This is where things start changing and the intensity gets upped a notch. For starters we've got a new Dumbledore! And may I say after having rewatched these three movies I do prefer this one, he's a bit more dynamic and transmits better the sense of hidden power beneath the cool exterior. Also, the kids are visibly quite a bit older here. Not just physically but emotionally. I enjoyed the few moments where you could see something "beginning" to happen between Ron and Hermione, and Daniel Radcliff channels Harry's impatience and anger very well.
This is the only film without even a cameo by Lord Voldemort, but enough of a sense of danger is transmitted with the escaped muderer Sirius Black and the Dementors who are after him. Who needs the Dark Lord when a psycopath is on the loose and after your hero? ;o) And just the idea of those Dementors has to be one of the scariest things around! Feeding of joy and happyness? Leaving you only with your most aweful memories? Sucking out your soul with a kiss?! *shudder*
I'm not sure when I saw this in the cinema if I knew then who Alfonso Cuarón was or if I recognised his name from his previous movies I'd seen and enjoyed (Y tu mamá también, Great Expectations, A Little Princess), but I do remember quite clearly that I recognised the hand of a Mexican director behind a lot of the little quirks in characters and background! Those shrunken heads and skulls all over the place? The kids clothes when they're goofing off first night back in the tower? And so many other little bits and pieces. The movie also felt so much more real and intense than the first two, like we've left behind childhood and moved into the realm of teen angst, and Cuarón managed to get that wonderfully out of his actors! Something else I really enjoyed, his way of showing the passage of time (over the school year) with the changing of the leaves on the Whomping Willow, felt very poetic... Anyhow between Y tu mamá también and this one, I've been keeping an eye out for Cuarón movies ever since and try not to miss them! I do wish they'd have given him the final Potter movie to direct as well... *sigh*
Things I didn't like so much: we didn't get to see enough interactions between Snape and Lupin (my favourite prof in the series)! Nor is it mentioned anywhere that in spite of his hatred, Snape still makes the Wolfsbane Potion each month so Sirius will do a harmless werewolf transformation. And they totally mixed up when Snape catches Harry with the Marauder's Map (of which we also didn't see enough). What about Harry's floating head that scares the hell out of Malfoy near the Shrieking Shack?! Another mix up, in the book Harry receives the Firebolt some time in the middle of the story and spends a long time wondering who gave it to him (in fact when Hermione suspects -rightfully- that it was Sirius Black and tells McGonagall the others are furious with her since the broom gets confiscated for tests against hexes and he almost doesn't get it back in time for the next Quidditch match!), whereas in the film it's just a note at the ending... So we missed the moment of realisation when Harry thanks his Godfather for it. We also miss out on moments such as when he receives the signed Hogsmeade authorisation for the following year. Or when Harry gets home and scares the Dursleys with tales of his "escaped muderer" godfather! lol! And I missed seeing Hermione storm out of Trelawney's class!
But enough of the negatives... this book is where more elements go missing in the movie, and it only got worse from here on out (what with the growing size of the books and all that) so I'm not going to keep harping on what's missing! Anyways, this has been my favourite so far, and if I remember correctly the newer ones it's my favourite of ALL of them! I'll reappraise as I watch the others...
Want to add on how I much I enjoyed all the scenes between Lupin and Harry, you could believe they really cared about and respected each other.
PS: did you guys hear about Rupert Grint (Ron Weasly) catching swine flu?! Apparently a light case as he'll be at the international premiere in London tomorrow... Thanks to Juliette from Pop Classic for the heads up! (later confirmed in my Spanish newspaper...)