Book reviews, art, gaming, Objectivism and thoughts on other topics as they occur.

Nov 21, 2005

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

I went to see this movie over the weekend, and I must say I'm disappointed; the more I think about it the more firm I am in this evaluation.

A friend of mine warned me ahead of time that the movie left out a great deal of the book. In fact, this was only to be expected, as this book has probably the greatest number of vital plot details of any in the series to date. It's unreasonable to expect that a movie could possibly manage to cover everything. What did disappoint me was the selectivity of the director in what was kept and what was cut. Add in a few wrong notes and errors, and the movie was not nearly as enjoyable as I'd hoped.

Oh . . . if you've read this far and haven't managed to figure out that this post is going to contain spoilers, you've now been formally warned so no whining. Before I begin criticizing, know that I enjoyed the movie very much, as well.

Some changes I would have made:

1. One of the major parts of the series is Harry's relationship with the Dursleys, and they were not in the novel at all. Harry should ALWAYS begin at the Dursleys' house.

2. The plot significance of the Quidditch World Cup was almost obliterated from the novel . . . and that's where most of the development for later plot events takes place! I would have recommended leaving it in virtually untouched and instead cutting another, later event completely out: the Yule Ball.

Why that particular event? Because its primary purpose is not to advance the plot but to provide additional characterization of Harry et all, especially their fumbling first steps into the world of romance. In a book, characterization of this kind is vitally important; without it the characters seem like two-dimensional abstractions, not like real people. In a movie, however, it is not necessary, because characterization is conveyed swiftly and with much greater eloquence by the actors via their tone of voice, facial expressions, gestures, etc. It is unnecessary and unwise to devote entire scenes to it.

3. The scene with Sirius in the fire was unnecessary and should have been cut; it was clearly an opportunity for some peculiar special effects and nothing else. Sirius's continuing involvement with the story could have been conveyed much better in brief, appropriate comments.

4. The director screwed himself regarding continuuity with later movies because he did not introduce Bellatrix Lestrange at the trial. Neville Longbottom's parents were also mentioned so cursorily that it was almost unnoticeable. The result of this was that the evil, not only of Lord Voldemort, but of his followers was severely diminished. In addition, it was never mentioned that Olympe Maxime is a half-giant, which also plays into later plot developments.

5. Albus Dumbledore behaved completely out of character in this movie, looking more like a worried, temperamental old man (pinning Harry against a table and yelling at him! Sitting on the floor and hugging his knees helplessly!) and not at all like the powerful, intelligent, wise, restrained person he is in the books. His summing-up talk with Harry at the end of the movie was wretched. He mentions a few isolated facts with nothing to connect them, and he doesn't explain what Priori Incantatem is and why it occured. If you hadn't read the book, you would be completely lost at that point.

6. Harry always suspects that Severus Snape is somehow involved in any wrongdoings going on . . . this was not mentioned in the movie. In fact, Snape came off as rather a reasonable type in the movie, and a thoroughly sympathetic character! Snape is not supposed to be a sympathetic character!

7. There was no indication whatsoever that Crouch was under the Imperius curse. Professor Moody's demonstration of the three curses is important in the book because all three are used at some point in the story. It was also not apparent that Krum was under the Imperius curse. So the idea of the three unforgiveable curses fell a little flat.

8. This one might seem like a nitpick, but it irrtated me terribly: Wormtail recites the recipe for returning Voldemort to the flesh incorrectly at the end. That little chant in the "Blood, Flesh, and Bones" chapter was very evocative and should have been done properly.

9. Voldemort himself was a disappointment. His eyes are supposed to be red. Given, I think they did the overall face pretty well, but his voice was not high pitched the way it is supposed to be.

10. The ENTIRE NEXT BOOK is based on something that was ommitted COMPLETELY: Dumbledore's speech to Cornelius Fudge about "The Parting of the Ways." That was a VERY important plot point and should not have been left out under ANY circumstances.

Well, that's enough of that. Like I said, I don't pan the movie, but I don't think it was particularly good, either. I do hope they turn this trend around with the next one, otherwise I'm not going to see any more of them. The books are lovely, I don't want them ruined by memories of lousy movies.


Theresa said...

I always am dissappointed by the movies. However, the disaster that was Prisoner of Azkaban makes this one seem almost great. The thing that annoys me most?
They always add in additional scenes that weren't in the books and then complain that they don't have enough screen time to fit in everything. Well, if you didn't have that dancing lesson with McGonagall...

Good points, all. They better not destroy Order of the Phoenix; it's my favorite. I have no real hope for Gambon's ability to perform "The Only One He Ever Feared" chapter, however...

Jennifer Snow said...

I thought I remembered McGonagall giving dancing lessons in the great hall. I'd have to look in the book to be sure.

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