before he is about to leave the cabin to execute Buckbeak.
The embryonic romantic connection between Ron and Hermione is more prominent in the film than the book; in response to criticism of the first two films for sacrificing character development for mystery and adventure, the emotional development of all three lead characters is given more attention in the third film. However, some critics and fans thought that the result was a murky plotline. That said, any mention of the beginnings of Harry's crush on Cho Chang is removed. Harry's darker side is first glimpsed in this film, when Harry proclaims, "I hope he [Black] finds me. Because when he does, I'm going to be ready. When he does, I'm going to kill him!" Also, Harry receives the Firebolt at the film's end, while in the book he receives it anonymously at Christmas and it is confiscated for a few weeks to be checked for possible jinxes by Professor Flitwick and Madam Hooch.
Distribution[edit | edit source]
Marketing[edit | edit source]
As with the series' previous instalments, Prisoner of Azkaban was a large merchandising opportunity. The video game version, designed by EA UK, was released 25 May 2004 in North America and 29 May 2004 in Europe. Mattel released film tie-ins that included the Harry Potter Championship Quidditch board game and character action figures. Lego also expanded on its previous merchandising for the first two films with the release of sets ranging from the Knight Bus to the Shrieking Shack.
Theatrical release[edit | edit source]
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban held its New York premiere at Radio City Music Hall on 23 May 2004, followed by its London premiere at Leicester Square on 30 May 2004. The film then opened in the United Kingdom on 31 May 2004 and on 4 June 2004 in the United States. It was the first film in the series to be released in both conventional and IMAX theatres.
Reaction[edit | edit source]
Box office[edit | edit source]
Upon release, the film broke the record for biggest single day in the United Kingdom's box office history making £5.3 million on a Monday. It went on to break records both with and without previews making a stunning £23.9 million including previews and £9.3 million excluding them. The Prisoner of Azkaban currently has the highest-opening weekend at the U.K.'s box office. It went on to make a total of £45.6 million in the U.K. The film made $93.7 million during its opening weekend in the United States and Canada at 3,855 theatres, achieving, at the time, the third biggest-opening weekend of all time. This opening also broke Hulk's record ($62.1 million) for the highest-opening weekend for a film released in June. The Prisoner of Azkaban held this record for five years until Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen topped it in 2009 with $108.9 million.
The Prisoner of Azkaban made a total of $796.6 million worldwide, which made it 2004's second highest-grossing film worldwide behind Shrek 2. In the U.S. and Canada, it was only the year's sixth highest-grossing film, making $249.5 million. Everywhere else in the world, however, it was the year's number one film, making $547 million compared to Shrek 2's $478.6 million. Despite its successful box office run, Azkaban is currently the lowest-grossing Harry Potter film (all the other Harry Potter films have grossed more than US $875 million worldwide). Still, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is currently the thirty-ninth highest-grossing film in history.
Critical reception[edit | edit source]
Prisoner of Azkaban earned notable critical acclaim, garnering a 90% "Certified Fresh" approval rating at the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes with a consensus stating,"In Cuaron's hands, Azkaban has emotional depth to go along with the technical wizardry." The film also received a score of 82 out of 100 at Metacritic, which signifies "universal acclaim."
Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle lauded the film's more mature tone and said it was "darker, more complex, rooted in character." The Hollywood Reporter called the film "a deeper, darker, visually arresting and more emotionally satisfying adaptation of the J.K. Rowling literary phenomenon," especially compared to the first two instalments. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave the film three-and-a-half out of four stars: "Not only is this dazzler by far the best and most thrilling of the three Harry Potter movies to date, it's a film that can stand on its own even if you never heard of author J.K. Rowling and her young wizard hero." Stephanie Zacharek of Salon.com asserts it to be "one of the greatest fantasy films of all time." Nicole Arthur of The Washington Post praised the film as "complex, frightening, [and] nuanced." Roger Ebert gave the film three-and-a-half out of four stars, saying that the film was not quite as good as the first two, but still called it "delightful, amusing and sophisticated" Claudia Puig from USA Today found the film to be "a visual delight," and added that "Cuaron is not afraid to make a darker film and tackle painful emotions." while Richard Roeper called the film "a creative triumph." Sean Smith from Newsweek said: "The Prisoner of Azkaban boasts a brand-new director and a bold new vision," he also called the film "moving," praising the performances by Radcliffe and Watson, while Entertainment Weekly praised the film for being more mature than its predecessors.
Rex Reed, of The New York Observer, pointed out some unnecessary stylistic changes, calling it "the silliest, as well as the most contrived – and confusing – of them all."
Accolades[edit | edit source]
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was nominated for Best Original Music Score (John Williams) and Best Visual Effects at the 77th Academy Awards held in 2005. This was the second film in the series to be nominated for an Oscar.
The film also ranks at No. 471 in Empire magazine's 2008 list of the 500 greatest movies of all time. IGN designated Prisoner of Azkaban as the fifth best fantasy film. Additionally, Moviefone designated the film as the tenth best of the decade. In 2011, the film was voted Film of the Decade at the First Light Awards by children aged 5–15.
- American Film Institute recognition
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) – Nominated
- AFI's 10 Top 10 – Nominated Fantasy Film
|List of awards and nominations|
References[edit | edit source]
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[edit | edit source]
- Official website (US)
- Official website (UK)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban at the Internet Movie Database
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban at All Movie Guide
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban at Rotten Tomatoes
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban at Box Office Mojo
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban at Metacritic
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