Saturday, November 26, 2005

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (the Movie, not the Book)

Last night I watched Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the latest cinematic installment based on the wildly successful series of books. Besides Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith and King Kong, it was easily the most anticipated movie of the year. And I rather think most Harry Potter fans will not be disapponted with this film.

As Harry Potter fans already know, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire centres on the Triwizard Tournament, a 700 year old contest between wizardry schools which takes place every five years. The Tournment consists of a series of tasks, each rather dangerous, which the contestants must overcome. To be considered for the Tournament, individuals must submit their entires in the Goblet of Fire, a powerful artefact responsible for ultimately deciding who is to compete. Under the current rules, only students over seventeen are allowed to submit their names to the Goblet of Fire. Nonetheless, Harry founds himself chosen as one of Hogwart's champions....

Like the book upon which it was based, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is much darker and more violent than its predecessors. Anyone considering taking very young children to this film are strongly cautioned, as it is rated PG-13 for a reason. The movie begins with an innocent Muggle stumbling upon He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and his cohorts, complete with large, slithering snake. The horrors don't stop there, as the climax is truly the most intense of any of the movies.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire also differs from the previous movies in another respect--it is the first to be directed by an English director. Mike Newell, director of Four Weddings and a Funeral and Pushing Tin For this reason this movie seems more essentially English than the other, previous three. Indeed, this is the first time in any of the movies that I can remember hearing genuine, British slang. But the Englishness of the film does not stop there. Newell's interest is not in the wonders and horrors that fill the Harry Potter books, but in the characters and their interactions. It is the emotional impact of the other characters and the events around them on the heroes which interests Newell, not the Gothic atmosphere or spectacular magic. Perhaps becuase of this, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire comes closest to capturing the spirit of the books.

Indeed, it must be pointed out that in this movie Harry, Ron, and Hermione seem so much older than they were in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Harry not only worries about the return of Voldemort, but getting a date to the Yule Ball. The relationship between Ron and Hermione heats up in this movie and, for those who have not read the books, there can be no doubt that the two have some very deep seated, if repressed, feelings for each other.

That is not to say this movie is all about violence, dark magicks, and teen angst. Like the book it has its share of humour. One of the funniest scenes takes place in the study hall as Snape keeps disciplining Harry and Ron for talking. Another hilarious scene invovles Harry and the ghost Moaning Myrtle in the Prefects' Bath (this is the most uncomfortable I think I have ever seen Daniel Radcliffe...). And, of course, Weasley twins Fred and George provide a good deal of comic relief throughout the film.

Harry Potter fans will probably debate the choices of what to inlcude in the movie and what not to include in the movie as far as the material in the book. Personally, I think screenwriter Steven Kloves and Mike Newell made the right choices, with the possible exception of one subplot (I won't name it here as not to spoil the book for those who haven't read it or the movie for those who haven't seen it). To me the movie has all the essentials of the book and nothing that is gratuitous. I guess I shouldn't point out that if the book were adaped literally and loyally, we would probably have a six hour movie on her hands....

In my humble opinion Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is the best so far in the series. While it is perhaps not as loyal an adaptation as the first two movies, it captures the spirit of the books better than any of the other movies. Except for the staunchest purists, I think most Harry Potter fans will be pleased with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

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