Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

114945198_harry_potter_and_the_prisoner_of_azkaban_book_cover_xlarge1) Book Analysis: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is the third novel of the Harry Potter series, written in 1999 by J.K. Rowling. The series follows protagonist Harry Potter and his adventures in witchcraft and wizardry at the mystical school of Hogwarts and his battles with users of the more sinister forms of magic, referred to as the “dark arts”.  This particular entry keeps with the formula of the previous two entries which includes fantastical creatures, peculiar characters, and riveting action sequences that range from high-flying broomstick antics to duels between the wizard-equivalents of good and evil during Harry’s third year of magical education. New characters such as Professor Lupin and Sirius are introduced as well as a new setting in the infamous prison for the most heinous of criminals in the wizard community: Azkaban. Themes seen throughout the book include (of course) magic, temptation (or lust for power), and the unreliability of preconceived notions/judgments with regard to the character or moral fiber of certain individuals (e.g. Sirius Black).

2) Film Analysis: The 2004 film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was directed by Alfonso Cuaron follows the same chain of events as the book but strays from the previous film adaptations with regard to its markedly darker tone. Although the notions of death and evil are ever-present in the earlier entries, they are somewhat downplayed and take a backseat to the more light0hearted aspects of the story such as the bonds of friendship shared between Harry and his friends, and the inevitable triumph of good against evil. The film itself, while thematically darker, distinguishes itself in its visually darker filming style which adds a feeling of unease to familiar settings, and dread to new ones (especially the prison itself). The introduction of the frightening, phantom-like “Dementors” and the notion of “serial killers” earned this film a PG-13 rating in a film series which up to that point had been aimed at younger audiences. The musical accompaniment in the film is composed by the illustrious composer, John Williams, and ranges from subtle, tension-building pieces with emphasis on the shrill sounds of strings to others that are heavy with cellos at a rapid staccato in an effort to capture the few moments of joviality and lightheartedness.

Harry-Potter-and-the-Prisoner-of-Azkaban-movie-poster3) Adaptation Analysis:The effectiveness of Cuaron’s adaptation of Rowling’s book was largely lauded by critics but faced a mixed bag of responses from avid fans of the series. Critics applauded Cuaron’s utilization of dark palettes during filming which captured the aforementioned sinister tones seen in the book as well as John Williams’ prudent choice of instrumentation in solidifying the series’ shift from fun-filled adventure to a bleaker, more dangerous world where the stakes were raised and things as a whole felt a bit more dire. Some Readers, however, were disappointed with the relative lack of detail in certain scenes whose narratives were shortened due to time-constraints.  In addition, it seem as though the romance between Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger is more prominent in the film than it was in the book which can be seen, unsurprisingly, as a concession to Hollywood expectations/ standards requiring some form of romantic escapades. As a whole, Cuaron managed to capture the thematic elements from the book which involved magic, death, judgment, friendship, and the rather cliché “don’t believe everything that you hear”, despite the time limitations of film as an entertainment medium.

4) Online Sources

“Foreshadowings in Prisoner of Azkaban”

  • The article “Foresadowings in Prisoner of Azkaban” discusses how Alfonso Cuarón added clues into the third movie about the future films that were not in the original text.


“An Interview with Alfonso Cuaron”

  • An interview conducted between IGN’s Steve Head and director Alfonso Cuaron, organized as a Q&A session.


“Understanding Intergenerational Transmission of Trauma Due to War and State Terror (With Help from Harry Potter)”

  • This article discusses the effects of fighting, trauma, and stress on individuals, in relation to the Harry Potter characters. This article helps to explain the effects of the Dementors on Harry, and how the Dementors’ feeding off of the happiness of an individual is a metaphor for depression. This article is important because it bridges the gap between fantasy and reality,  both illustrating and providing an understanding of the themes found in the novel.


5) Critical Argument Paragraph

In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, when Harry invokes the Patronus spell to save Sirius Black, along with the blinding light we hear a celestial choir. How does magic replace religious experience in the film? And does this make it an anti-religious film (as some claim)?

Rowling’s books or films should not be misconstrued as being hostile toward religion  because Harry Potter does not base its magical premises in these belief-systems, and is a work of fiction. J.K. Rowling’s book and subsequent film series, Harry Potter,  utilizes the notion of “magic” to represent the clash between good and evil.  Being that witchcraft is  taboo even in the modern world, as it is associated with devil-worship and other less than reputable elements, it is not surprising that the religious would have an aversion to a book series based on its use.  However, the series is “irreligious.” There is no deity in the series and none of the morals, lessons, or messages conveyed through its narrative, attack religion as a whole. Magic itself is seen as the only “greater power” in the series and its presence is largely indifferent to “good” and “evil”; instead, it’s seen as a neutral, amoral force. Its important that these groups accept that Harry Potter is a work of fiction, and accept that the magic used is fake and for entertainment purposes. When utilizing their religious beliefs to critique something fictional, these groups are delegitimizing their beliefs, creating a bridge between Rowling’s fictional world and their own. With regard to the scenes in the film that contain choral pieces, it should be noted that music itself is irreligious. Although choir music is very common in the Christian religion and has been for centuries, choirs are hardly unique to these groups. Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, and Mozart, each composed beautiful choral pieces, and each of them were atheist.



One thought on “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

  1. I enjoyed reading your critical argument because it offered a more optimistic and open-minded take on the film’s function as a work of fiction. I agree that there has been a great deal of criticism in the Harry Potter series due to its religious associations. But like you had mentioned, I think it’s important to note its significance as an artistic expression for entertainment purposes. The film itself does not endorse or promote spell casting and the practice of witchcraft, it utilizes it to emphasize other important themes within the story; like standing for justice and facing one’s fears.


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