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Yes, I was one of those people that cheered when the saccharine duo of Columbus and Kloves got torn asunder by director selection Alfonso Cuaron for the third installment. If I would have had to sit through another bright candy coated, cartoony movie when Azkaban is everything but, I would have gone to see the movie but probably not been happy for a moment.

This movie is artsy as all get out, which I instantly latched and enjoyed because it was different (also known as ‘for the wrong reasons’). After two movies, there is a certain degree of presumption that the viewer knows what they’re getting into, and rightfully so. At the third movie of any movie series, the catching up and introductions are presumed to have happened, therefore leaving more room for the action. This is good. It’d be like walking into Star Wars Episode III and going “hai guys who’s that short green dude” or something like that.

At times the movie suffers trying to be too clever and artistic – like the bird in the tree. The frog choir was pointless and didn’t even add ‘interest’ to the scene- it would have been pleasant enough just sitting on the soundtrack. The movie’s ‘director touches’ (the talking skulls, etc.) also stood out like horrible sore thumbs. Note to all future directors, if you must stamp something of yourself in the movie, try blending it in (Newell’s study hall scene, Goblet of Fire is the one you want to watch) instead of going “hey look! Nothing Potteresque to see here in this reference, move along now”.

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That said, I enjoyed the dark and gloomy feel of the movie, the expansion of the grounds, David Thewlis’ turn as Lupin, and the brilliant touches of madness from Gary Oldman (Sirius Black). Trelawney was appropriately daft. The fact I enjoyed those bits so much may explain my absolute dismay at the complete lameness of the werewolf transformation. Special effects did a better job convincing me Petter Petigrew/Wormtail was a rat the entire time than Lupin as a werewolf. I just don’t get it, somewhere there was an executive decision to make the dementors as creepy as possible, complete with the sucking happiness (via the stretchy face) out of people – then giving up and throwing down a lame werewolf because werewolves are just so scary or something. Huh? You were already creeping the kids out, WB, just go with it and finish the job. If I were a youngster (and I am reminded I must go check with a few), I would think watching someone get their soul vacuumed out Hoover style would be just a bit more scary than a toony werewolf. There’s no way they could have pushed Azkaban into PG-13 territory, but they could have pushed that PG a little harder, actually.

As a side note, books three and six share one interesting thing in common – Voldemort does not directly appear to interact to Harry. It will be interesting to see how that gets handled in the Half-Blood Prince movie. Actually, Azkaban is really not about Voldemort at all, in so much as it is a setup for Goblet of Fire with Wormtail running off at the critical moment.

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Although some may complain and angst openly over Super Action Figure Hermione (now with Timeturner), I believe had they shown her getting progressively more stressed, snappish and frazzled over the movie Hermione being all “cool, chilled out and go girl power save the day” at the end it would have worked better. That infamous pink hoodie, which people claim is so unHermione, Mary Sue, and other similar waspish phrases of turn, I can actually imagine Hermione wearing, although I suspect the choice was more “Emma Watson looks a-ok in pink.” than anything. Find me the passage where Hermione expresses a sincere dislike for the color pink, though. Any book. I’ve read these books too many times and am quite certain about it though I am willing to admit I could have missed it.

The ending also sucks as written. There was nothing wrong with the book’s ending; in fact it would have set up a lot of things nicely. This nearly begs for an essay filled with spoilers about just what needs to be included and put back in Order of the Phoenix’s movie to properly accomodate all the ‘needed cuts’ and set things up for Half-Blood Prince’s movie.[/p][p]It may sound like I really dislike Prisoner of Azkaban. I actually liked it quite a lot because I can see the acting improving and the trio actually understanding their characters. Cuaron had each of the trio write essays on their characters – seriously, it shows they understood what they were getting into. If only they would have had the foresight to ask the trio to do this all along! Of the three movies, it ranks higher than Sorcerer’s Stone because of this, and because Prisoner of Azkaban is just a better written story from JK Rowling.

Like all the Potter movies, it’s a must pick up for the DVD collection, because if you have one you really should have all of them. Just in the strange event you’d want to pull a Potterthon.

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