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Release Year: 2004
Genre: Adventure, Family, Fantasy, Mystery
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Writer: Steve Kloves, J.K. Rowling (novel)
These days, everyone and their dog knows Harry Potter. (Seriously, someone on Etsy makes Harry Potter-themed chew toys for pups.)
And while people (and dogs who can read) still love the movies and the books they're based on, the sheer excitement around the franchise has faded a bit.
That doesn't make Harry's world any less magical. But to relive true Pottermania, let's use our Time Turner to go back to 2004. And by Time Turner, we mean "imagination," because we don't actually have an artifact to turn back time.
~wavy flashback effect~
It's the year that The Facebook—as it was then known—launched. Friends went off the air (Bye, Phoebe). Britney Spears launched a perfume. You know that someone, somewhere, named their daughter Hermione. And Jude Law was in six movies. Six. We keep trying to find him in Azkaban, but haven't succeeded…yet. (Maybe he did motion capture for the Whomping Willow?)
As for The Boy Who Lived, it'd been a while since we'd heard or seen anything from him. We'd waited two years since Harry battled a basilisk in the last film, Chamber of Secrets. The book world was in a lull between Order of the Phoenix, which released an eternity ago (i.e. 2003) and Half-Blood Prince, which wouldn't hit bookstores until 2005. (This doesn't seem so bad now that people wait six years for George R.R. Martin to write something.)
Finally, after an interminable wait, the third movie hit the cinemas. Fans painted lightning bolts on their foreheads, dusted off their wizarding robes from Halloween, and stuffed a pouch of Bertie Botts Every-Flavor Beans into their pockets. Then they lined up around the block on June 4, 2004, for the premiere of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
Like every Harry Potter movie, this one brings back Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint. It also introduces new characters and new monsters. But this one gives us something else new: a new director. Out is Chris Columbus (the man behind the first two Harry films) and in is Alfonso Cuarón, best known for the racy Mexican film Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001).
The anxiety is short-lived, because fans and critics alike are thrilled to see the new energy Cuarón brings to the franchise. He pushes the young actors to their limits, cranks up the special effects, and brings us a vision of Hogwarts that we've never seen before. Azkaban proves that Harry is here to stay.
Okay, back to the present. Looking back, Prisoner of Azkaban is the second-best-reviewed film in the Harry Potter franchise on Rotten Tomatoes' Tomatometer. At 91% fresh, it's only slightly less fresh than the series finale, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2.
As we said, Harry isn't going anywhere. He isn't a magical fad forgotten over time. The book and the movie of Prisoner of Azkaban are the type of magic that people all over the world like to revisit. And unlike our own experiences of 2004 (we do not want to see what we were posting on The Facebook way back when), Harry's third year at Hogwarts is a time we don't mind reliving again and again.
Prisoner of Azkaban marks the moment when Harry Potter begins to grow up. When this boy-who-lived starts becoming a man-who-lived.
And it's not exactly like Harry had an easy kidhood. His tender years were hardly full of soccer, popsicles, and games of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey. That part when Harry's parents are murdered while trying to protect him? Yeah: it's dark stuff, so we know this series isn't exactly a bright ray of sunshine.
But the first two books—and especially the first two movies—focused on more whimsical aspects of Harry's introduction to the wizarding world. Harry's glasses are magically repaired. He plays wizard chess. He eats chocolate frogs. Freaking adorbs.
Sure, someone tries to kill him every once in a while, but the villains felt a little Scooby-Doo-level harmless. These kids wouldn't actually be hurt, right? Right?
With Prisoner of Azkaban, we're not so sure anymore. Cuarón's adaptation of Rowling's novel ushers in a new, darker era for Harry Potter. As soon as a Dementor boards the Hogwarts Express—without a ticket!—and starts to suck the soul out of Harry Potter's living body, you know you're not in Hogwarts anymore. Actually, what's really alarming is that you are still in Hogwarts, but it's Hogwarts that is changing. A place that was once safe is being overtaken by evil…and nothing will be the same again.
While you have to wait until The Goblet of Fire for things to get really dark (RIP, Cedric Diggory), Azkaban's the tipping point in the Harry Potter franchise. Once you watch Harry confront some of his biggest fears, you're going to want to see how the rest of his adventure turns out.
After Azkaban, you're in it for the long haul, Dementors and all.
Despite Cuarón's popularity, he denies rumors that he'll return to the Harry Potter franchise. In 2014, he revealed that he would not direct the Potter spin-off films based on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Instead, David Yates, director of many other Harry Potter films, will tell us where to find them. (Source)
There's something queer about Lupin's little speech after he resigns. And by "queer" we mean both "strange" and "not heterosexual." The reason for the parallels between Lupin's speech and that of a homosexual teacher being forced to resign after being outed is because director Alfonso Cuarón read the character as gay. He instructed actor David Thewlis to play the role as a "gay junkie" jonesing for the moon. (Source)
Author M. Joseph Young's fascinated with time travel, and he analyzed the heck out of the time travel portion in the finale of Prisoner of Azkaban. Our eyes crossed about halfway through, but Young's ultimate verdict is that the time travel, as presented in the novel, doesn't work. But, "the filmmakers blundered into a solution to the anomaly that works." Good job, guys. (Source)
They couldn't make all the Harry Potter books into two films, so many elements from the book must be left out to squeeze the plot into one two-hour movie. This site lists all the differences between the book and movie. And because the film makers were able to tell the future (the book series was up to Order of the Phoenix by the time this film was made) they were able to add hints to Ron and Hermione's budding relationship, which wasn't in the book. (Source)
You have to be an online wizard to figure out how to navigate the website for the Blu-Ray and DVD collection.
This Seems Familiar
This movie is based on a *little-known book series. (*So much sarcasm.)
One Potter to Rule Them All
After watching all the Harry Potter films in two days, Dan Kois of Slate decided that Azkaban is the one that ultimately defined the franchise. And that it was time for a shower.
Emily Asher-Perrin of Tor disagrees with Dan Kois, calling Azkaban completely nonsensical…and missing the opportunity to call it riddikulus.
Prisoner of Public Opinion
Daniel and Emma talk darkness, death, and teen feelings. They aren't all one in the same.
Seriously, why isn't Rupert Grint in any of these interviews?
Those Who Time Travel Cast the First Stone
CinemaSins shows us everything wrong with Azkaban in 8 minutes…and only 4 of them are devoted to time travel.
She's Not Gonna Take It
Emma Watson talks about striking back against Malfoy.
Finally, we find an interview with Rupert.
Pixels of Azkaban
There were a lot of magical games on the Nintendo GameCube. This…wasn't one of them. But the nostalgia still casts a spell.
A for Azkabana
David Edelstein sees Azkaban as an upgrade from the previous two films. (And for some reason reminds us twice that Cuarón is Mexican, and makes more sexual innuendos than we can count.)
The only time JK Rowling and M Night Shyamalan are in the same sentence is when both have movies with scores nominated for Academy Awards.
By the Light of the Moon
This fan poster accomplishes the impossible: making the werewolf not look ridikkulus.
Like Sands through the Hourglass
No time tuner is needed to take a look at this fan-made poster.
The Hills Have Eyes
This fan-made poster gets our Creepiest Potter Poster Award.
P's in a Pod
This poster emphasizes the titular prisoner and even Pettigrew over Potter.