There are things that you don’t say to a Potterhead, like the movies are better than the books. But there is one movie out of the eight films which comes really close. It’s the third movie in the franchise, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Of course, books and cinema are two very different mediums and to imagine that everything in the text will be faithfully transferred onto the screen is expecting a bit too much.
However, director Alfonso Cuarón did a wonderful job with Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. The characters come of age and we see a whole new side of our beloved heroes in the third installment. Being a teenager is tough, even if you are the world’s most famous wizard. There are school struggles and the added burden of a dark past if you are Harry Potter. That angst, confusion, fear and joy, the whole deal, is brought alive by Cuaron’s able hands.
Cuaron’s Harry Potter is darker, just like the book. Its magic is almost tangible, for a second, you actually believe that the dementors are truly miserable and scary creatures that possess the potential to suck anyone’s happiness. Also, let us just applaud the great camera work by Michael Seresin, whose every frame looked like moving art. Remember that scene when Harry befriends hippogriff Buckebak for the first time and then they both fly across the castle, seas, and other beatific landscapes? A feast for the eyes.
Everything comes together in the third installment of the franchise. Even the actors realise the task that they have been assigned, to make the unreal real enough. Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint are just like any other 13-year-olds in the film. They whine constantly, they bicker and they are smart. Daniel is particularly convincing as the child who was asked to grow up quickly owing to his circumstances.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is made up of several small, great sequences. Apart from the Buckbeak scene that has already been mentioned, during the latter part of the film there is a delightful and scary whomping willow scene where both Harry and Hermione are thrown about by the great tree. Of course, it’s difficult to forget the part about the Knight Bus and the blown-up version of Aunt Marge.
The first two films are lighter, fluffier versions of the books, but it is in the third one that author J K Rowling’s vision comes truly alive. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is weird, dark and delightful, and we wouldn’t have had it any other way.