Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is a 2004 fantasy adventure film, based on the novel of the same name by J. K. Rowling. Directed by Alfonso Cuarón, it is the third film in the popular Harry Potter series. It stars Daniel Radcliffe as the teenage wizard Harry Potter, and Rupert Grint and Emma Watson as Harry's best friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. Gary Oldman and David Thewlis joined the cast as the new characters Sirius Black and Remus Lupin. In this movie, the role of Albus Dumbledore was played by Michael Gambon who took over from the late Richard Harris who died of Hodgkin's disease. Steve Kloves returned as screenwriter, while Chris Columbus (the director of the previous two films) became a producer, alongside David Heyman. The film was released on 31 May 2004 in the United Kingdom and on 4 June 2004 in the United States as the first film released into IMAX theaters.
The film was nominated for two Academy Awards — Academy Award for Original Music Score and Academy Award for Visual Effects at the 77th Academy Awards held in 2005.
is with Dursleys for the summer, learning to do more spells, and awaits an imminent visit from Uncle Vernon
's sister Marge
. Harry loses his temper when Marge insults his family, and unintentionally causes her to inflate and float away. Harry flees, as he expects to be punished for performing magic outside of school. The Knight Bus
appears and takes Harry to the Leaky Cauldron
where Minister for Magic Cornelius Fudge
tells Harry he will not be expelled. Harry learns that Sirius Black
, who is said to be a supporter of Lord Voldemort
, has escaped from Azkaban
and that Black will likely come after him.
Harry journeys to Hogwarts with his best friends Ron and Hermione. On the train of Hogwarts Express, they share a compartment with the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, Remus Lupin, who is sleeping when they enter the compartment. Abruptly, the Hogwarts Express is stopped and a Dementor boards, searching for Black. Harry faints when the Dementor enters their compartment, but Lupin awakens and repels the Dementor after hearing a woman-like scream. At school, Albus Dumbledore informs the Hogwarts students that the Dementors have been set as a guard around the school grounds as a protection against Black. In addition to Lupin, Hagrid is announced as the new Care of Magical Creatures teacher. Lupin's lessons prove enjoyable; he teaches useful spells and helps less confident students like Neville. However Hagrid's class does not go to plan; on the first day, Draco Malfoy deliberately provokes the Hippogriff Buckbeak into attacking him. His father successfully has Buckbeak sentenced to death.
During a Quidditch match, several Dementors approach Harry, causing him to fall off his broomstick. Because of this Lupin teaches Harry to defend himself against Dementors with a Patronus charm. A Patronus is the opposite of a Dementor: as Dementors feed on depression and darkness, so a Patronus must be created with a happy memory. As Harry was unable to get permission to visit Hogsmeade from a Parent or Guardian, Fred and George give Harry the Marauder's Map so that he can sneak out of the castle. At Hogsmeade, Harry overhears that Black was his godfather and his parents' best friend. Black is said to have divulged the Potters' secret whereabouts to Voldemort and murdered their mutual friend Peter Pettigrew. Harry vows to kill Black, but is later astonished when he sees Pettigrew's name on the map.
In Divination class, Professor Trelawney enters a trance and predicts that the Dark Lord's servant will return to Harry that night. Harry, Ron and Hermione visit Hagrid to console him over Buckbeak's impending execution and discover Scabbers, who had been missing earlier that year. Just then Fudge, Dumbledore and an executioner visit Hagrid's to carry out Buckbeak's execution (which the trio watch sadly), when Scabbers suddenly bites Ron and escapes. While the trio is chasing Scabbers, a large dog drags both Ron and his rat, Scabbers, into a hole at the base of the Whomping Willow before Harry could get to them. The Whomping Willow attacks Harry and Hermione but Hermione uses the swinging willow branches to their advantage. Harry and Hermione follow, to the Shrieking Shack. It turns out the dog is the Animagus form of Sirius Black. Harry attacks Sirius and takes him to the ground, but before he can do anything, Lupin arrives, disarms Harry, and embraces Sirius as an old friend. After being confronted by Hermione, Lupin admits to being a werewolf. And at this moment Snape appears, planning to catch Black and Lupin and hand them over to the Dementors, but is knocked out by Harry. Lupin and Black explain that Scabbers is Peter Pettigrew, who is also an Animagus, and that he is the one who did for what Black served time in Azkaban. Lupin and Sirius force Pettigrew back to his human form and then prepare to kill him, but are stopped by Harry, who tells them that it was not what James would have done. Instead, he wants to turn over Pettigrew to the Dementors. As the group head back to the castle, the full moon rises; Lupin transforms into a werewolf, which allows Pettigrew to escape. Lupin and Sirius fight in their animal forms, until Lupin is distracted by the sound of another werewolf and Dementors attack Sirius and Harry. As Sirius is about to have his soul removed, Harry sees a figure in the distance cast a powerful stag-shaped Patronus, scattering the Dementors and saving their lives. Harry believes the mysterious figure to be that of his father James.
