Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
I assume by now that everyone has seen this film and formed an opinion of it. Therefore I'm going to forego a summary; we all know what happens.
I watched the movie this weekend. My hope was that by the time I got around to seeing it, enough parents would have heard that they weren't supposed to take their ten-year-old children that there wouldn't be a lot of kids at the movie. I was wrong. Or perhaps Utah is just filled with a lot of really, really bad parents. Especially like the ones who let their kids whine and whimper through the last hour and a half of the movie. Years down the road, some shrink is going to be quite happy. And then there was that woman down at the bottom of the theater who let her baby cry through the last half hour of the movie. Why is it that Utah parents don't understand movie theater etiquette? I never had this issue at movies in New York. Or Wyoming.
Anyway, I digress.
Everyone has come out of the gates singing the praises of this installment in the Harry Potter movie franchise. My dad claims it's perhaps the best movie he's ever seen. Hmm. I think many of these people are delusional.
Don't get me wrong--the production values of the film are great. I enjoyed the cinematography. I enjoyed what they tried to do with their adaptation of such a behemoth, intricate text. Some of the text changes they did to consolidate the cast and special effects worked quite well. I like how they used Barty Crouch Jr. I like how they used Neville for the gillyweed instead of Dobby. In fact, I find myself wishing that Rowling had done that to begin with. Perhaps it would have spared us the misguided discussion of colonial politics and slavery. The kids' acting has improved, even if Emma Watson (Hermione) has a tendency to give herself over to Shakespearian melodrama. Maggie Smith (Professor McGonagall) was as brilliant as ever, as was Alan Rickman (Professor Snape). Ralph Fiennes was chillingly charismatic as Lord Voldemort; I think I have a much better understanding of how he could have amassed as many followers as he did.
But many other elements of the movie turned it into an abysmal mess. I'm disappointed with some of the adult actors' portrayal of their characters. Brendan Gleeson (Mad Eye Moody) was far too flippant and jocular. Perhaps this was the director's way of demonstrating to the audience that Crouch Jr. was using the polyjuice potion. But that doesn't work for the audience if we never see what the real Moody--the paranoid, conspiracy theory obsessed Moody--is like. And then there was Michael Gambon's destruction of Dumbledore's character. Through the entire book series, Dumbledore is always level headed. He is never emotional, particularly in front of the students. Such a breakdown as he gave us in the movie was an utter betrayal of Dumbledore's character.
Despite my dad's disapproval tone when I criticize the movie, calling me a purist, I'm really not. I have no qualms with whittling out the subplots--merciful heavens there were more than enough in the novel. I do have qualms with the editing that was done with the storyline they decided to run with. I have a sneaky suspicion that the director left a half hour on the cutting room floor that should not have been left on the floor. I felt that far too often we got the results of the action instead of seeing the full action. For example, the Yule Ball. Sure, we can gather that Hermione and Ron are having relationship issues because Ron's a bit thick. But in the film, Hermione storms off in a huff, completely put together. In the next scene, she's chastising him on the steps, and she's a mess. How did she get to be a mess? She lays into him for "completely ruining the evening." Just because he wouldn't hang with Krum? I don't think so. But this type of thing happened quite often throughout the movie. And perhaps it was more apparent to me since one of my friends kept leaning over to ask why something was happening or why someone was behaving a certain way. Holes. Holes are bad.
Some characters who take on fairly significant roles in the book were noticeable absent. Molly Weasley and Sirius Black, principally. With how they decided to run this story, I can see taking out Molly, though I disagree with it since the book places her in the role of a surrogate mother to Harry. The missing Sirius Black is a bit more problematic. In order to prepare for his death at the end of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, they really needed to establish Harry's affection for him in this movie. But that didn't happen. Hopefully they've already taken this into account and will focus more on the headquarters of the Order at the beginning of the next movie. It can work, as they'll both be confined to the house and will therefore be able to wallow in their self-pity together.
My big beef with the movie was the ending. Dumbledore gave the school the rousing Voldemort Is Back and We Must Stand Together speech. Great. However, the end of the year and the students' good-byes are a very sober moment in the book. Not in the movie. There was far too much chipperness and smiling going on. I realize this is Hollywood, and so we're obliged to get the sappy happy ending (just take a look at this year's Pride & Prejudice where they added 8 minutes to the American version for a sloppy romantic kiss), but it destroys the feel you're supposed to leave the movie with. It minimizes the concern that Voldemort's return is supposed to bring.
Anyway, that's my review of Harry Potter. I still enjoyed it, even though I don't think it was nearly good as everyone around me seems to be claiming. And I do take into consideration that, despite its flaws, book four was the best book in the series, followed closely by book six. So I'm biased. Still, I'll be buying the DVD when it comes out, and I'll be hoping for an extended version ala The Lord of the Ring.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire