(out of 5)
Year three has begun, and this time Harry Potter feels like he’s ready for anything. After defeating You-Know-Who (twice!) he is suddenly back in the throes of peril when a raving madman (a wonderfully vibrant Gary Oldman) linked to the evil Lord Voldemort escapes from the seemingly inescapable Azkaban prison and comes after our bespectacled hero. Hogwarts has been made tightly secure in order to ensure all its students are safe, but is all the best security in the world (including some very terrifying creatures known as Dementors) enough to protect Harry from the man who wants to do him grave harm? Now directed by Alfonso Cuaron in place of Chris Columbus, who helmed the first two, this Potter adventure has a darker, more unique look to it than its predecessors had, with deep shadows and creepy hallways abounding at every twist and turn. Cuaron doesn’t manage to keep the pace going, and the film starts to lag in its last third, but the performers are all still having a terrific time and there’s no doubt that both author J.K. Rowling and director Cuaron have endless founts of imagination from which to work. Emma Thompson has a devilishly good time playing the bent professor Trelawney (whose role is made far too insignificant by Steve Kloves’s unbalanced adaptation of the novel), while David Thewlis turns in a marvelous performance as the new Defence Against The Dark Arts teacher, Professor Lupin. There’s also a cameo by the fabulous Julie Christie and, due to Richard Harris’s death, the casting of Michael Gambon in the role of Dumbledore. The kids themselves just get better with every episode, now a little bit older and a lot more self-assured, and ever so likeable.
Directed by Alfonso Cuaron
Cinematography by Michael Seresin
Music by John Williams
Production Design by Stuart Craig
Costume Design by Jany Temime
Film Editing by Steven Weisberg