Part 3. The first two films in the series were directed by Chris Columbus, efficiently effective versions (so readers of J.K.Rowling's books acknowledge). They were straightforward stories with the flair coming from the plots and the exciting special effects. Columbus has stepped back to a producer's role and the Mexican, Alfonso Cuaron, has now achieved the seemingly impossible of pleasing audiences (the most important role) and pleasing the critics (no mean feat!) Cuaron made a version of A Little Princess during the 90s as well as an odd updated version of Great Expectations. He also made Y Tu Mama Tambien (And Your Mother Too), a rather energetic road movie of Mexican youth and sex, which would not suggest him as a director for Harry Potter! However, he has done it - and well.
Talk shows have shown how the three young stars have grown since the first film. They are growing in age with their development in the films. Daniel Radcliffe's voice has broken so Harry is now a teenager. He does very well this time and is more effectively centrescreen. Rupert Grint is still humorously down-to-earth support as Ron. Hermione is called a know-it-all by Professor Snape. She is, but has become a little more attractive.
While the old staff are still around (with Michael Gambon making a very smooth transition from Richard Harris as Professor Dumbledore and Hagrid becoming a teacher), there is the welcome addition of David Thewliss as Professor Lupin and a hilarious cameo by Emma Thompson as the short-sighted professor teaching discerning the future. Gary Oldman is good as Sirius Black, the actual prisoner of Azkaban.
The plot is not simply a confrontation between good and evil. Rather, there are more sinister aspects: Harry's life is under threat from Sirius Black; he is well tutored by Professor Lupin; the powers of evil are not those we might expect, so there is a certain suspense, especially in the final part where there is a play on time travel and rectifying situations. There are also some sinister creatures (especially werewolves) and a very agreeable Griffin (or Hippogriff, half horse, half eagle), called Breakbeak.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is the International President of SIGNIS: the World Association for Catholic Communications and an Associate of the Australian Catholic Film Office.