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Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

You’ll remember back in March that Warner Brothers began the format jump on its acclaimed and super popular Harry Potter series. That batch of films, you’ll remember, started with the back four films, to coincide with the 4K Ultra-HD release of the first film in the prequel series in in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.  They promised the rest of the films in the hugely successful franchise later in the year and here we are with almost two months to spare. The remaining four films, the first four years at Hogwarts, will be out on 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray on November 7th. This review will focus on probably the one that people were most eager for, Aflonso Cuaron’s adaptation of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Film 

Harry Potter’s third year at Hogwarts starts off badly when he learns deranged killer Sirius Black has escaped from Azkaban prison and is bent on murdering the teenage wizard. While Hermione’s cat torments Ron’s sickly rat, causing a rift among the trio, a swarm of nasty Dementors is sent to protect the school from Black. A mysterious new teacher helps Harry learn to defend himself, but what is his secret tie to Sirius Black?

The film version of The Prisoner of Azkaban was the Harry Potter adventure that got me totally on board. The one that made me not just a casual observer, but a full on fan. I would never miss one of the films opening weekend, I’d own them (Watching them many many times) and I would go back, purchase and read all the books in the serious. I had become pretty hooked thanks to this one. There was a sort of maturation, not only in the plot, but the filmmaking as well.

Many probably find this film to be their favorite or considered “the best” and with good reason. Director Alfonso Cuaron stepped into the series and immediately put something of more artistic flare into the series.  He used everything Columbus had built before, but gave a new and fresh take on it. There are great wipes, camera angles and certain aesthetic that comes with this film that you really will never get again. David Yates would find a good middle ground on this look to go with something more commercially safe, but Cuaron full on infuses himself and what he wants out of this film.

Azkaban gives us an even more personal story with Harry and company as well as upping the stakes tremendously with danger, school and villainy. We also had some great new characters like Sirius Black and Professor Lupin (Played handsomely by Gary Oldman and David Thewlis). OH, and I must mention that this film involves time travel and I’m always a sucker for a good time travel movie.  Now, it does sacrifice being a good adaptation (Misses a few details and some added depth to things probably would help), but it makes up for it with being a tighter, better paced movie and a visual joy.

While Deathly Hallows Part 1 is my favorite of the Harry Potter films (My favorite books is The Half-Blood Prince in case you were wondering that), The Prisoner Of Azkaban is a close second and held onto that title for many many years. Its the one that got me and had me hooked to the series. It also really stands out in the pack compared to all the others.  While the first two films are pretty standard fantasy YA tentpole fare, this makes it all worth it and stand tall and above all other imitators that would come. Harry Potter hangs with the likes of Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Marvel and such, not with the dribble that would show up in its wake.

Video 

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:01

Layers: BD-66

Clarity/Detail: I found Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’s 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray debut to be one of the more noticeable upgrades in improved picture for the series. In comparison, the standard Blu-ray looks a bit bleached out and zapped of color. Here with much more of a palette to work with and better blacks, it still has the cold feel, but its a fuller, richer image as clothing, faces, structures and more just come to life that much more. Of course details are strong and the image is crisp. These Harry Potters’ level of how big an upgrade they actually are have been an interesting conversation, though I feel Azkaban is one that’s really made its uptick felt a bit more, helping the sort of storybook image Cuaron was trying to evoke with the frames.

Depth:  The Prisoner of Azkaban boasts above average dimensional work with plenty of room to roam in this image. Characters move cinematically and without any sort of distortion.

Black Levels: These blacks are deep and well saturated, helping to really bring the whole image together. Details hold strong no matter or shaded or dark the color of hair or a surface is.  No crushing was witnessed during this viewing.

Color Reproduction: Colors are strong. Once again the HDR is pretty much on fire, illuminated objects and magical burst. Now, clothing colors, hair colors and overall rustic objects (Wood, brick, stone) all see a big improvement in feeling more bold, full and lifelike.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones er on the side of colder, not overly so, and are consistent form start to finish. Facial features like stubble, lip texture, dried blood, gashes, dimples, sweat, scratches and more come out easy in just about any distance.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English DTS:X, English Descriptive Audio, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, German 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Italian 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish (Latino) 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish (Castilian) 5.1 Dolby Digital, Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital, Catalan 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, French, German SDH, Italian SDH, Spanish (Castilian), Spanish (Latino), Portuguese

Dynamics: I feel like a damn broken record here for the 7th time with one more coming, but this DTS:X track is bad ass. It really breathes a whole new life into these Harry Potter films. Once again, the energy and power of the sound as well as its immersive travel around the room give you a feeling of being present for the events you watch unfold. Its a balanced, loose mix with wonderful depth in its attention to effects and the like.

Height: Dementors float above, qudditch players fly by, creaks from the shack and other accurately place sounds do touch base on the cieling.

Low Frequency Extension: The Hogwarts train roaring back, crashing through door, patronus, snowballs connecting and score hits are roar from the subwoofer.

Surround Sound Presentation: Surround is easily the biggest asset and things are well place, no speaker goes ignored and every environment is everpresent and comes alive with ease.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and accurately depicted for movement, placement and pitch of the performers.

Extras 

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban comes with the Blu-ray edition (2-Discs) and an UltraViolet Digital Copy of the film.  All of the supplemental material is on the Blu-ray edition, which is the same 2-Disc special edition that has been available for a few years.

Blu-ray Disc 2

Behind The Story

  • Creating The World of Harry Potter Part 3: Creatures (HD, 1:03:22) 
  • Inside The Creature Shop (HD, 8:27)
  • The Magic Touch Of Harry Potter (SD, 42:28)
  • Harry Potter And The Prisoner of Azkaban: Something Wicked This Way Comes (SD, 13:02) 
  • The Making of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (SD, 10:02) 
  • An Interview in Spanish With Alfonso Cuaran (HD, 8:15)

Trelawney’s Crystal Ball Deleted Scenes (HD, 4:53)

Trailers (HD, 5:16)

Summary 

The Prisoner of Azkaban is one of the very best Harry Potter films the series has to offer. I’m sure if you had to pick one of these that people would immediately upgrade to 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray and not do the others, it’d be this one. And I don’t think it disappoints. The audio and video are both solid upgrades here and the extras carry over form before. So you’re set. Pick it up!

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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