Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Old Review: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Newell, 2005)

Written November 20, 2005

Some people just won't be happy with anything less than a dressed stage reading of the Harry Potter books. Try to see this from a producers point of view: J.K. Rowlings Goblet of Fire is a 734 pages long and if it was adapted page for page the film would end up being 10 hours long putting the audience to sleep and cost even more money to make (the budget is already 150 million!). Therefore, it makes sense that certain parts need to be cut from the book in order to fit the required running time which is the case here. For instance, in the book, Dooby is the one who provides Harry with gillyweed for the second task but in the movie it is Nevell. Why would they change this small detail? The most logical explaination would be so there isn't any time wasted by re-introducing Dobby. As a matter of fact, I am glad Newell decided to give Nevell a larger role in the film because he becomes a much more important character in the later books. The mystery surrounding the assailant who released the dark mark at the Quidditch World Cup is actually revealed which eliminates the entire Winky The House-Elf subplot. Hermione's S.P.E.W activities are also cut along with the annual quidditch season at Hogwarts. Hardcore Potter fans will probably be upset that a lot of the material was tweaked or cut but considering the difficult task that Steve Kloves (screenwriter) and Newell faced, I think they did a great job in focusing as close as they could on the major plotlines of the story and weeding out anything that was not remotely related to Harry's plight.

Sitting comfortably in the jam-packed theatre, I could barely contain my excitement and my friend had to repeatedly tell me to calm down several times because I was literally jumping out of my seat in anticpation. I could not help myself! I'm a huge fan of the Harry Potter series and the Goblet of Fire is my favorite book out of them all (that can change depending on book 7!), so naturally I was so anxious to see how Newell would approach the material. Needless to say, the movie did not disappoint and is by far the best of the adaptations. It's Harry Potter's fourth year at Hogwarts and the school is hosting the Tri-Wizard Tournament. Two other magical schools arrive to take part in this legendary event. Only one student from each school is chosen by the Goblet of Fire to compete in the dangerous tournament but when Harry's name is mysteriously expelled from the Goblet, he now must now stand up to the challenge. With a new year, comes a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher and this time it is an ex-auror (dark-wizard catcher) named Mad-eye Moody played superbly by Brenden Gleeson. All the supperting characters are back but I would have been more satisfied if Snape (Rickman) was given more screen-time since he is one of the more intriguing supporting characters. This film is much bigger, darker, emotional and more satisfying than the predecessors. Its interesting how the films keep getting better instead of declining in quality like other sequels (*cough, Star Wars).

The three main leads are maturing just like their characters and this time around, their acting abilities have vastly improved. They no longer seem to be reading off cue cards or acting over-the-top. I always felt that Daniel Radcliffe was the weakest out of the three when it came to acting but in this film, he really seemed to come into his element. Surprisingly, Rupert Grint did an admirable job in his role as Ron and managed to not come off as annoying like in the other films. He is the comedic centerpiece of the film and even though his facial expressions were a little repetitive, Grint seemed much more comofrtable in his role. Personally, Emma Watson who plays Hermione, outshines her two male co-stars in this film. Many will probably say that she "over-acts" in many of her scenes but I disagree. I think she did a great job portraying the fragile and emotional Hermione who in the book does go through bursts of fluxuating mood swings. Well, that's puberty for you.

The speical effects are expanded greatly but the filmmakers did a great job of not having it overshadow the story. Newell did an amazing job with the The Yule Ball sequence not only in design but in terms of characterization. Being teenagers, they obiviously have to deal with issues such as relationships and the Yule Ball really provides that sense of teenage angst. It acts an emotional focal point where the characters become more self-aware of the opposite sex and have to deal with their feelings towards one another. The first task with the Dragons was intense and having it chase Harry around the Hogwarts grounds was a nice touch. The second task with the Mermaid people was weaker in the special effects department but still managed to be quite exciting. The final task with the gigantic maze was riveting but I was hoping they would show some of creatures like the Sphinx in the maze, but that was cut. I can forgive them for that small detail since the filmakers wanted to spend more time on the gripping climax. In terms of the score, John Williams has stepped down for this film and is replaced by Patrick Doyle who offers a less bombastic musical accompaniment but manages to hit all the right notes. I wouldnt be surprised if he is nominated for best musical score come Oscar time.

If you haven't already noticed, I am a harry-potter fan boy and this review is slightly biased but of course there were certain aspects that the film could have approved on. The editing could have been more polished and less disconjointed which might throw certain viewers off. At times, the story did feel a bit rushed and certain scenes would just seem to cut to one another unexpectedly. From another perspective this allows the film to have a very brisk pacing but others might mind find it to a tad bit disorienting. For instance, there is a lot of emphasis put on journey to the Quidditch World Cup but they don't show any footage of the actual match. The first two films by Chris Columbus were easy to follow for those who had never read the books. But with Cuaron's Prisoner of Azkaban and especially with this film, those who have not read the book might find it difficult to follow along because there will be too many unanswered questions. I am skeptical if there will ever be a Harry Potter film that will perfectly capture the esscence of Rowling's vision but The Goblet of Fire is as close as it gets. The waiting game for the Order of the Phoenix now begins...


I am sorry for all the distress I have caused you.


Justine said...

How did you end up feeling about the 7th book, and the 5th movie? So far this is still my favourite film in the series, the most accomplished and the best interpretation.

Jason said...

The 7th book was hit or miss but overall, I was satisfied. The epilogue was awkward.

Now that you mention it, I really should do a review of OotP. It had potential to be the best in the series if only it wasn't so rushed. I'd rank the films as thus:

1. PoA
2. Philosopher's Stone
3. Order of the Phoenix
4. Goblet of Fire
5. Chamber of Secrets

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