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.
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."
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
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