Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

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Released 30-Nov-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Family Trailer-The Polar Express
Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Menu Audio
Listing-Cast & Crew
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Year 1 and Year 2
Additional Footage-Trelawney's Crystal Ball
Featurette-Creating the Vision
Interviews-Cast & Crew-Head to Shrunken Head, with introduction
Game-Catch Scabbers!
Song Lyrics-Choir Practice
Game-The Quest of Sir Cadogan
Game-Magic You May Have Missed
Featurette-Tour Lupin's Classroom
Featurette-Tour Honeydukes
Featurette-Care of Magical Creatures
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Conjuring a Scene
DVD-ROM Extras
Trailer-Game Preview
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2004
Running Time 135:50
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (72:36)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Alfonso Cuarón
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Daniel Radcliffe
Richard Griffiths
Pam Ferris
Fiona Shaw
Harry Melling
Adrian Rawlins
Geraldine Somerville
Lee Ingleby
Lenny Henry
Jimmy Gardner
Gary Oldman
Jim Tavaré
Robert Hardy
Case Amaray-Transparent-S/C-Dual
RPI $44.95 Music John Williams


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Arabic
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is the third, and in my view, the best Harry Potter film yet. With a new director at the helm of the series, this is both the scariest and funniest Harry Potter film. Not content to churn out a mediocre sequel in a well-established franchise (which very easily could have happened — just ask George Lucas), we have been treated to a film which pays as much attention to the characters and plot, as it does to its awesome sound and visual effects. "Something wicked this way comes".

    As with its predecessors, The Prisoner of Azkaban is based on the Harry Potter children's fantasy book by J.K.Rowling. As I observed in my review of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, both the Harry Potter books and movies have been exceptionally successful. For example, it is estimated that there are over 20 million Harry Potter books in print, in 40 languages. Furthermore, all three Harry Potter films sit comfortably in the Top 40 list of the Top Box Office films of all-time.

    With The Prisoner of Azkaban, Steve Kloves returns as the screenwriter, adapting Rowling's work. As I noted in my review of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Kloves understandably dispenses with a few of the book's subplots and rather focusses on the action, suspense, and mystery elements of the books. Film, after all, is a visual medium, and while The Prisoner of Azkaban is the least faithful adaptation of the three, it is easily the best. Kloves has chosen to focus on the themes and characters of the book, rather than just the events of the book.

    With Chris Columbus' departure, and with Mexican, Alfonso Cuarón climbing into the director's chair, it would have been easy for Cuarón to take a safer path, and churn out a mediocre sequel in a well-established franchise. Cuarón, best known for his sexy, R-Rated, threesome road-movie, Y Tu Mamá También, steps out on his own, however, and provides a much darker and grittier film. Consider for example, Cuarón's presentation of Hogwarts School, and its aging, creaking, and creepy buildings, compared to Columbus' vision. Cuarón has an impressive visual style, and yet he directs with subtly when required.

    Interestingly, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire began filming in March this year, with Kloves returning as the screenwriter, and Mike Newell taking over the directing reigns. Newell is best known for Four Weddings and a Funeral and Mona Lisa Smile.

    As for the plot of The Prisoner of Azkaban: Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and the students of Hogwarts are horrified to hear that the infamous murderer, Sirius Black (Gary Oldham), has managed to escape from the formidable Azkaban Prison for Wizards and Witches. Guarded by the fear-inducing Dementors, no one has ever previously managed to escape from the prison. Black is implicated in the murder of Harry's parents, and he also holds Harry responsible for the death of his evil Master. Many believe that the truly awful Black is intent on killing our young Harry.

    While on the surface, The Prisoner of Azkaban is about the devilish Black's hunt for Harry, Kloves' well-written script, under Cuarón's direction, allows the film to explore the book's themes of growth, maturity, and teenage angst. The film never forgets how crap it can be to be a teenager at times.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    As with the other two Harry Potter films, the transfer is magnificent, and looked awesome on both my widescreen television, and when I viewed it with a projector (InFocus DLP).

    The transfer is presented its original widescreen aspect ratio of 2.40:1. It is 16x9 Enhanced.

    The sharpness of the picture is excellent. For example, consider the aerial shot of the detailed market scene at 14:13. The black level is perfect, with true deep blacks. This film is very dark, in both its mood and appearance. Indeed, it appears that the film's print seems to have been intentionally darkened through digital grading. Personally, I prefer it when the films are lit in a shadowy way, such as in the beautifully filmed The Godfather, rather than the 'lazy' approach of relying on computers in post-production, which tends to darken everything. Fortunately, the shadow detail is excellent; for example consider the scene in the park at night at 7:04, or the shadowy, night street-scape at 23:02.

    The colour is also excellent, with a rich palette of perfectly-saturated colours to suit the film's moods, and accurate flesh tones.

    While there is some film grain noticeable at times, there are no problems with MPEG or Film-To-Video Artefacts. A few tiny film artefacts, such as black or white flecks, are scattered throughout, but are hardly noticeable unless one is looking very hard for them. Some edge enhancement is also noticeable, but again, only if one is looking for it. I never found either distracting.

    English, Arabic, and English for the Hearing Impaired subtitles are present, and the English subtitles are accurate.

