Case Number 20164: Small Claims Court


Warner Bros. // 2004 // 142 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Chief Justice Michael Stailey // November 21st, 2010

The Charge

Something wicked this way comes.

The Case

With boffo box office and critical acclaim for the first two films in the franchise, Chris Columbus moves into the passenger seat and invites director Alfonso Cuaron (Y Tu Mama Tambien) to take the wheel. Prisoner of Azkaban is JK Rowling's coming-of-age tale and the production team could not have chosen a more deft filmmaker. Gone are the whimsical childlike trappings of Sorcerer's Stone and Chamber of Secrets, replaced with eerie atmospheric energy reflecting the inner hormonal turmoil of teenage Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermoine (Emma Watson).

The one film that has absolutely no trace of Lord Voldemort has darker more insidious forces at work -- secrets. The Dursley's continue to hide Harry's gift. The Ministry doesn't want Harry to know he's in danger. Hermoine is using time travel to enhance her studies. Professor Lupin (David Thewlis, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas) withholds Harry's connection to Sirius Black (Gary Oldman, The Dark Knight). Peter Pettigrew (Timothy Spall, The King's Speech) is hiding his very existence. The Dementors are not the guardians they once were. And, thanks to Fred and George (James and Oliver Phelps), Harry now has a map which reveals the location of anyone in Hogwarts castle. Combine that with his invisibility cloak and the Hardy Boys can't hold a candle to this boy detective.

Judge David Johnson goes into great detail with his analysis of the original DVD release, so I won't belabor this review. However, I will point out that Prisoner of Azkaban's medieval underpinnings mashed up against the characters more modern sensibilities proves highly effective, a distinctive tone directors Mike Newell and David Yates would have been wise to carry through into later pictures. As it is, this film acts as a bridge between Columbus' innocence and the later films' cynicism.

Now, the reason you're really reading this review is to find out if the Ultimate Edition is worth your hard earned cash. The simple answer is "no." The technical specs are exactly the same as the original DVD release; the 2.40:1 anamorphic image is soft and dark, and the Dolby 5.1 Surround makes little use of the ambient environment. The meat of the bonus materials are all ported over from the original, save for things like the video game preview and DVD-ROM content (a Hogwarts timeline and magical trading cards). What we are gifted with is a new disc containing Part 3 in the franchise's making-of documentary, which focuses on the creatures created for the films. We're also given a tour of creature FX designer Nick Dudman's workshop, a Spanish TV interview with Cuaron, and three American television specials aired to promote the theatrical release of the film. These are all worth seeing, but contain a great deal of redundancy. And then there are the Potter chachkis created to fill out the oversized packaging -- a 48-page booklet, a lenticular cover, and trading cards. The packaging itself is well designed and makes an impression on a bookshelf, but if you're going to upgrade from your original DVD, go with the Blu-ray or wait until the entire 8-film series in high definition is released in one glorious package. You know it's coming. Just have a little patience.

The Verdict

Warner Home Video is reprimanded for attempting to milk every last drop from their golden calf, but the film itself is Not Guilty. I only wish Alfonso Cuaron had stuck around a little while longer.

Review content copyright © 2010 Michael Stailey; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 75

Perp Profile
Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
* 2.40:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)

* English (SDH)
* French
* Spanish

Running Time: 142 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Rated PG

Distinguishing Marks
* Deleted Scenes
* Documentary
* Featurettes
* TV Specials
* Interviews
* Interactive Games
* Virtual Tours
* Booklet
* Trading Cards
* Lenticular Cover

* IMDb

* Official Site