Hermione reveals that she possesses a time-turner, which how she has been taking multiple classes at once. She and Harry travel back in time three hours, watching themselves go through the night's events. They set Buckbeak free and return to the Whomping Willow. As the Dementors are about to attack the "other" Harry and Sirius, Harry realizes that he is the person who cast the Patronus, which gives him the confidence to do so now. Harry and Hermione rescue Sirius, who escapes on Buckbeak. At the end of the year, Lupin resigns, knowing that people will not allow a werewolf to teach their children. Later, Sirius sends Harry a Firebolt, an extremely fast racing broom.
With Prisoner of Azkaban
production of the Harry Potter
films switched to an 18-month cycle, which producer David Heyman
explained was "to give each [film] the time it required." Chris Columbus
, the director of the previous two films, decided not to return and helm the third installment as he "hadn't seen [his] own kids for supper in the week for about two and a half years. Even so, he remained on as a producer alongside Heyman. Guillermo del Toro
was approached to direct, but considered the film "so bright and happy and full of light, that [he] wasn't interested. Warner Bros. then composed a three-name short list for Columbus's replacement, which comprised Callie Khouri
, Kenneth Branagh
(who played Gilderoy Lockhart
in Chamber of Secrets
) and eventual selection Alfonso Cuarón
. Cuarón was initially nervous about accepting as he had not read any of the books, or seen the films. After reading the series, he changed his mind and signed on to direct, as he had immediately connected to the story. Cuarón's appointment pleased J. K. Rowling
who loved his film Y tu mamá también
and was impressed with his adaptation of A Little Princess
. Heyman found that "tonally and stylistically, [Cuarón] was the perfect fit."
Principal photography began on 24 February 2003, at Leavesden Film Studios
, and concluded in October 2003.
Some of the sets for the film were built in Glen Coe, Scotland, near to the Clachaig Inn. The indoor sets, including sets built for the previous two films, are mainly in Leavesden Film Studios. The Hogwarts Lake was filmed from Loch Ness in the Highlands of Scotland. Incidentally, the train bridge which was also featured in the Chamber of Secrets movie is opposite Loch Shiel and was used to film the sequences when the Dementor arrived on the train. A small section of the triple-decker bus scene, where it weaves in between many different cars, was filmed in Palmers Green in North London. Some parts were also filmed in and around Borough Market and Lambeth Bridge in London.
The set of Honeydukes seen in this film is a redress of the set of Flourish and Blotts seen in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, which, in turn, was a redress of the set of Ollivander's from the first film.
Rowling allowed Cuarón to make changes to the book, on the condition that he stuck to the spirit of the book. She let him place a sundial in the Hogwarts' grounds, but told him that he could not add in a graveyard, as it would play an important part in the then unreleased sixth book. Rowling said she "got goosebumps" when she saw several moments in the film, as they inadvertently referred to events in the final two books, she stated "people are going to look back on the film and think that those were put in deliberately as clues." When filming concluded, Cuarón found that it had "been the two sweetest years of my life," and expressed his interest in directing one of the sequels.
Cuarón originally wanted to move away from CGI toward puppetry. He hired master underwater puppeteer Basil Twist to help, using puppets to study the potential movement of the Dementors. Once it became apparent that puppetry would be too expensive and unable to portray the specific elements of the Dementors, Cuarón turned to CGI; however, he and his team did use footage of Dementor puppets underwater as a basis for the flowing movements of the computer-generated Dementors.
The Knight Bus segment when Harry is being taken to The Leaky Cauldron uses the film technique known as bullet time, popularised in The Matrix series of films. This segment takes humorous advantage of the magic quality of the Harry Potter world by having the Muggle world go into bullet time while inside the Knight Bus, Harry, Stan Shunpike and Ernie Prang (and the talking shrunken head) keep moving in real time.
The Academy Award nominated score
was composed and conducted by John Williams
and released on CD on 25 May 2004. In general, his music for this third film is less lyrical and more sombre (and at times more frightening) than that of the previous films. Other than brief quotes of "Hedwig's Theme" and the "Nimbus 2000" theme, Williams' score also consists of entirely new themes.
