Posted in: Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on November 30th, 2004
While the world of Harry Potter was created primarily for a younger adolescent audience, there is no question that the tapestry is epic, and compelling enough to satisfy adults. I believe the true success of these films lies within that idea. It is truly rare when a film arrives that can appeal so completely to both demographic groups.
Prisoner of Azkaban is perhaps the darkest, but I don’t think the most frightening, Potter film. The creature images of the previous entry were considerably more graphic an… disturbing to the younger children. I’m going to take some heat for this, but I am so happy there was a very limited scene of the famous quidditch games. They are very popular it seems, but I find them a dreadful bore. The children are beginning to mature both as characters and actors. While Daniel Radcliffe has improved quite noticeably from the first film, I must admit that it is the performance of Emma Watson that showed the greatest maturity and potential. Richard Harris was most certainly missed, but I think that Michael Gambon conjured up a nice, while more limited, performance of the wise old Dumbledore. As with all of the Harry Potter films this one begins with Harry’s tedious life in the normal world. I’m sure that each time viewers of all ages are eager to see Harry return to his element and friends.
Harry Potter (Radcliffe) and his friends Ron (Grint) and Hermione (Watson) return for year three at Hogwarts under the cloud of an infamous escaped wizard. Sirius Black (Oldman) appears to be a threat to the entire wizard community and perhaps a personal threat to Potter himself. Potter must confront powerful dementors and his own storied beginnings to unravel this latest mystery.
This is a fine Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. The surrounds aren’t very aggressive except when called for. This creates a unique listening experience. By not overdoing the ambient channels they seem to bring the story alive with dramatic accents when called for. Highs and lows are each delivered with almost magical clarity. Subs drive only when necessary. Dialogue is always quite clear and well centered.
Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Actually the format is a bit lower in ratio but 2.35 is pretty close. This is a very dark film. Blacks come through with marvelous detail and depth. Contrast is particularly wonderful in this transfer. Misty skies and black backgrounds blend in perfect balance. There are absolutely no film specks or artifacts that I could locate. Colors are accurate and vivid when called for. You’ll find a touch of grain because of the dark nature of most of the images.
This is a 2-disc presentation. The first disc features the film itself and trailers for all three Potter films. I am a little disappointed that there are no commentaries provided.
Disc 2 is where all of the extras reside. I must comment that again we find navigation hindered because the studio wanted to be too cute. It’s hard to find exactly what you’re looking for without the enclosed map. Because this film is presented particularly for a younger crowd, I imagine these extras might be even harder to find.
A good example is finding the 5 deleted scenes. They are Trelawaney’s Crystal Ball. How in the world was I supposed to figure that out?
The extras are divided into 5 sections…
- As I mentioned, this is where you’ll find those deleted scenes.
- “Creating The Vision” gives us about 10 minutes of interviews with various cast and crew on the new film’s look.
- “Head To Shrunken Head” is a pretty fun section. You’ll find 6 minute segments where cast members are interviewed by a host and the film’s shrunken head. The sections are quite candid and often humorous.
Defense Against The Dark Arts
- “Magic You May Have Missed” is a silly little memory challenge obviously intended for the kids.
- “Tour Lupin’s Classroom” is a 3-D movable tour of Lupin’s things.
- This is a big waste of time. “Catch Scrabbers”, “Choir Practice”, and “The Quest of Sir Cadogan” are all simplistic games, once again for the kiddies.
- This is another 3-D tour of the sweet shop from the village.
- “Hagrit’s Hut” contains the sub feature “Care Of Magical Creatures”. This is a short treat. If you like animals this is the feature for you. You’ll meet the trainers and animal actors themselves.
- “Conjuring A Scene” Here you’ll get to see some of the f/x wizardry performed behind the scenes at Hogwarts.
The Harry Potter films have already found a place in the current pop culture. J.K. Rowling’s creation has taken on a life of its own by now. The style and atmosphere of these films was imprinted by Christopher Columbus in the first two films. Now director Alfonso Cuaron has found a way to continue with the expected while placing his own stamp on things. Not since Tim Burton’s Batman has a director’s style mattered so much. Columbus took Rowling’s universe and gave it a now familiar face. Cuaron achieved a good amount of success in that this film certainly stands on its own while paying homage to those necessary elements already established. A new director will tackle the next film and we will see if the vision continues to evolve. The fourth film is due in less than two years. Now we have a good DVD to tide us over. “Until then, Mischief Managed.”
Special Features List
- Deleted Scenes
- “Creating the Vision” interview with J.K. Rowling and the filmmakers
- Interviews with the cast lead by Johnny Vaughan and the Shrunken Head
- Three challenge games
- “Conjuring a Scene” making-of featurette
- “Care of Magical Creatures” animal trainer featurette
- Self-guided iPIX tours into Honeydukes and Professor Lupin
- Choir Practice: sing-along with the Hogwarts choir
- Hogwarts Portrait Gallery
- Hogwarts Timeline
- Electronic Arts game preview
- Theatrical Trailers
- DVD ROM Features: Wizard Trading Cards