Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
This weekend I finally went to see Goblet, so here's a mini-review. Well, perhaps not so mini, but it does have lots of bullet points. Probably any fan has seen it already, and my opinion won't be terribly relevant to a non-fan, but hey, it's my blog and I can post a pointless review if I want ;) Lots of spoilers inside for this movie, the previous ones, and all the books.
To put this movie in context here are my opinions (briefly I hope) of the previous three:
- Good points: First introduction of consistently perfect characters like Hagrid, Snape, McGonagall. Hogwarts in general. The chess scene, if only because it's practically the only point in any of the movies to show Ron's bravery.
- Bad points: Dumbledore - he looked right but utterly, totally, completely missed the essence of the character to the point of all but ruining the movie for me - between cutting all his best lines ("Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!" - how could they leave the setup but cut the punchline?) and massacring the only one left uncut ("Alas! Ear wax!") every scene with him in was painful to watch. No Peeves. The uncanny ability to leave every single thing about a scene identical to the book but eliminate all humor. Fred and George, for example. The general assumption that the movie was only targeted at young children, such as after Hermione's best line ("We could all have been killed! Or worse, expelled!") when Ron had to explain why it was funny. Hagrid making a point of refusing to say "Voldemort" and then thirty seconds later repeating it several times without hesitation or concern.
- Good points: Gilderoy Lockhart - nuff said. Myrtle - perfect. Dobby. Riddle; the whole flashback sequence.
- Bad points: The pointless addition of five minutes of Harry dangling out of a flying car (why???) at the expense of things that would have helped to explain the plot. Ditto Quidditch. Ditto the spiders scene. Ditto the fight with the Basilisk. Ron suddenly becoming a blundering coward (hey, Columbus, that face stopped being funny about half way through the first Home Alone). Most of the same things as Stone all over again.
- Good points: Holy crap they finally found someone that understands humor. For the first time it didn't just look and sound like the books, it felt like the books. Dumbledore - not quite right, but finally bearing a passing resemblance to an approximation of someone a little bit like the character from the books. Sirius. Buckbeak. The knight bus. Snape in a dress. Snape's werewolf lesson. "Ronald has lost his rat." The Fred and George from the books suddenly showing up out of nowhere. Harry himself - his pain and anguish are so fundamental to this book and they're captured perfectly in the movie.
- Bad points: Macaulay Culkin's still playing Ron for some reason. Too short and everything seems too rushed; the plot is intricate and yet we zoom through the most complicated bits; I can't see how anyone who hadn't read the books could keep up with the twists. In view of that it's especially annoying to waste time on the Monster Book and Harry's "king of the world!" bit. Hermione's werewolf imitation - why invent new stuff when there's so much more in the book that you could take?
Ok, maybe not so brief there :) It's hard to get me to shut up about Harry Potter as anyone who knows me will attest.
Anyway, on to Goblet.
- Good points:
- OMG they put in the school song!!! That by itself almost redeems the "Nitwit! Blubber!" travesty. Well, okay, perhaps not, but it was a lovely little nod to the fans.
- The general atmosphere and "feel" of the book was absolutely perfectly captured. Not too rushed this time (I wish it could have been longer but only because it was so good that I didn't want it to end) and just the right balance of humor to terror.
- The plot was trimmed just enough and not too much. While they still didn't adequately explain why Crouch Jr waited until the end of the year to kidnap Harry, it didn't feel like such a glaring hole as in the book somehow, perhaps because there wasn't so much time to dwell on it. This was what I had hoped before seeing it and actually gave the movie an edge over the book.
- Myrtle. Was perfect. Again. The people responsible for the first two movies would have sanitized or cut that scene, I'm sure - a testament to exactly what was wrong with the first two and what's right with this one.
- Ron was finally Ron. This was the first of the movies where I can't pick out a single character that was badly wrong. His fight with Harry was different from the book in pretty much every single detail but yet got the essence of the book exactly right - the opposite of the first movies which slavishly matched the details but missed the whole point.
- Ginny and Neville. Ohsocute. Glad they made Ginny a teency bit more prominent (but I hope they do more in Phoenix or the events of Prince will seem rather out of the blue...). Neville dancing was great too.
- Moody - spot on. The eye wasn't quite how I pictured it but it worked.
- Fred and George's beards.
- Fudge - considering how much of his role at the end was cut, they did a very good job of demonstrating his concern for appearances over actually doing anything useful.