Cast and characters
Cuarón instructed Radcliffe, Grint and Watson to write an essay on their characters, explaining what they thought about them. In a case of life imitating art, Radcliffe was pleased with his short essay, Watson wrote sixteen pages and Grint did not even bother.
In addition, several new actors joined the cast:
- Michael Gambon takes over the role of Albus Dumbledore, the Hogwarts Headmaster, as Richard Harris, who played Dumbledore in the previous two films, died on 25 October 2002. Despite his illness Harris had been determined to film his part, telling a visiting David Heyman not to recast the role. Four months after Harris's death, Cuarón chose Gambon as his replacement. Gambon was not concerned about bettering Harris and did his own thing, putting on a slight Irish accent for the role, as well as completing his scenes in three weeks. Ian McKellen was offered the role, but he turned it down having played the similar character Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. He also felt it would have been inappropriate to take Harris' role, as the late actor had called McKellen a "dreadful" actor. Harris's family had expressed an interest in seeing Harris's close friend Peter O'Toole being chosen as his replacement.
- Gary Oldman plays Sirius Black, an escapee from the Wizarding prison Azkaban and Harry's godfather. Oldman accepted the part because he needed the money, as he had not taken on any major work in several years as he had decided to spend more time with his children. He drew inspiration from Cuarón, who he described as having "such enthusiasm and a joy for life," and compared Sirius to John Lennon. He was "surprised by how difficult it was to pull off", comparing the role to Shakespearean dialogue. Oldman suggested Sirius's hairstyle, while Cuarón designed his tattoos. He had read the first book, and his children were fans of the series. The part made Oldman a hero with his children and their schoolmates.
- David Thewlis plays Remus Lupin, the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts, who is actually a werewolf. He was friends with Harry's parents when they were at school, and teaches Harry to conjure a Patronus Charm to fight the Dementors. Thewlis, who had previously auditioned for the role of Professor Quirrell in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, was Cuarón's first choice for the role of Lupin. He accepted the role on advice from Ian Hart, the man who was cast as Quirrell, who told him that Lupin was "the best part in the book. Cuarón told Thewlis that he thought Lupin was gay, pitching him as a "gay junkie", although his idea turned out to be incorrect. Thewlis had seen the first two films and had only read part of the first book, although after taking the role he read the third. He was excited about the prospect of making a children's film, and thoroughly enjoyed filming.
- Timothy Spall as Peter Pettigrew: The man who was supposedly killed by Sirius, only to be found alive and well, masquerading as Ron's rat Scabbers.
- Emma Thompson as Sybill Trelawney: The inept Hogwarts Divination teacher, who unknowingly predicts the return of Lord Voldemort.
Additional cast members include:
Prisoner of Azkaban
achieved extremely positive reviews, garnering an 89% "Certified Fresh" with a 90% "Cream of the Crop" ranking at Rotten Tomatoes
and a score of 81 out of 100 at Metacritic
garnering "universal acclaim". Peter Travers of Rolling Stone
gave the film three-and-a-half out of four stars: "Not only is this dazzler by far the best and most thrilling of the three Harry Potter movies to date, it's a film that can stand on its own even if you never heard of author J.K. Rowling and her young wizard hero. The Hollywood Reporter
called the film "a deeper, darker, visually arresting and more emotionally satisfying adaptation of the J.K. Rowling literary phenomenon", especially compared to the first two installments. Roger Ebert
gave the film three-and-a-half out of four stars saying, unlike most critics, that the film "is not quite as good as the first two", but still called it "a delightful, amusing and sophisticated installment". Claudia Puig from USA Today
praised the film as "a visual delight", while Richard Roeper
called the film "a creative triumph". Sean Smith from Newsweek
said: "The Prisoner of Azkaban
boasts a brand-new director and a bold new vision", he also called the film "moving", praising the performances by Radcliffe
, while Entertainment Weekly
praised the film for being more mature than its predecessors. Some of the negative criticism came from The Washington Post
: "Put delicately, this is one long sit, made all the more so by a turgid story, a dour visual palette and uninspiring action". Rex Reed, of The New York Observer
, also pointed out some over the top style changes, calling it "The silliest, as well as the most contrived -- and confusing -- of them all".
Box office performance
The film opened in the United Kingdom
on 31 May and on 4 June in the United States
. It broke numerous records upon its worldwide release. It broke the record for biggest single day in U.K. box office history making £5.3 million on a Monday. It went on to break records both with and without previews making a stunning £23.9 million including previews and £9.3 million excluding them. The film made $93.7 million during its opening weekend in the United States, achieving the third biggest opening weekend of all time. It went on to make £46.1 million in the U.K.
