Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review
Now that the Harry Potter series is over, I think most people look back at HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN as being the best film in the series. Although I would agree with that, I didn’t realize just how different this film is from the others until I sat down and watched all of the films over the course of a few nights. That’s when I discovered that not only was Azkaban the best film, but it is drastically different in tone, direction, style and originality than all of the other films. Azkaban is not Alfonso Cuaron’s best film, but his ability to add so much to the Harry Potter franchise is definitely one of his biggest accomplishments as a filmmaker.
Once again, we pick up with Harry Potter as he’s struggling dealing with the Dursley’s. This time, one of their house guests takes things too far and Harry gets upset, sending her floating away as a swelled up balloon. This prompts Harry to runaway, only to be taken in by the Ministry of Magic and then soon off to Hogwarts. But before he can even make his way to Hogwarts, he learns that Sirius Black has escaped Azkaban and may be out to kill him. Once at Hogwarts, Draco is up to his obnoxious ways, Hermione has found a way to be in two places at once and they meet a new Defense of the Dark Arts instructor in Professor Lupin. But it falls on the the heroic trio to find Sirius Black and uncover the mysteries surrounding him.
The first five Harry Potter films all follow the same basic plot outline where Harry fights through the Dursley’s to get to Hogwarts, Draco chimes in with some obnoxious bullying, they meet a new teacher, learn some new skills and then they use those skills in a standoff with Dementors and/or Voldemort. The third film doesn’t really deviate from that basic premise, but since it was in the hands of one of the best filmmakers working today, it very much feels different from the other films. Cuaron’s style is all over this film and is evident in everything from the stylish transitions to the creative ways to show the passage of time. Also, the film just oozes style and is easily the slickest of all the Harry Potter films.
Aside from the great direction, the third Harry Potter film now features the trio for the third time and by now, they’re pretty much settled in their roles. Radcliffe has completed his transition into Harry Potter and now that Emma Watson doesn’t have to portray Hermione as a stuck up know-it-all, she gets a chance to shine. The inclusion of David Thewliss as Professor Lupin is a nice addition as he gives the trio another adult they can connect to other than Hagrid and Dumbledore. Sadly, Richard Harris passed away before filming started, so Michael Gambon stepped in to play Dumbledore. Gambon does a fine job, but Richard Harris made such a great Dumbledore that his presence was missed.
After going so long between viewings, I started to feel that fans were glorifying HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN a bit. However, after revisiting it, it’s clear that this film stands above the other Potter films. I had always heard that Alfonso Cuaron and J.K. Rowling clashed over the style and that was ultimately why Cuaron was one and done with the series, but he left his mark on the Harry Potter franchise and I’m thankful he had his shot.
4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: I think this is everyone’s favorite Harry Potter film, probably because it feels less like a Potter film than the other 7 movies. That’s 100% due to director Alfonso Cuaron’s magnificent direction and the cinematography of Michael Seresin. They use a much darker tone than Chris Columbus, which made some of the darker scenes look flat on Blu-ray. The 4K transfer makes some nice improvements, especially during the finale, which takes place almost exclusively at night. The contrast of bright, white light and the dark landscapes come through nicely, thanks in large part to the HDR, which gives us texture we couldn’t see on the Blu-ray. Apart from the improvements in the night scenes, you get the standard 4K over Blu-ray improvements, including added detail in clothing and backgrounds. I don’t remember what PRISONER OF AZKABAN looked like in the theater, but I can safely say this is the best the film has looked on home video.
Audio: The DTS-X track is on par with the previous Potter DTS-X tracks. It’s very nice and definitely an upgrade over the prior Blu-ray releases.
This title was reviewed using a Samsung UBD-K8500 with a Sony XBR75X850C TV.
The 4K UHD does not contain any exclusive features, but each of the 4K UHD Harry Potter films contain two Blu-ray discs, the first containing the movie and the second disc of special features “Creating the World of Harry Potter”. Both discs were found in the previously released Special Edition Blu-rays.