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November 15, 2005

Review: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

I've just come from the preview of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the 4th movie in the Harry Potter series.

Book 4 is my favorite of the series, but from the first time I read it, I wondered how anyone could bring it to the screen. It's the most sprawling of the books, with a Quidditch World Cup, a Triwizard Tournament, a missing persons subplot tied into Voldemort's efforts to return to full power, background on Voldemort's followers (the Death Eaters -- a punk band name if I ever heard one) and the usual schoolwork and adolescent angst. It just seems impossible to squeeze 734 pages into 2.5 hours on screen.

I was dead wrong. Where I felt cheated by some of the "what's out" choices made by Alphonse Cuaron, director of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Mike Newell (working with a Steve Kloves script) has nailed it with the latest edition.

As the series gets darker, Newell and Kloves deftly play up the humor in J.K. Rowling's work to give us a roller-coaster ride, focusing on the two tournaments and Voldemort's efforts to regain corporeal form, which together make up the heart of Rowling's book.

The cast also lightens the mood, as the regulars have grown comfortable enough to play off the groundwork established in movies 1 through 3 and offer up clever bits of stage business. Alan Rickman as Severus Snape and Robbie Coltrane as Hagrid, in particular, get a chance to ham it up a bit.

If they're a bit of ham, Brendan Gleeson, as Alastor "Mad-Eye" Moody, is the whole pig, munching the scenery on a glorious turn through the most entertaining Defense Against the Dark Arts role yet (sorry, Kenneth Branagh).

Also new on board are Ralph Fiennes, who will be back, and Miranda Richardson, who won't.

The special effects are flawless. From the snake's-eye introduction and the combat portions of the tournament, all the way through the final confrontation, all were spectacular. Never once did I find myself saying "That's not how that should look."

My 10-year-old Harry Potter nut loved it, instantly proclaiming it her favorite movie of all time.

I won't go that far, but I would definitely rate it the best Harry Potter movie yet.

November 15, 2005 in Film, Reviews | Permalink

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Comments

Well, dammit. Now I'll have to see it.

I was somewhat disappointed in the first movie, especially the quality of the sfx. The second was a bit better but still unimpressive. I never saw the third one, as I heard many bad things about it from friends who love the books.

But if I'm going to see GoF I should probably see PoA, too. Rassin frassin. <makes Netflix note>

Thanks a lot, Frank.

:)


Posted by: Mark Reed at Nov 15, 2005 10:49:10 AM

I love the books, but I liked Prisoner of Azkaban, the movie. I thought Chris Columbus treated the first two books like scripture, at the expense of surprise or delight.

Cuaron's movie, Prisoner of Azkaban, felt like a movie of its own to me. Cuaron used the text as a jumping-off point to build what I thought was a good movie. Contrasting it to Goblet of Fire, I would say Cuaron's movie is like a survey class, picking and choosing a little bit from each plot thread.

Goblet of Fire is more like a 300-level class in 3 of the book's plot threads, completely ignoring Divination, house elves, Ludo Bagman, Fred and George's burgeoning joke business, Privet Drive, and a lot of the other threads Rowling weaves together. I think the result is a better movie, that better stands on its own.

Its sort of like The Princess Bride: Excellent movie, but the novel has one or two whole other frames that you don't even suspect when you watch the movie.

Posted by: Frank at Nov 15, 2005 12:22:10 PM

I love the books, but I liked Prisoner of Azkaban, the movie. I thought Chris Columbus treated the first two books like scripture, at the expense of surprise or delight.

Exactly. The attitude of fidelity-at-all-costs dragged the movies down. But the sfx sucked too. :)

Cuaron's movie is like a survey class, picking and choosing a little bit from each plot thread. Goblet of Fire is more like a 300-level class in 3 of the book's plot threads...

Interesting metaphor. Well, I shall check them out.

Its sort of like The Princess Bride: Excellent movie, but the novel has one or two whole other frames that you don't even suspect when you watch the movie.

Indeed! Excellent comparison. Lots of layers in the book missing from the movie, and the ending has rather a different feel, but they are both outstanding exemplars of their respective media.


Posted by: Mark Reed at Nov 15, 2005 12:47:37 PM