Something Wicked This Way Comes
So goes the tagline for the new HP movie and guess what, it delivers!
From the opening credits to the last note of the score when the movie fades to black, one cannot help but comment that this third installment is far different from its two predecessors. Although it doesn't concentrate much on in-your-face special effects, the film more than makes up for it in the strength of its story-telling.
It is a delightful romp that takes you on a journey from the wildly absurd to the enchantingly real. The two hours and something minutes go by briskly (editing must have been hell). What could have been added, though, was the origin of the names on the map. The discovery that Mooney, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs were the monikers for Harry's father and his three friends could have contributed to tying the movie better but what do I know, right?
I have always said that Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was my favorite of the series (so far) and was anxious to see whether Alfonso Cuaron would be able to bring out all its cinematic potential. Boy, was Chris Columbus' decision to step down a bright one! Direction was superb, giving the film a grittier and darker tone much more faithful to the book. Here, magic is treated offhandedly, as though it was really just an ordinary part of all the characters' lives and not given all the drama like in the first two movies. Professor Dumbledore unobtrusively waves his hand to light up a candle, busboys nonchalantly gesture for chairs to arrange themselves and even the Knight Bus arrives much like a regular BART does (only faster). The actors have obviously come into their own, appearing to be more confident as they grow up and giving added depth to their portrayals. Harry is a little more petulant, Hermione is spunkier and Ron more self-effacing. Emma Thompson has a brief but thoroughly hilarious stint as Professor Trelawney and David Thewlis plays a poignant Professor Lupin.
The Dementors and the Hippogriff were my favorite effects in the movie, followed by the Quidditch match in the storm and the Marauder's Map. The Dementors evoke an ominous presence much like the Ringwraiths in LOTR but in a more menacing way - bodies of water literally freeze and flowers shrivel as they pass! The shot of Harry gliding over a lake while astride Buckbeak brings to mind a similar scene in Neverending Story where Bastian navigates the clouds while clinging on to the Luck Dragon. And did you notice that bit where the choir was singing in the Great Hall and they had several frogs croaking along? Pure genius! Gotta love that original spark of imagination - hehehe.
John Williams' score is brilliant - it haunts even after the last note has played (So much so that I desperately want it for my phone's ring tone.) Now if they only give the Goblet of Fire the same treatment, I'm all set. Can't wait for the next one... For cool downloads and to relive the enchantment, here is the official website: http://harrypotter.warnerbros.com/main/homepage/intro.html?frompromo=movies_nowplaying_hp_prisoner_of_azkaban