    This is a dual-layer disc, RSDL formatted, with the layer change placed at 72:36. Strangely, it is placed during a conversation (between Harry and Snape) so it is noticeable, but not too disruptive.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Originally released theatrically with Dolby Digital Surround EX, dts, and SDDS audio, there is only one audio option on this DVD: English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s). Sadly, unlike Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, The Prisoner of Azkaban's 5.1 track has been encoded at the inferior 384Kb/s, as opposed to 448Kb/s 5.1 EX track we were treated to before. Considering that there is only one audio track on the DVD (no audio commentaries), I find this pretty disappointing.

    The dialogue quality and audio sync are excellent throughout.

    The musical score is again provided by the great John Williams, who has added the Harry Potter films to his impressive body of work, which also includes the very successful franchises of the Jaws, Star Wars, Superman, Jurassic Park and Indiana Jones movies. Williams has crafted some variations on his original themes, and as with his other work, such as his beautiful score for ET, it's hard to imagine the film without his music.

    The surround presence and activity is wonderful, but not the bombardment we were treated to with Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. The rear speakers are used effectively to help carry the score and provide a lot of ambience. There are a number of rear directional effects, which includes panning between speakers, such as during the storm at 22:57.

    The subwoofer is also utilised very effectively throughout, and the LFE track is used well to support the dark and uneasy mood of the film, such as the ominous train rumbling at 14:15.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There are plenty of extras, spread across the two discs, but unfortunately, they are more quantity, rather than quality.

    Another disappointing point, is that the pleasant packaging of the first two Harry Potter DVDs, with their slip-cases and gate-fold packs, is gone. Instead, Warner Home Video have opted to package The Prisoner of Azkaban in a standard DVD case. If, like me, you keep a well-ordered book shelf of DVDs, you will find this looks a little cheap and out-of-place, compared with the first two Harry Potter DVDs.

Menus

    The menus are animated, with stereo audio.

Disc One

Trailer-The Polar Express (1:40)

    This forced trailer plays when Disc One is inserted. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced.

Listing-Cast & Crew

    Three static pages of text, listing the key cast and crew.

Harry Potter Trailers

Disc Two

    All material included on Disc Two is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, with Dolby Digital stereo audio, (unless noted otherwise). The clips from the film are all letter-boxed. The extras are divided into five distinct sections:

1. Divination Class

Additional Footage-Trelawney's Crystal Ball

    Select from five unfinished scenes.

Featurette-Creating the Vision (11:14)

    Key cast and crew, such as some of the producers, and director, discuss how they approached bringing the book to the big screen.

Interviews-Cast & Crew-Head to Shrunken Head

    English television host, Johnny Vaugh, is joined by the Shrunken Head, to carry out seven sets of interviews with key cast and crew members. The interviews resemble those seen on kid's television shows. The interviews are presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, non-16x9 enhanced.

2. Great Hall

Game-Catch Scabbers!

    A rather tedious kids' game of three levels, using the DVD remote control, to catch the rat from the film.

Song Lyrics-Choir Practice (1:34)

    The choir song from the film is presented with subtitles, and clips from the movie. It resembles a karaoke music video.

Game-The Quest of Sir Cadogan

    Another tedious DVD remote control game for the kids.

3. Tour Honeydukes

    Using one's remote, one can look around (in 360 degrees) the sweet shop.

4. Defense Against the Dark Arts

Game-Magic You May Have Missed

    A series of scenes from the film, followed by multiple choice questions to test your skills of observation.

Tour Lupin's Classroom

    Again, using one's remote, one can look around (in 360 degrees) this Hogwarts' classroom.

5. Hogwarts Grounds

Hagrid's Hut

DVD-ROM Extras

Trailer-Game Preview (1:02)

    A trailer for EA's The Prisoner of Azkaban game.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was released on DVD in Region 1 in November 2004, and the R1 version is basically the same as our version (which is also formatted to play in R2). However, the R1 has an (inferior) NTSC transfer, and some slight changes to the trailers included.

    The Region 4 DVD misses out on:

    The Region 1 DVD misses out on:

    It's pretty even, but I would favour the local release for its superior PAL image.

Summary

    Funnier, scarier, and much, much darker, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is a great movie for young and old alike. Quite simply, it the best Harry Potter film to date.

    The video quality is excellent.

    The audio quality is also excellent.

    The extras are plentiful, but there's nothing meaty.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Brandon Robert Vogt (warning: bio hazard)
Thursday, December 02, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using S-Video output
DisplayGrundig Elegance 82-2101 (82cm, 16x9). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationSony STR DE-545
SpeakersSony SS-V315 x5; Sony SA-WMS315 subwoofer

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Comments (Add)
Piracy Protection? -
Another forced ad = another lost sale -
Harry Potter and the Curse of the Mysterious Numbers.... -
Re: Another forced ad = another lost sale - IgorWopatropski
Directors vision -
Honeydukes (and a little more on those numbers) -
bobbie-byrd? -
Forced ad - R2? -
Of forced ads and Honeydukes... -
No ads if you own the LG-7711P player -
Re: Re: Another forced ad = another lost sale - IgorWopatropski
Forced Ads on all FOX DVDs - NewcastleBoy (read my bio)
for gods sake... -
Forced ads - Mark X (read my bio)
Forced ads - hooray for HTPCs -
Re: Forced ads -
to anonymous (re: forced ads) -
re: Forced Ads and audio bitrate - Sir_Fireboard
re: forced ads and audio bitrate -
PS in Amaray? - Sir_Fireboard
Screen cap of watermark here -
Region 1 has a "Watermark", too... - Dark Lord (Bio? We don't need no stinkin' bio!)
Double Dip - No doubt other editions will be released with DTS - probably Blu-ray -