tek's rating:

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (PG)
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Caution: spoilers.

This is the third movie in the Harry Potter franchise. It came out in 2004, but I didn't see it until 2018. (Chris Columbus, the director of the first two films, is replaced this time by Alfonso Cuarón.) Once again, it begins with Harry spending the summer with the Dursleys, which I find increasingly hard to believe. If I were in his place, I would probably have tried to find someplace else to stay after my first year at Hogwarts, let alone the second. Maybe get myself emancipated, or at least call child protective services, or something. In fact, I might have done that even before learning I was a wizard. But whatever. Things get even worse for Harry when his Uncle Vernon's sister, Marge, comes for a visit. And she's possibly even more odious than her brother. Harry quietly accepts it when she says terribly nasty and uncalled-for things about himself, but when she starts insulting his late parents, he loses it. He causes her to swell up like a balloon (despite the prohibition against students using magic outside of Hogwarts), and she floats away. Honestly, I thought this would turn out to be an imagination spot, but it actually happened. And Harry finally decides to run away from home, lugging his trunk behind him. After briefly seeing a scary wolf-like creature in the bushes, he unwittingly hails a magical triple-decker bus, which takes him to a pub called the Leaky Cauldron. But before getting there, he sees the bus's conductor reading a newspaper, which tells that a wizard named Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) had escaped from Azkaban. (Up til this point, I hadn't been sure what to expect of the movie, based on the title. I thought maybe it could involve a flashback to Hagrid's brief time imprisoned there, during the previous movie. Or maybe Harry himself would be sent there, whether for what he did to Marge Dursley, or some other offense, real or trumped up by his enemies. But no, it's about Sirius.)

Well, the Minister of Magic tells Harry that Marge has been rescued and her memory of the event erased. Which is good... I mean, I don't think she deserved to stay up in the air until she died. But I still feel kind of shocked that Harry himself didn't try to get her back, after cooling down. Like... I'm not sure if he actually was even a little bit bothered that what he did could have cost Marge her life. And that disturbs me. But the movie doesn't dwell on that at all. We're only expected to worry about the fact that Sirius (a supporter of Lord Voldemort) wants to kill Harry, as he later learns. (And Harry decides he wants to kill Sirius, which I suppose ties into the feelings aroused by Marge.) Meanwhile, he meets up with Ron and Hermione, and they all return to Hogwarts for their third year there. While on the train to the school, they share a cabin with a sleeping teacher. At one point, a wraith-like creature called a dementor comes into the cabin and... I dunno, tries to suck out Harry's soul, or something. But the teacher then wakes up and stops the dementor. He turns out to be the new teacher of Defense Against the Dark Arts, Remus Lupin. (He was played by David Thewlis, though I spent the whole movie thinking it was Timothy Dalton.) When they arrive at Hogwarts, Dumbledore (now played by Michael Gambon, replacing the late Richard Harris) informs all the students that Azkaban has sent a bunch of dementors to the school to keep a watch for Sirius Black possibly trying to sneak in.

Hagrid becomes the new teacher of Care of Magical Creatures. One day he introduces students to a hippogriff named Buckbeak, whom Harry soon ends up flying on. (I must have previously seen images either from this movie or from the book, in which Harry was riding Buckbeak, but didn't look too closely or didn't remember it in any detail, because I kind of thought it might have been a magically-enlargened Hedwig that he was riding. If I'd looked closer, I should have realized it obviously wasn't an owl.) But later, Draco Malfoy ignores Hagrid's warnings about how to approach the beast, and provokes Buckbeak into inuring him. Which of course leads to his father getting Buckbeak sentenced to death, which greatly upsets Hagrid, but there's nothing he can do about it. Meanwhile, Professor Lupin begins teaching Harry a Patronus charm to protect himself from dementors. ("Patronus" is yet another word from this franchise that I've been aware of for many years, without knowing exactly what it meant or at what point in the series it was introduced.) Also throughout the movie, Ron is frequently surprised to see Hermione suddenly appear beside Harry and himself, seemingly out of nowhere, though she always insists she'd been there the whole time. Eventually she reveals that she has a Time Turner, which lets her travel back in time so that she can take multiple classes simultaneously. (Because of course she does.) Another new teacher we see in this film is Sybill Trelawney (Emma Thompson), who teaches Divination.

Well, I don't want to spoil exactly how it all ends, but there are surprising revelations about Sirius Black, and Professor Lupin, and a supposedly deceased wizard named Peter Pettigrew (Timothy Spall), and even Ron's pet rat, Scabbers (whom Ron spent much of the movie worrying that Hermione's cat, Crookshanks, had eaten, though Hermione was right to deny it). And I do want to mention that Harry and Hermione eventually use Hermione's Time Turner to go back in time and fix certain problems that had happened... although they don't actually seem to change anything. Rather, it's more like a predestination paradox that explains some things they had already witnessed, and changes their perceptions of some things that had happened. Before all that, I kind of saw the movie as being pretty much the same quality as the first two movies, both of which I had rated four smileys. But I ended up giving this movie the next higher rating, one heart, because of the time travel element of the story, which I thought was rather (as Ron might say) brilliant. And I suppose I should mention that Buckbeak survives and escapes, with another character. But I won't say who, for now.

But I will say that if Harry goes back to living with the Dursleys again, I will be seriously annoyed.


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