Article | Almost two decades later, ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’ is still the best movie in the magical saga

When ‘Harry Potter’ hit theaters, caused a huge commotion in the fans of the literary saga signed by J.K. Rowlingfor bringing life in a very competent way one of the universes that would become a landmark in the culture pop world, opening the door for a new generation of readers and spectators to get involved with the genre of fantastic narrative. However, it is undeniable to say that, despite the solid presentation, the international critics made some comments that went against the public’s sentiment, praising the visual effects and the chemistry of the protagonist and supporting cast, but commenting on a certain tonal inconsistency that would last from ‘The philosopher’s Stone’ and ‘The Chamber of Secrets’.

In fact, perhaps the idea behind the first two volumes of the film franchise was to design a simple and understandable plot for children and pre-teens who had their first contact with the magical universe: it is understandable, therefore, that Chris Columbus has been cast in the director’s chair. Known for his work on classics such as ‘They forgot me’Columbus has always had considerable tact for working with children – which reiterated the importance of his hiring to introduce Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) to the world, giving a face to the characters immortalized in the popular imagination. But things were about to change – and ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’ represented the first drastic change for the cinematic saga.

In the third year, Harry is ready to return to Hogwarts, but he cannot imagine the problems he will face once he gets there. In the first scenes of the film, we can see that the titular protagonist has been facing the complete transition from childhood to adolescence, immersing himself in a kind of self-reflection about his place in the world and about the traumas he has been facing since his childhood, in which the terrible Lord Voldemort took the lives of his parents and left him an orphan. It’s no surprise that, as much as he’s forced to put up with his adoptive family’s corrosive temper, he realizes he’s not a little boy anymore; therefore, it is notable as the sequence in which Harry transforms Mare (Pam Ferris), Walter’s sister (Richard Griffiths), in a balloon, after a fit of rage that provides him with a punctual prospect on how the months will unfold.

The opening act already demonstrates an artistic predilection for something that strays from the childlike wonder of previous films. In other words, the golden admiration of ‘Philosophical stone’ and the growing greenish maturity of ‘Secret chamber’ seem to finally culminate in the melancholy of experiencing adulthood and discontent with the world in ‘Prisoner of Azkaban’. The mix between yellow and blue is a significant symbolic representation in the transfiguration of what it really means to grow up – and, on top of all that, we have the casting of one of the most authentic directors of contemporaneity to command the plot: Alfonso Cuarón.


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Cuarón would gain even greater fame after directing the third film in the saga ‘Harry Potter’winning four Oscars for his work on ‘Pomegranate’ and ‘Gravity’. However, it was with the 2004 feature that he proved to have an enviable and admirable wit for blockbusters, printing a very different aesthetic from both the previous and the following chapters. Of course, unlike other incursions, this one carries an importance in scope mainstream and allows his name to reach tens of millions of people passionate about the magical universe – and, despite the limitations imposed by the studio and perhaps by Rowling, he managed to build something unique, guided by peculiarities that explode in an important watershed even for the character arc.

From his connection with the cast to the direction of the sequels, things begin to take a path that borders on morbid fantasy: the terror faced by our heroes plunges headlong into existentialist crises and a taste of psychological suspense that deconstructs the Manichaeisms between goodness and evil, between good guys and villains, or by the foreshadowing of the “dangerous and brutal murderer” Sirius Black (Gary Oldman), or by facing one’s own fear with the distressing emergence of Dementors – deadly creatures that suck the vital energy and happiness of their victims and transform them into apathetic beings and numb in their own despair. Obviously, the archetype of these antagonists starts from a clear semiotic relationship with depression, something that Rowling faced when she was younger.

All the elements brought from the book to the big screen were chosen with meticulous consideration so that nothing overflows or leaves gaps; in this way, Cuarón must search for possible gaps that allow him to develop an original plot within the presented restrictions, as he remains faithful to the presented structure. If Rowling had managed to transpose what she wanted through writing, the filmmaker finds success in putting these conflicting sensations through bold framing, long shots and a striking balance between action, drama and plot twists.

Arguably, Harry is the center of attention and discovers that things are not what they seem – and what he has been told goes far beyond the surface. For those who don’t remember, Sirius is revealed to be Harry’s godfather and the center of a massive lie in which he was blamed for the deaths of James and Lily, as well as allying with Voldemort. But that’s not the case: the real culprit was the cowardly Peter Pettigrew, who posed as Ron’s mouse Scabbers for twelve years. Sirius and Peter’s personalities foreshadow tragic events to come and plunge into a sinister and foreboding atmosphere that is perceived on different levels by each.

However, the moment of greatest sentimental contrast occurs in the impactful transition from the second to the third act, in which Harry and Sirius manage to understand each other and talk in front of Hogwarts, on a starry night, and comment on possible plans to live together, as a family. . As we well know, this utopian idea of ​​finding a happy ending in the midst of so many tragedies never materializes (see ‘The order of the Phoenix’, in which Sirius is murdered by his cousin, Bellatrix Lestrange), which, in retrospect, makes the scene that much more touching. More than that, the foreshadowing that Harry would face even more losses is reflected in the accurate choice of angles and a bluish filter that paints the momentary happiness with a strange and lethargic doldrums.

‘The Prisoner of Azkaban’ continues with praise to bring the iconic magical saga to the screen and, unlike what we imagined, is intended both for children who followed the predecessor adventures and for an older audience, who understand the complex nuances engendered by the dynamics between family, friends and the understanding that the world is much more difficult than it seems. And these are the reasons that, almost two decades after its official release, validate the feature film as the best entry for ‘Harry Potter’.

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About Banner Leon

Videogames entered his life in the late '80s, at the time of the first meeting with Super Mario Bros, and even today they make it a permanent part, after almost 30 years. Pros and defects: he manages to finish Super Mario Bros in less than 5 minutes but he has never finished Final Fight with a credit ... he's still trying.

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