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Gazing into the Abyss: Michael Rawdon's Journal


Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Tonight we went to see Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which as you know is the film adaptation of the fourth book in the popular series. It's another lengthy film (2-1/2 hours), but the book is also the second-longest in the series, so a lot of editing was required to fit it all in.

At this point my recollection is that Goblet is the point at which the series started to go downhill, but reading my review of the book I actually seem to have enjoyed it quite a bit at the time, maybe feeling it needed some editing and that it slowed down at the end, but otherwise being fairly pleased with it. Obviously my recollection has been colored by the fact that I hated the fifth book, and was lukewarm towards the sixth book (which is the most-recently-published volume, as I write this).

The film tracked my memories of the book pretty well: Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) attends the Quidditch World Cup with the Weasleys, at which a group of Death Eaters attack. Harry then goes back to school, where he learns that the school Quidditch games have been cancelled in order that Hogwarts can host the Triwizard Tournament, in which a representative from Hogwarts and two other schools compete in dangerous events to be named one of the greatest wizards of their young generation. The Goblet of Fire is used to choose from among those who enter their names, a set restricted to students 17 and older - and thus excluding Harry.

Harry is nonetheless a surprise fourth student so chosen, and is forced to participate in the tournament, which features three events spread out over the year. Along the way he attracts the ire of many envious students, the attention of the new Defence Against the Dark Arts instructor - Professor "Mad-Eye" Moody (Brendan Gleeson) , and starts being attracted to girls, including attending the Christmas ball which accompanies the Tournament.

Debbi and I had fairly different opinions of the film: She thinks that a lot of the magic and wonder of the book was left on the cutting room (or maybe scripting room) floor. My feeling is that this was largely inevitable, because of the length and complexity of the story and the desire to chop it down to fit into less than three hours (thank goodness - apparently they'd considered making the book into a two-film sequence, which I think would have been too much). Moreover, Rowling imposed a strict structure on the story via the Triwizard Tournament, effectively forcing the film to include all three events in the Tournament, and thus spending a decent amount of time on them, even though they don't really advance the story to a similar degree. So the adaptation was rather hobbled by that and the large cast, many of whom get short shrift in the movie (and, honestly, if you asked me what role Pavarti Patil plays in the books, I'd be hard-pressed to tell you).

I thought the film was a fairly lively and exciting adventure story, though, and I'd certainly say that I enjoyed it. Gleeson as Moody basically stole every scene he was in. Michael Gambon is a pretty good Dumbledore. Radcliffe, Emma Watson (as Hermione Granger) and Rupert Grint (as Ron Weasley) are all developing into pretty good actors, although unfortunately I think Radcliffe is a little too good at "intimidated, stammering Harry" and not good enough at "standing up for himself Harry". I thought they could have cut every scene with Rita Skeeter (Miranda Richardson) in it as they were basically superfluous, and added back some more character or incidental magic moments.

Goblet is a dark film, with some humorous moments but overall full of danger and portents. It's not nearly as good as its predecessor, though I didn't really expect it to be. I think it does suffer from feeling a little disconnected from the wonder - as well as the day-to-day drudgery of life at Hogwarts - but I'm not sure they could have made it a whole lot better without making it a whole lot longer.

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