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Watson, Radcliffe and Grint
With Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, director Alfonso Cuaron imparts a bold and frank new sensibility to the ongoing series. Cuaron replaces the glossy sheen and rote mechanics director Christopher Columbus brought to the first two films with a dark, rich intensity. There’s a greater attention to detail and a surprising amount of sophistication — both narratively and emotionally — in Azkaban. And while it doesn’t negate what came prior, it calls to attention what those first two films might have been in the hands of a more artistically-inclined director.
At its core, Azkaban is a story about crossing a bridge from childhood into maturity. The film is a giant metaphor for the transformations one goes through on the road to adulthood (not the least obvious of which is an establishing shot of Harry under his bedsheets playing with his magic wand). Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and pals Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), all 13, must face their deepest fears and find their inner-heroes. While they’ve been through similar ordeals in the past two films, the stakes are now higher and their adversaries, more fearsome and real.
The beauty of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is that it speaks to its intended adolescent audience in terms they’ll understand, without ever dumbing itself down. In other words, it’s a kid’s film for adults. There were several moments during Azkaban where I could hardly suppress my buried inner-teen from going into giddy overdrive and I audibly blurted out “Wow!” during any number of sequences — especially those featuring Buckbeak the hippogriff, a majestic half-eagle, half-horse Harry befriends. Oh, what I wouldn’t give to soar through the skies on that awesome beast. After watching Azkaban, I feel as though I have.