Visually dazzling, but lacking in some areas
8 July 2009
A very pretty movie indeed. Cuaron's biggest mistake was sometimes overemphasizing the wackiness. One of the most charming things about Rowling's writing is that she works so hard to immerse you in the world of magic, a lot of very odd things happen but they just sort of happen. Cuaron spends an inordinate amount of time on quirks (see talking heads among other things), time which could have been invested in better storytelling. Aesthetically aside from that complaint "Prisoner of Azkaban" is the most satisfying of the Potter films, as Cuaron does manage to pull off what he's clearly going for and wow the audience with great visuals. While this is a huge step up from the plainly weak Columbus films, Cuaron's sensibility doesn't really sync perfectly with Steve Kloves' screenplay which as per usual is alright but really saves very little room for character development and develops less of the mature confidence Rowling gained in writing "Prisoner of Azkaban", a clearly superior effort to the first two installments, instead it's really just more of the same. It seems like Kloves sat down, flipped through the book, picked out the 'most important bits', and converted them to screenplay format. It just whizzes through the story points and doesn't earn its Big Emotional Moments. Also difficult to know exactly how much of this rests on Kloves' shoulders and how much on Cuaron's, after all storytelling is the ultimate responsibility of the director, is it not? The film does grow stronger as it progresses, and the final 40-50 minutes is truly excellent, but the movie as a whole is more flawed than some will let on, although it's easy to see what impresses about it. The score is Williams at his cutesiest too, which is never good.
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