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'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban': A retrospective

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Harry gets ready for some wand action.
As the Harry Potter series draws to a close this month with the release of Deathly Hallows: Part 2 on July 15, we're taking a look back at the previous seven movies in the series to chart the rise of JK Rowling's boy wizard.

Harry's third year at Hogwarts was brought to life by Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. It's the first movie without the guiding directorial hand of Chris Columbus, who helmed the successful Philosopher's Stone and Chamber of Secrets, yet the arrival of Cuarón brought a darker colour palette and fresh energy to the series.

Cuarón grabbed the job much to the delight of JK Rowling, who was a fan of the filmmaker's Y tu mamá también and A Little Princess. The likes of Guillermo del Toro, Marc Forster and Kenneth Branagh were also said to be in the running for the top job.

Filming kicked off in February 2003 with newcomers Michael Gambon (replacing the late Richard Harris as Dumbledore), Gary Oldman (Sirius Black), David Thewlis (Professor Lupin), Emma Thompson (Sybill Trelawney) and Timothy Spall (Peter Pettigrew) boarding the franchise.

Emma Thompson as Hogwarts Divination teacher Sybill Trelawney.
With Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint now firmly established in their respective roles, the movie built on the lead triumvirate's tight-knit relationship as convicted murderer Sirius Black slips through the bars of Azkaban supposedly with his eyes on killing Harry. Prisoner of Azkaban packed in plot swerves aplenty and featured prominent parts for the creepy soul-sucking Dementors and Hagrid's Hippogriff Buckbeak. The film is also memorable for its cracking climax, in which Harry and Hermione use a time-turner to revisit the past and save Sirius, who emerges as an important figure with a familial connection to the eponymous wizard.



Azkaban posted the strongest critical reviews of the series as movie journos reached for the thesaurus to pick out superlatives for the visual wonder conjured up by Cuarón, the storytelling ingenuity and convincing performances from Radcliffe, Watson and Grint. Roger Ebert of Chicago Sun-Times called the sequel "delightful, amusing and sophisticated", while Empire's Colin Kennedy wrote: "Here, at last, Harry Potter And The Movie Adventure hauls itself up to the standards set by the brilliant books."

Harry and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) look into a crystal ball in Divination class.
Premiering in May 2004, Prisoner of Azkaban pulled in a staggering £23 million in the UK on its opening weekend and launched with $93 million in the US - setting a June blockbuster record that held until the release of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen some five years later.

Prisoner of Azkaban's £795 million ($1.3 billion) worldwide box office tally may make it the lowest-grossing Potter movie of the series, but its creative triumphs helped shape the direction of the series, paving the way for Mike Newell and David Yates to take Harry Potter soaring onwards and upwards to even greater heights.

More Harry Potter retrospectives:
> Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
> Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets


Move through our Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban gallery below:

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