The Prisoner of Azkaban made a total of $795.5 million worldwide, which made it the second highest-grossing film of 2004 behind Shrek 2. In the United States, it was only the sixth highest-grossing film of the year making $249.5 million. Everywhere else in the world, however, it was the number one film of the year, making $546 million compared to Shrek 2's $478.6 million. Despite its successful box office run, Azkaban is currently the lowest-grossing Harry Potter film (all the other Harry Potter films have grossed more than US $875 million worldwide). Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is currently the 21st highest grossing film in history.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
was nominated in the 77th Academy Awards
held in 2005 for two Oscars
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was also nominated for Favorite Movie at the 2005 Kids' Choice Awards, but it lost to The Incredibles.
Differences from the book
Prisoner of Azkaban
was, at the time of publication, the longest book in the series. The increasing plot complexity necessitated a looser adaptation of the book's finer plot lines and back-story. The connection between Harry's parents and the Marauder's map is only briefly mentioned, as is Remus Lupin
's association to both the map and James Potter. Some exposition
was removed for dramatic effect: both the Shrieking Shack and Scabbers the rat are mentioned only very briefly in the film adaptation, while they receive a more thorough coverage in the novel. Most of the back story of Sirius Black
is also cut, with no mention of the manner of his escape from Azkaban
, his abilities as an Animagus
, or the origin of the Firebolt he sends Harry.. This leads to at least one continuity error. In the film, it is never explained how Professor Lupin knew how to work the Marauder's Map. In the book, it is revealed that he was one of its creators. Also, magic is not supposed to be allowed outside Hogwarts for under-aged students, as seen when Harry accidentally blows up Aunt Marge, however, Harry is seen using a spell in his bedroom in the opening of the movie.
Harry, in the book, never actually produced a working Patronus until he fought off the Dementors by the lake later in the book. In the movie, he was able to conjure an exceedingly powerful one on his second try. In addition, Harry needed five attempts in Professor Lupin's lessons to get even a little bit of a Patronus in the book.
Neville and Ginny were in the compartment with Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Lupin in the book. However, in the movie it is only the trio and Lupin.
On account of pace and time considerations, the film glosses over detailed descriptions of magical education. Only one Hippogriff, Buckbeak, is seen, and only Malfoy and Harry are seen interacting with the Hippogriff during Care of Magical Creatures lessons, and most other lessons, including all of Snape's potions classes, were cut from the film. The complicated description of the Fidelius Charm is removed entirely from the film adaptation, with no explanation given of exactly how Black betrayed the Potters to Lord Voldemort. Many of the lines in this scene are redistributed amongst Cornelius Fudge and Minerva McGonagall; in compensation, McGonagall's exposition of the Animagus transformation is instead given by Snape.
Many other sequences in the film were modified from the literary counterparts to increase pace and tension. The Time-Turner sequence in particular is extended and restructured; while in the novel Harry and Hermione take great care to avoid disrupting the timeline of events, in the film version they do so several times, both accidentally and deliberately. At one point, Hermione is nearly revealed to her prior self whilst commenting on the state of her hair; at another, the pair prompt their prior selves to escape discovery by throwing stones at themselves through the window of Hagrid's hut. The scene in which Hermione strikes Malfoy occurs as part of this sequence of events in the film, but occurs earlier in the book (and in the book, Hermione simply slaps Malfoy, whereas in the film, she punches him). It should also be noted that Malfoy was far less capable of composing himself in this scene than he was in the novel, as he begins sobbing both when Hermione pulls her wand on him and when she punches him. In the novel, while he still got the short end of the stick, he only walked away frustrated, rather than in tears.
The embryonic romantic connection between Ron and Hermione is more prominent in the film adaptation than the original book; in response to criticism of the first two films for sacrificing character development for mystery and adventure, the emotional development of all three lead characters is given more attention in the third film. That said, any mention of the beginnings of Harry's crush on Cho Chang is removed. The darker side of Harry, first seen in Prisoner of Azkaban is glimpsed in this film, when Harry proclaims, "I hope he [Black] finds me. Cause when he does, I'm gonna be ready. When he does, I'm gonna kill him".
Comparison to preceding films in the Harry Potter series
The third film departed from several conventions set in the first two movies, and had several stylistic changes. This is mostly due to the introduction of a new director to the series, but may also be explained by the fact that the third book of the series was significantly longer than the previous two books, and the director was given more freedom to adapt the book in the interest of screening time. Overall, this film is more than ten minutes shorter than each of the other films in the series.
