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November 24, 2005

Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire

Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire - click for larger imageAdmittedly, I've seen few movies this year. The slate of what was being offered just left me thinking my $7 was better spent elsewheres. However, I've been looking forward to Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia. I'm amused that actual family films are becoming the best offerings at the movies. So-called "adult" fare has become so predictable and formula as to be tedious. Hello, Hollywood? Big clue stick here.

Harry opened Nov 18 and Eric and I caught the first show of Sunday, Nov 20. It was well worth the wait and the $7. Spoilers across the jump. Just sayin'.

One of the greatest tasks in movie making is getting one's audience to suspend disbelief. While having the latest in awe-inspiring special effects can help, it is really if the movie (or stage play or novel) has a soul that will have an audience emotionally embrace it. When we watch Harry Potter step into a pup tent that expands into a multi-room tent worthy of a dessert sheik, we heartedly agree as he softly exclaims, "I love magic!"

This fourth installment of the series is the best so far due to a combination of factors. Harry and his peers are growing up and, like the books, the story is getting darker and more complicated as they contend not only with the outside conflicts and mysteries of Lord Voldemort, but also with the normal conflicts of adolescence. This willingness on the part of the film to spend some time with the characters having the painfully familiar woes of dealing with bruised friendships, crushes and budding sexual awareness grounds the audience with the belief that these are real kids who just happen to live in a different country. We may not have Quidditch matches, but we know about sports fans who paint their faces and scream themselves hoarse at events. When Harry hisses in exasperation about girls "Why do they have to travel in packs?" or Hermione huffs "Boys!" it elicits laughter from the audience in recognition that no amount of money would ever get us to go back and relive junior high!

It's been a couple of years since I read Book 4 and I decided against re-reading it just before the movie's release. I was hoping that it would it allow me to come to the movie more from the perspective of someone who hasn't read any of the books (like my husband) and see if the movie worked on its own. I realize that squeezing a 700 page book down to just under 3 hours of screentime presented a monumental task in plot and pacing, and I think it works well - as long as one has seen the other movies before it. For my husband, Eric, he found the movie very entertaining but was confused on a few of the threads. The opening scene at the Quidditch World Cup was so dazzling and relatively short the importance of the Dark Mark above the burning tents was lost and Crouch's menace towards Harry, Ron and Hermione "at the scene of the crime" was confusing.

Possibly, one should attend this movie in pairs - reader with non-reader. This worked with me during the Lord of the Rings triology. I've never read those books while they are a favorite of Eric's. So I got to ask questions of him during those movies.

The movie is rich with action. Harry's first task in the Triwizard Tournement is a face-to-face with a dragon. The dragon is so beautifully realized I caught myself thinking "Damn it, won't someone NOW bring the Pern series to the screen?" I especially delighted in the tiny string of character moments, from the twins' mischief and open scheming for money to watching the terminally awkward Longbottom blossom when he discovers dance. Snapes (Alan Rickman) doesn't have as much screentime, but he is unforgettable in the scenes where he appears. Watch for a delightful scene as he pulls back his sleeves to deal with the whisperers in his class. Comic relief is provided by the wonderful scenery chewing of Mad-Eyed Moody, who had the audience rolling when he turns Draco into a ferret.

With the primary, young actors of the series obviously maturing I congratulate the film makers in their breakneck speed to keep the release of the movies as close to the seven year timeline as possible.

As we enter the long Thanksgiving weekend, take a break from shopping or decorating and treat yourself to this movie.

Posted by Darleen at November 24, 2005 10:30 AM


- Having spent a few good hours of the Holiday enjoying this latest WB extravaganza, which is of course marketing genious sent forth to exploit all those rombus little poptarts and their allowances, I found the same as you did Darleen. Some scenes, no doubt by neccessity cut short, and others ending in a confused manner...

- Fortunately I had My 15 year old learning unit next to me to fill in some of the gaps, although even he had a few words of question in some spots, not withstanding that he pours over each book as it is released. Hermione granger played by Emma Watson, is obviously "blooming", and dispite an irracible, bossy demeenor, manages to kiss everyone in the cast except the awkward, teen warped Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley, who fights the slightest sign that he might give in to his glandular reactions to her burgeoning charms. As Emma herself said in a recent interview: "I sometimes wonder as I read her lines what Hermione is going on about. I see her ending up single if she doen't change her attitude. Kissing my fellow actors. No way. its not in my contract." Apparently she did it for her art....

- In a very Disney-like scene, the godzilla-teens are introduced to the atypical "coed dance situation", whence the perfectly cast Maggie Smith as Professor McGonagall, takes care of the usual reticence to ask and be asked, by ordering "every up and choose a partner"...

- Something I discussed with said teen has occured to me through the watching of the movies. I notice that Harry always gets some sort of last minute help in dealing with the latest insurmountable conflict, usually Valdemort in one re-incarnation or another. I can't help feeling that in the end it will turn out he has some guardian angel looking over him, as much as his wizardly capabilities, that has seen him thorugh an unlikely number of car wrecks. This is reinforced even more in this film when the ugliest of Valdemorts monsterous forms tells Harry..."I would have killed you but I could not simply because you were protected by the force of your mothers love". We shall see....

- At one point it was percievable that we are given some political food to chew on when Moody says "Sometimes we have to choose between what is right and what is easy...". The Iraqui war came immediately to mind. In short this movie has all the elements a parent could wish for, sans too much of the usual sexuality for sale, and those things that are presented are shown in a very natural human and amusing way, when we are all reminded of where we've been as we grew to adults. Yes Darleen. No amount of money indeed.....

Posted by: Big Bang Hunter at November 25, 2005 09:55 AM

Yeah . . . I definitely wouldn't recommend this movie for children under, say, 8. Maybe 10. I dunno.

When the character died (not naming names, in case there's some odd soul out there who wouldn't know and doesn't want it to be spoiled), I saw many small children in the audience clasping to their mothers' sides. In the context of the movie, he died a violent death, and I can't believe that parents would take children so young to a movie rated PG-13. Just because it's Harry Potter doesn't mean that it's necessarily children-friendly.

Remember parents, you always have to make prudent decisions about your children's media consumption.

Posted by: Hal at November 25, 2005 11:11 PM