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Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Reviewed by Eliza DoLots

There are books that seem designed to be made into movies. Jurassic Park jumps to mind. There are books that seem to defy the idea of being made into a movie. I would have said The Lord of the Rings jumped to mind, but Peter Jackson proved that could be done. So, maybe anything by Stephen Hawking? Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire, on the face of it, is not a book which seems well suited to making the transition to movie. At close to 800 pages, with little extraneous material, it is simply too much story to move satisfyingly to the screen. However, as part of the very successful movie franchise that “Harry Potter” has become, it had to be done.

There are problems. The need to make almost brutal cuts results in the loss of some of the most loved scenes in the book. Harry Potter’s world at Hogwarts is always in sharp contrast to his world living with his Aunt and Uncle on Privet Drive. JK Rowling has taken delight in constructing ever more entertaining ways to get Harry out of Privet Drive. In The Sorcerer’s Stone, Hagrid tracked the family to a stormy island hut and gave Dudley a pig tail. In Chamber of Secrets, the Weasley boys borrowed a flying car and pulled the bars off Harry’s window…they flew off with Vernon hollering behind. In Prisoner of Azkaban Harry inflated his Aunt Marge to the size of a small blimp and then ran away, taking a wild ride on The Knight Bus. All these paled in comparison to the departure scene in Goblet. The Weasley’s arrive via Floo powder to take Harry to the Quidditch World Cup only to find the Dursley’s fireplace has been walled over. They explode the wall, nearly demolishing the living room. George and Fred drop magical candy which Dudley grabs…when his tongue grows to the size of a large python, Petunia assumes he’s being attacked and tries to pull the “snake” away…It was a sight all of Potterdom wanted to see. Alas, it is not in the movie. Harry wakes up at the Weasley’s with no explanation whatsoever why or how he came to be there. The immediate plunge into the world of magic, while clearly a time saver, deprives us not only of the wonderful fun of seeing Dudley with a two ton tongue, but also of the comparison to Harry’s life among the muggles. Hogwart’s seems less magical, less enchanting when it is not being compared to life at Privet Drive.

Then there is Dumbledore. I’ll be honest and admit that I wasn’t a fan of Richard Harris’s portrayal of the whimsical but most brilliant wizard in the first movie. I found him dry and fairly humorless. When his death caused a change in casting, I was not unhappy. Michael Gambon brought spirit and whimsy to the roll. I found him refreshing and charming. His performance in Prisoner of Azkaban was particularly fun.

In Goblet of Fire, Dumbledore needs to be subtle, subdued. Gambon is not up to it. He is pushy and far more physical than the character has ever been described. He visibly worries, which is something Dumbledore never does in the books. Some of this is perhaps a director issue. Scenes in which the professors consult on the surprising turns of events have been added and Gambon’s portrayal reaches emotional peaks in these scenes.

The kids, portrayed by Daniel Radcliffe (Harry), Rupert Grint (Ron) and Emma Watson (Hermione) have always been something of a weak point. Grint, in particular has been annoying. Nothing really changes here. The screenwriters wisely have played to Grint’s natural tendency to overact and given him scenes where being a buffoon is perfectly acceptable. Watson has little to do. Hermione is less pompous than usual leaving her without much more than “being pretty” as a role. Radcliffe continues to be the best of the young cast. He manages to believably convey fear, angst, anger and joy.

Overall, the opening of the movie is incredibly rushed and confusing. I wonder if people unfamiliar with the book would even know what was going on.

But, fear not! There are still great and wonderful things in the movie. The Quidditch World Cup is a highlight. The stadium scene, in which the competitors are introduced and the crowd whipped into a frenzy is more exciting than I could have imagined (and, almost completely unlike the description in the book). For the first time, I was looking forward to seeing a bit of Quidditch….but, then, nothing of the game was shown, it was simply over. **sigh**

This movie is the least like the book of all the series so far. Entire scenes have been added. Normally, when scenes I love have been cut I would be complaining about adding scenes Rowling didn’t write, however, these scenes add both humor and depth to the movie.

McGonagal (Maggie Smith) instructing the kids in the fine art of ball room dancing in advance of the Yule Ball with an unwilling, even horrified, Ron Weasley as her partner is delightful fun.

The Yule Ball itself is a riot of youthful fun. More invigorating and “current” feeling than anything Rowling described, it gives the feel of teenagers really having fun. I especially loved the Great Hall, littered with debris, all signs of adult supervision long since gone into hiding in the face of teenage enthusiasm as the festivities wind down.

Snape (the woefully underused Alan Rickman) monitoring the gossiping kids in study hall is wonderful. Without ever saying a word, he manages to convey “Snape” as more complex and interesting than he’s ever seemed in the movies before.

Moaning Myrtle (Shirley Henderson) is at her best yet….her scene in the Prefect’s bathtub with Harry highlights the fact that the kids are really young adults now. Her flirtatiousness reaches a peak that some might find gross, but I found hysterical as she swims underwater to cuddle her noncorporeal self up to the increasingly uncomfortable Harry.

The events of the Triwizard tournamen, tthe international competition between wizarding schools that is at the center of the story, is a mixed bag. While the dragons are lovely to look at, the scene is unnecessarily long. The underwater rescue is confusing and hard to follow, which is a shame because the interpretation of “merpeople” is unlike anything I had seen before. Among other things, they have vertical tail flukes. I wish it had been easier to see them.

Those weaknesses are more than made up for by the final task, though. While tossing out everything that made the Maze exciting and interesting in the book, the movie Maze is more terrifying than I imagined. The bushes themselves are alive and unfriendly, creating suspense and fear simply by being there.

The ultimate payoff scene in Goblet is the graveyard resurrection of the ultimate bad guy, Lord Voldemort. Here, the movie does not disappoint. Ralph Fiennes as the serpentine Voldemort is both lovely and horrifying. He moves with a grace and fluidity that is, rightly, inhuman.

This is really the most frustrating of the movies to date. While it is rushed and confusing it is also exciting and dramatic.

I have come to the conclusion that much of the extreme editing of story points is in preparation for the truly daunting task of turning the next book into a movie. Approaching 900 pages and jammed packed with information, The Order of the Phoenix promises to be the most challenging movie yet. (By comparison, the latest book, The Half Blood Prince, seems easily adaptable to screen..).

I’m going to forgive Goblet its shortcomings and instead concentrate on the wonderful aspects of it. It’s a must see, must own for all Potter fans.

Just a note, this movie is rightly rated PG-13. There are real terror making moments here. If you have a young one who is not familiar with the book, I would take the considerable time needed to read the book before seeing the movie. At 46 I found the dark mark in the sky to be scary and Voldemort is positively terrifying. True, the horribleness of Voldemort before his resurrection is not nearly as frightening as it is in the book, simply because in the book it is up to your imagination to draw the pictures…and, at least in my case, they were considerably ickier than what the filmmakers gave us. However…it’s still very grown up horror and kids need to be prepared.

I will say this: seeing Goblet has rekindled my daughter’s interest in Harry Potter. If for nothing else, I will love the movie for that.

 

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Director
Mike Newell

Screenplay
Steve Kloves

Released
November 18, 2005 (US)

Cast
Daniel Radcliffe
Emma Watson
Rupert Grint
Michael Gambon
Robbie Coltrane
Maggie Smith
Alan Rickman
David Tennant
Brendan Gleeson

Full Credits at IMDb

Available on DVD and Blu-Ray