- The intensity of the moment between Crouch Sr and his disguised son. Even though it didn't come from the book (it was only even there to cover a discrepancy between the two plots), if such an encounter had happened in the book I wouldn't have been surprised if it played out exactly the way the movie did it.
- Harry's response to "everything's going to be different now isn't it?". Just right.
- Bad points:
- Harry should not have hesitated to save Cedric from the evil hedge. Hesitate to let him share the glory of taking the cup, sure. Hesitate to save his life, never. That was a really bad misinterpretation of Harry's character - he'd never act that way in a million years. For that matter, there was no need to turn the decision to both take the cup together into a panicked act of desparation. It's supposed to tell us something about both their characters that they both agreed - not without personal cost - to sacrifice their own glory in the interests of fairness.
- The Death Eaters were not nearly flabberghasted enough to find Voldemort back. This was a hugely momentous event and the Death Eaters were the only people in a position to show that to the audience (once Harry got back, there was no opportunity amid the chaos).
- They still have this inexplicable need to introduce long sequences that aren't in the book (in this case the whole dragon-on-the-roof bit) at the expense of more worthwhile material that is.
- I don't think they quite gave enough for viewers who hadn't read the books to spot the connection between Neville's reaction to Crucio, his parents torture, and the fact that actually the guy torturing the spider right in front of him was the very same person responsible for that. Maybe you'd get it on a repeat viewing, but surely most repeat viewers have read the books?
- Harry: "Sir, what the heck was going on with the thing where our wands connected and my parents appeared?" Dumbledore: "No spell can awaken the dead Harry. Dark and difficult times lie ahead." Did I miss an actual answer to the question in there somewhere?
- Hermione was over-acting - not dreadfully but enough to be noticeable.
- The cut from Harry finding Crouch Sr's body to him showing up at Dumbledore's office sometime later after Dumbledore already knows was too abrupt, especially for readers of the book who know that Harry did actually go immediately to Dumbledore's office at that point to tell him about Crouch.
- Things others have complained about that didn't bother me:
- Deviations from the book in general. Except for things like the Cedric bit that are detrimental to Harry's character, "it didn't happen that way in the book" isn't sufficient for me to have a problem with something. Especially little tweaks like Neville giving Harry the Gillyweed instead of Dobby, and Crouch Jr's status as an escaped Azkaban inmate instead of the elaborate plotline with Crouch Sr, a faked death and the Imperius Curse. Both of these served to simplify the plot and make it more understandable in the context of the movie.
- Dumbledore - it's true he's a bit more agitated and less clueful than in the book, but in the first four books it's always a little bit hard to reconcile the fact that he's on the one hand practically infallible (never wrong, never uncertain) and yet on the other hand completely unable to stop Quirrel, Riddle, Sirius or Crouch Jr (while an 11-14 year old student manages it every time). Letting him be a little less perfect worked fine for me and actually makes his complete, disastrous screwup in Phoenix seem less uncharacteristic and rather more believable.
- The constant dropping of Polyjuice Potion hints and suspicion of Moody's flask. In the book you had to solve about five different clues simultaneously to work that out, all of which were only mentioned once each and given plausible alternate explanations which you had to correctly disbelieve. A movie can't get away with that - there isn't time for viewers to stew over the meanings of the clues and decipher something that obscure for themselves. They made it more figure-outable and the movie was better for it. The only problem: I'm not sure they ever actually explained what Polyjuice Potion actually is. Did they really expect people to remember that from two movies ago?
- The cutting of SPEW. Like it or not, there's no time for plotlines which only serve as character development of secondary characters (and yes, in the movie Hermione is a secondary character I'm afraid).
- Cutting the World Cup and cutting the Dursleys - neither of these added anything to the plot of this movie and would have wasted time that could be better spent. The ton-tongue toffee was funny but not worth cutting something else for (well, maybe half the dragon scene. But if they did that there are better choices of what to use the time for).
- The tone of the ending and the omission of the Parting of the Ways. Each of the books has devoted a significant chunk of the final chapter to what's going to happen next; rightfully, IMHO, none of the movies have done so. Most of the audience isn't going to remember the exact state of affairs by the time Phoenix comes out anyway - "Voldemort's back" is probably the most you can hope for. Better to develop the plot of this movie more thoroughly than spend time on preparation for the next one.
- Most missed moment:
- Fred loudly saying "You're joking!" when the Triwizard is announced - and Dumbledore's response...
Summary: this is what a Harry Potter movie should be. Now go back and remake the first two this good...