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Film Review: "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" (2004)

Film reviews from across the cinematic landscape. Written by: Jason Wheeler, Film Frenzy Senior Writer & Editor.



In 2004, Alfonso Cuarón released Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, based on the 1999 novel of the same name by J. K. Rowling, as the third film in the Harry Potter series. Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Robbie Coltrane, Michael Gambon, Richard Griffiths, Gary Oldman, Alan Rickman, Fiona Shaw, Maggie Smith, Timothy Spall, David Thewlis, Emma Thompson, and Julie Walters, the film grossed $796.7 million at the box office.

Film Synopsis

Alleged mass murderer Sirius Black has escaped from the wizard prison, Azkaban, and is believed to be out to kill Harry Potter. In response, the Ministry of Magic surrounds Hogwarts with Dementors, creatures able to drain a person’s happiness and suck out their souls.


Film Review

Though not perfect, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is a good film. Where its predecessors presented audiences with a fair amount of dark thematic elements, this one drops them into a dark atmosphere with only occasional glimpses of light. From the initial Dementor on the Hogwarts Express causing Harry to hear his mother’s final words and faint to the climax filled with an execution, facing a man with a murderous reputation, a werewolf and numerous Dementors, the film is certainly aware of its presence as the point where Harry’s adventures take a turn from the wondrous to the murderous. Yet, there are moments of levity, as if the filmmakers are giving the audience brief respite to prepare for what comes next. The Knight Bus is an example, providing some enjoyable comic relief following Harry blowing up his aunt.

The new characters the film has are done well, too. Throughout most of the film, Black is not seen. Rather, he’s only spoken of by other characters familiar with his alleged misdeeds. The entire film, they had been hearing how dangerous he is, what he’s capable of, and how much he hates Harry. This makes the reaction the trio has when he finally shows himself, readying themselves for a fight despite how outmatched they are in the moment, believable. Further, Professor Remus Lupin is a fascinating character as this year’s Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. He immediately proves himself a capable instructor before classes start, fighting off the Dementor on the train and giving Harry chocolate so he can recover. Additionally, he treats the class with more prestige than the person he replaced, allowing the students to challenge their abilities. This is properly demonstrated when he and Harry have private lessons in how to conjure a Patronus.

The acting from the main trio continues to improve. It’s especially seen in Radcliffe, able to take the anger Harry is feeling regarding everything surrounding Black and make it realistic. Moreover, Oldman once again takes the role he has and puts everything into it, making it seem like he really is unhinged and focused on revenge.

However, the film isn’t entirely perfect and feels rather bloated with a few unnecessary scenes. One example is the bluebird flying through the school, a scene that drags on for far too long and adds nothing to the story itself. Similarly, the choir with their croaking frogs feels as if it was inserted entirely for the purposes of adding atmosphere and to ensure the viewer is aware that evil is making its way to Hogwarts. The idea itself is interesting but seems too obvious in its execution.

Awards and Recognitions

bold indicates reception of award/recognition

Academy Awards

  • Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score
  • Best Achievement in Visual Effects

Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA – Saturn Awards

  • Best Fantasy Film
  • Best Supporting Actor (Gary Oldman)
  • Best Performance by a Younger Actor (Daniel Radcliffe)
  • Best Director (Alfonso Cuarón)
  • Best Writer
  • Best Music
  • Best Costumes
  • Best Make-Up
  • Best Special Effects
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AFI Awards, USA

  • Special Award (The HARRY POTTER SERIES marks the final triumphant chapter of a landmark series)

Amanda Awards, Norway

  • Best Foreign Feature Film

Art Directors Guild Awards

  • Contribution to Cinematic Imagery Award

Awards Circuit Community Awards

  • Best Visual Effects

BAFTA Awards

  • Audience Award
  • BAFTA Children’s Award – Best Feature Film
  • Alexander Korda Award for Best British Film
  • Best Production Design
  • Best Achievement in Special Visual Effects
  • Best Make Up/Hair

BMI Film & TV Award

  • BMI Film Music Award

Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards

  • Best Young Actor (Daniel Radcliffe)
  • Best Young Actress (Emma Watson)
  • Best Family Film (Live Action)

DVD Exclusive Awards

  • Best Games and Interactivities
  • Best Menu Design

Empire Awards, UK

  • Special Award (The “Harry Potter” films for outstanding contribution to British cinema.)

Gold Derby Awards

  • Visual Effects

Golden Trailer Awards

  • Best Animation/Family (for the teaser #2)
  • Best Music (for “Dark”)
  • Summer 2004 Blockbuster

Grammy Awards

  • Best Score Soundtrack Album for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media

Hollywood Film Awards

  • Production Designer of the Yea

Hugo Awards

  • Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form

International Film Music Critics Awards

  • Best Original Score for a Fantasy/Science Fiction Film

International Online Cinema Awards

  • Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Italian Online Movie Awards

  • Best Visual Effects

Kids’ Choice Awards, USA – Blimp Awards

  • Favorite Movie

Motion Picture Sound Editors, USA – Golden Reel Awards

  • Best Sound Editing in Foreign Features

NRJ Ciné Awards

  • Top of the Box Office

Online Film & Television Association Awards

  • Best Youth Performance (Emma Watson)
  • Best Visual Effects
  • Best Official Film Website (The Official Harry Potter Website)

People’s Choice Awards

  • Favorite Movie Fan Following (Potterheads)
  • Favorite Sequel
  • Favorite Villain Movie Star (Gary Oldman)

Phoenix Film Critics Society Awards

  • Best Live Action Family Film

Satellite Awards

  • Best Youth DVD (Harry Potter: The Complete 8 Film Collection)
  • Best DVD Extras (for “Harry Potter Years 1-4”)

Teen Choice Awards

  • Choice Movie – Drama/Action Adventure
  • Choice Movie of the Summer

Visual Effects Society Awards

  • Outstanding Visual Effects in an Effects Driven Motion Picture
  • Outstanding Performance by an Animated Character in a Live Action Motion Picture (For the Hippogriff character)
  • Best Single Visual Effect of the Year
  • Outstanding Models and Miniatures in a Motion Picture

World Soundtrack Awards

  • Public Choice Award
  • Soundtrack Composer of the Year
  • Best Original Soundtrack of the Year

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2018 Film Frenzy

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