November 24, 2005

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

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As the Gals of the Cotillion enjoy Thanksgiving and extend their best wishes to all of you and your families, I'm going to take a break from the usual and post a movie review. I recommend this movie for adults and older children (could be too intense for those under 10) Cross-posted at Darleen's Place

Admittedly, I've seen few movies this year. The slate of what was being offered just left me thinking my $7 was better spent elsewheres. However, I've been looking forward to Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia. I'm amused that actual family films are becoming the best offerings at the movies. So-called "adult" fare has become so predictable and formula as to be tedious. Hello, Hollywood? Big clue stick here.

Harry opened Nov 18 and Eric and I caught the first show of Sunday, Nov 20. It was well worth the wait and the $7. Spoilers across the jump. Just sayin'.

One of the greatest tasks in movie making is getting one's audience to suspend disbelief. While having the latest in awe-inspiring special effects can help, it is really if the movie (or stage play or novel) has a soul that will have an audience emotionally embrace it. When we watch Harry Potter step into a pup tent that expands into a multi-room tent worthy of a dessert sheik, we heartedly agree as he softly exclaims, "I love magic!"

This fourth installment of the series is the best so far due to a combination of factors. Harry and his peers are growing up and, like the books, the story is getting darker and more complicated as they contend not only with the outside conflicts and mysteries of Lord Voldemort, but also with the normal conflicts of adolescence. This willingness on the part of the film to spend some time with the characters having the painfully familiar woes of dealing with bruised friendships, crushes and budding sexual awareness grounds the audience with the belief that these are real kids who just happen to live in a different country. We may not have Quidditch matches, but we know about sports fans who paint their faces and scream themselves hoarse at events. When Harry hisses in exasperation about girls "Why do they have to travel in packs?" or Hermione huffs "Boys!" it elicits laughter from the audience in recognition that no amount of money would ever get us to go back and relive junior high!

It's been a couple of years since I read Book 4 and I decided against re-reading it just before the movie's release. I was hoping that it would it allow me to come to the movie more from the perspective of someone who hasn't read any of the books (like my husband) and see if the movie worked on its own. I realize that squeezing a 700 page book down to just under 3 hours of screentime presented a monumental task in plot and pacing, and I think it works well - as long as one has seen the other movies before it. For my husband, Eric, he found the movie very entertaining but was confused on a few of the threads. The opening scene at the Quidditch World Cup was so dazzling and relatively short the importance of the Dark Mark above the burning tents was lost and Crouch's menace towards Harry, Ron and Hermione "at the scene of the crime" was confusing.

Possibly, one should attend this movie in pairs - reader with non-reader. This worked with me during the Lord of the Rings triology. I've never read those books while they are a favorite of Eric's. So I got to ask questions of him during those movies.

The movie is rich with action. Harry's first task in the Triwizard Tournement is a face-to-face with a dragon. The dragon is so beautifully realized I caught myself thinking "Damn it, won't someone NOW bring the Pern series to the screen?" I especially delighted in the tiny string of character moments, from the twins' mischief and open scheming for money to watching the terminally awkward Longbottom blossom when he discovers dance. Snapes (Alan Rickman) doesn't have as much screentime, but he is unforgettable in the scenes where he appears. Watch for a delightful scene as he pulls back his sleeves to deal with the whisperers in his class. Comic relief is provided by the wonderful scenery chewing of Mad-Eyed Moody, who had the audience rolling when he turns Draco into a ferret.

With the primary, young actors of the series obviously maturing I congratulate the film makers in their breakneck speed to keep the release of the movies as close to the seven year timeline as possible.

As we enter the long Thanksgiving weekend, take a break from shopping or decorating and treat yourself to this movie.

Posted by Darleen at November 24, 2005 02:12 PM

I had seen part of the first Harry Potter movie on TV with my wife. We went to Goblet of Fire together and I think your suggestion for people who know the story to go with those who don't is a good one.

It helped me a great deal. I wished they had done more of the Quidditch thing at the beginning of the film. The gag from the book about "You mean you speak English?" would have been pretty good on screen, I think. Ah well, that's what Special Edition DVDs are for, I guess.

Posted by: eLarson at November 30, 2005 10:30 AM