This film starts with the usual magical, Harry Potter theme music. It begins fairly true to the book, introducing us to the terrible Aunt Marge and her horrible dog. As Uncle Vernon's visiting sister she proceeds to berate Harry and his deceased parents. Her ensuing treatment at Harry's hands is both funny and deserved.
Recommend this product?
Harry's escape from The Dursleys and his initial meeting with the large black dog(who is not what it seems!)is suitably tense. Harry's surprise journey on the knight bus is extremely well done. If you just put out your wand, this bus appears and will take you anywhere, as Harry discovers when he falls over and sticks out his arm. This was transferred from book to film exceptionally well. I found it hilarious. From Stan Shunpike the bus conductor, to Ernie the driver with his talkative, shrunken, Jamaican sidekick of a head(which has the voice of Lenny Henry). The bus itself is a dream with its three levels, wrought iron beds and ability to squash down in size, including it's passengers, to pass between two double deckers.
On arrival at the leaky cauldron Harry is reunited with his old friends Hermione and Ron. Here Ron's dad tells Harry, why everyone thinks that Sirius Black has escaped from prison to kill Harry.
One of the things which I thought may have not lived up to expectations from the book, was the appearance of the Dementors. I should not have worried as they are fabulous and sufficiently creepy. As the guards of Azkaban prison they are normally nowhere to be seen. However now they are on the loose at Hogwarts, attempting to recapture Sirius Black.Our first encounter with them is on the Hogwarts special from platform 9 and 3/4. Harry is telling Hermione and Ron why Sirius Black is seeking him out, when a chill descends. You can physically feel the cold. Enter a new character, Professor Lupin who saves the day with his wand and some chocolate! Lupin turns out to be the new defence against the dark arts teacher and we later find out that he too has a dark secret. Professor Lupin is portrayed excellently by David Thewlis, a favourite actor of mine.
As the children arrive at Hogwarts school we meet Michael Gambon as the new Dumbledore, played for the first time by this actor(Richard Harris, his predecessor, having recently died). He is perfection. Hagrid has been appointed replacement teacher for care of magical creatures. This provides some comical and entertaining scenes including the gryffindor, Buckbeak a flying creature)and flobberworms-yuk. There is a new fat lady in the portraits who is superbly played by Dawn French. The filming of the portrait scenes is great. The portraits, like photographs, in the magical world, have a life of their own! There are the usual poltergeists and special scenery about. The wintry snow scenes are really very good. As we see when Harry, hidden under his invisibility cloak, finally gets to visit Hogsmeade village.
The first meeting with Professor Trewlawny Emma Thompson) will have you giggling. As the teacher of divination she fulfils her role perfectly. The usual actors all take splendid parts. As with all conversions of book to film you always feel you are missing something. However in this film that's not really the case. The plot doesn't seem to feel compromised.
The story rolls along with the basic theme of Harry finally finding a true friend and family member. Along the way the Lord Voldemort plot develops further and there are sufficient complications and deviations to keep you guessing. You need to take note off any hint or tiny piece of information. There are plenty of special effects, enough humour and quite a few scary moments. It feels very much a film that an adult could enjoy alongside a child, without the child being unhappy. Although the werewolf scenes and the dementors could be scary for small children.
There is much to this plot that I have not mentioned as too much information spoils many of the surprises. Wait and see. You'll realise what I mean.
This Harry Potter tale very much ends in a "to be continued vein "and it does leave you wanting and waiting for more.
I could definitely watch this again and would still enjoy it and notice new bits. I have seen all 5 films to date(2008) and found this the best. On the downside I think that with this film it really helps if you know something of the Harry Potter saga.
Roll on the next film.
ABOUT THE DVD
This is available on a two disc DVD edition, rated PG with" mild scary scenes and language". It runs for 136 mins in full colour and is suitable for all TV screens. It plays in Dolby digital sound. Audio is in English; Subtitles are in English and Arabic; Hearing impaired is in English.
The packaging has a picture of the three main characters on the front:-Harry Potter(Daniel Radcliffe),Hermione Grainger(Emma Watson) and my favourite Ron Weasley(Rupert Grint)On the back, as well as the listing , is a picture of Harry riding on the back of Buckbeak ,the flying Gryffindor. Inside there is a leaflet done as the marauders map showing the contents of disc one and disc two.
Disc one plays the movie, has a scene selection facility, languages and a special features section. The special features include the cast and crew and theatrical trailers showing years one,two and three.
Disc two has:-
1) Divination class-additional scenes of professor Trelawney's crystal ball
Creating the Vision-An interview with J K Rowling(the author)
and the filmmakers.
Head to shrunken head-interviews with the heroes, the gryffindors and the slytherins (school-houses),Professor Lupin and Sirius Black, Professor Dumbledore and Hagrid, the Dursleys (Harry's adoptive family) and the filmmakers.
2)Defence against the dark arts-magic you may have missed(memory challenge)
Tour of Lupin's classroom-self guided 360 degree tour
3) Great Hall-Catch Scabbers(the Rat) interactive game
The quest of Sir Cadogan-interactive challenge including a close-up look at the Moving Portraits of Hogwarts.
4)Tour Honeydukes-self guided 360 degree tour of the magical sweet shop in
5)Hogwarts grounds-Hagrids hut, care of magical creatures(meet the animal trainers)
Conjuring a scene-behind the scenes creation of buckbeak and the dementors
There is also a long interview by Johnny Vaughn with the actors etc.
The second disc incorporates a DVD rom with magical trading cards, a timeline, receive an email from Harry potter, get the latest news from the Daily Prophet, buy official merchandise at the wizards shop, join an online discussion, link up to the official Harry Potter web site(HarryPotter.com), have sneak previews of online events and with the extra credit "have hours of magical fun" The DVD rom plays in interactual and can be played in full screen. After the introduction the marauders map unfolds and you can pick your place to start.
Be it the DVD or the DVD rom part of disc two you will get bags more entertainment. As an older person I usually only watch the film on DVD. However reviewing this DVD has made me give the special features a good look and I was pleasantly surprised. Even I found plenty of entertainment value special effects, interest and humour. If you are on the younger side YOU WILL LOVE IT, as you probably will even if you're not.
HARRY POTTER-DANIEL RADCLIFFE
HERMIONE GRAINGER-EMMA WATSON
RON WEASLEY-RUPERT GRINT
SIRIUS BLACK-GARY OLDMAN
PROFESSORE DUMBLEDORE-MICHAEL GAMBON
PROFESSOR MCGONAGALL-MAGGIE SMITH
PROFESSOR SNAPE-ALAN RICKMAN
PROFESSOR TRELAWNEY-EMMA THOMPSON
VERNON DURSLEY-RICHARD GRIFFITHS
MRS WEASLEY-JULIE WALTERS
THE FAT LADY-DAWN FRENCH
SCABBERS THE RAT-TIMOTHY SPALL
PROFESSOR LUPIN-STEPHEN TOMKINSON
AND MANY MORE....................................
MUSICAL SCORE-JOHN WILLIAMS
The fact so many well known names are happy to be associated with this ,a childrens film speaks volumes!