Why “Prisoner of Azkaban” Is Actually the Best “Harry Potter” Film
In the Harry Potter fandom, we have so many varied opinions on basically anything imaginable. There is one point of contention that has seemed to divide the fandom into two very distinct categories: the movie Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. My fellow MuggleNet writer Bella decided to write her feelings on why she hates the film so much. Now it’s my turn to prove her wrong.
Ah, music,” he said, wiping his eyes. “A magic beyond all we do here!” (SS 128)
Dumbledore’s quote is very fitting when talking about the PoA film. This was the first film that successfully integrated choir music into the wizarding world. The transition between Harry looking out of the train window and the frog choir singing in the Great Hall is one of my favorite moments of the film. The song itself, “Double Trouble,” based off the witch’s song in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, foreshadows the tone of the film perfectly.
Building the Universe
The director of the film, Alfonso Cuarón, stated that he wanted to use PoA to establish the wizarding world as a physical world:
We started linking spaces. You see that there’s the Great Hall, and right outside the Great Hall is a hallway leading to the staircases. And you take those staircases to the Gryffindor dorm” (IMDb).
This movie lays out the world in a visual way that makes Hogwarts feel real and helps you understand that this story, while magical, is grounded in reality.
Adaptation of the World
The thing that has always really struck me about PoA is that everything and everyone just look right to me. While this movie isn’t a line-by-line adaptation of the book, to me it captures the look and feel of Harry Potter more than any other movie. This movie, like the wizarding world, is dark but also really silly. There are things like the shrunken head on the Knight Bus that are added to give it this whimsical feel that even J.K. Rowling herself said that she wishes she would have come up with. Most importantly, the characters look and act the most similar to their book versions. Harry’s messy black hair and sassy personality are on full display, Hermione gets to break away from her rule-following nature and stands her ground, and Ron makes some classic faces in this film. The scene when the Gryffindor boys are all eating candy together exemplifies the fun spirit of Hogwarts and the story as a whole.
The fact that the wizarding world expands so much in this book led to the film’s new array of characters. This movie welcomed some of the series’ biggest stars, with Gary Oldman as Sirius Black, David Thewlis as Remus Lupin, Timothy Spall as Peter Pettigrew, Emma Thompson as Sybill Trelawney, Pam Ferris as Aunt Marge, and Sir Michael Gambon, who took over as Dumbledore from the late Richard Harris. While some people may have problems with Gambon’s line of “HARRY DID YOU PUT YOUR NAME IN THE GOBLET OF FIRE?” in Goblet of Fire, I think he really captured Dumbledore’s humor and lightheartedness in PoA.
Yes, both you and I know that the last frame of Prisoner of Azkaban is ridiculous. But it is also one of my favorite things about the film. The still of Harry riding off into the sunset on his new Firebolt is such a classic moment for the Harry Potter franchise. What was Alfonso Cuarón thinking when he ended a multi-million dollar franchise movie like this? Who knows? All I know is that, even after watching this movie close to 100 times, the ending still makes me laugh every time, which just reconfirms it as my favorite Harry Potter film.
Do you agree with me that Prisoner of Azkaban is the best Harry Potter film? Do you agree with Bella and think it’s the worst? Or do you think a different Harry Potter film deserves more praise or hate? Let me know!