All the Harry Potter books contain scenes relating to the mystery/adventure aspect of the stories along with emotional scenes designed to explore the characters. The first two films had a tendency to focus mainly on the mystery/adventure aspect, leaving out most of the emotional scenes, which inevitably bred criticisms of a lack of character development and related issues.
In the third film, the paradigm was reversed with more emphasis on Harry's angst than on the plot mechanics and faithfulness to the narrative. (There is also an emphasis on certain character's moments of foolishness, present, or sometimes highlighted and emphasized, only in the movie. This includes Ron and Malfoy.) With less focus on the adventure, many moments in the film are somewhat dramatized instead. Some felt that this created a murky plotline, but many film critics and fans were more than pleased with these changes, believing it made the film stronger and the characters more interesting and believable than the two previous.
Continuity between films
The landscape and layout of Hogwarts has changed since prior films. The changes noticeable in this film include:
- The addition of "Clock Tower" (A similar tower can be spotted in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in the spot the clock tower would be, but the tower is missing the clock itself).
- The Fat Lady's portrait (in addition to being completely different than the one in the first two films) now resides on the grand staircase, while in the first two films the Fat Lady's portrait was at the end of a long hallway. This change causes several mistakes/problems. The common room is meant to be in a tower, which means that its entrance cannot be direct from the stairs. As well as this, the entrances are meant to be secret, i.e. only people from Gryffindor house should know where the portrait is. This, however, allowed the Fat Lady to be found quickly amongst the other portraits (which in the film are placed around in the room with moving staircases) when she left her own.
- Hagrid's hut is now larger, much farther from the school and is surrounded by hills.
- The Whomping Willow is now located on a hilltop at some distance from Hogwarts.
- A large wooden bridge now exists, which was not mentioned in the books and did not appear in the previous films, which leads to Hagrid's hut and the Whomping Willow. (However, this bridge is used in subsequent films four and five.)
- Tom the bartender in the Leaky Cauldron is different from Tom in the first film.
- Albus Dumbledore, due to Richard Harris's death, is portrayed by Michael Gambon.
- The spells make a shrill high-pitched noise when they are cast. In the previous two films, the noises spells made varied or did not make one.
- Student uniforms have been redesigned somewhat from their portrayal in the first two films, most noticeably in House neckties and scarves. While both previously featured House colours in equal-width stripes, neckties now feature one background colour with an alternating pattern of two thick stripes and one thin stripe of a foreground colour, and house scarves feature thinner foreground stripes in groups of two over the background. More subtly, the lining of student robes has changed from black to house colours (identical to the background colour on ties and scarves), while house sweaters are a darker shade of grey and only have house stripes along the waistband and cuffs (in previous films, these were around the collar as well); later films also introduce cardigan and vest varieties. The Gryffindor logo on their uniforms has also changed, the Lion is now in a silver colour rather than Gold as in the previous two movies.
- The wands differ from those shown in the first two films. Hermione's wand is now 15 inches long, with vine carvings. Harry's now 14 -inch wand is the most changed; the handle appears to be made from a tree branch with bark while the shaft appears to be not polished but rough.
- It appears that Ron and Hermione have developed a romantic liking. Hints are that they almost held hands when Harry was approaching Buckbeak and that they were standing together near the ledge in Hogsmeade. Draco Malfoy even said something about it. However, it is not suggested that Ron likes Hermione until Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
Several things in the film foreshadowed later events in the series that were not present in the novel:
- Ron and Hermione's possible feelings for each other develop significantly in the film while they are not introduced or hinted at until the fourth book.
- Harry glimpses Sirius Black's face in a crystal ball calling his name. This could be a connection to the prophecy and the reason Harry finds it.
- The Dementors are described as gliding in the books yet they can fly to great heights in the movies. Their movement is almost identical to the way Voldemort is described as flying in the seventh book.
- After Harry wakes up in the hospital wing after the Quidditch match, one of the Weasley twins makes a comment to Ron "why don't we walk you off the Astronamy Tower and see how you look afterwards" which is a crude reference to Dumbledore's death at the end of the sixth book.
- During a conversation with Harry, Lupin says his mother had a talent for seeing the good in everyone. We assume he is referring to himself when he is more likely referring to the friendship Lily had with Snape as revealed in the seventh book.
- Harry is chased on his broom by a swarm of dementors and one of them catches up with him, causing him to fall off his broom. This is quite similar to the chase at the beginning of the seventh book.
- When the werewolf attacks, Snape shields Harry, Ron and Hermione from him which is a sign of his true loyalty.