Jun 28, 2011

Harry Plotter: Movie 4

The fourth Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, was released in 2005, a mere 6 years ago. It was directed by Mike Newell, which makes it the last movie in the Harry Potter franchise to be directed by someone other than David Yates. While the book is a fluid, interesting, and captivating read (check out our review HERE), the movie often feels disjointed, rushed, and uninspired. It’s almost as if the filmmakers decided on where the action sequences should go and then just built the rest of the story around them. They don't seem to care when characters are left out or important story lines are dropped, and the reworking of certain events to fit into their specific narrative arc feels clunky. It’s unfortunate that such an engaging book was turned into such an odd movie. Yet, despite its obvious faults, the film does carry with it a certain magic, especially when the action stops long enough to leave room for the smaller, more human moments.

The Four Triwizard Tournament Champions
Flower of my Heart
First, let’s talk, as we often do, about casting. Most prominently
featured in this film are Ralph Fiennes, Clémence Poésy, Brendan Gleeson, David Tennant, and a pre-Twilight Robert Pattinson as Lord Voldemort, Fleur Delacour, Alastor ‘Mad-Eye’ Moody, Barty Crouch, Jr. and Cedric Diggory, respectively. Robert Pattinson, at the beginning of his teen heartthrob status, is inspired casting, and Poésy and Gleeson (soon to be co-stars with Fiennes in the under-appreciated In Bruges) are wonderful additions to the cast. 

Now, I love David Tennant. He’s by far my favorite Doctor in Doctor Who. Still, he seems an odd choice here. Possibly because of the overly confusing way the film unfolds, we never really understand what makes his character tick. He’s just some fidgety bad guy with odd facial ticks. In the books, his trickery and evilness are a thing to behold. Here, he’s easily forgotten. 

Voldemort, Plain and Tall
Ralph Fiennes' performance is similarly troubled, though for a different reason. It is no easy task to play one of the more evil and foreboding literary characters of recent memory. I mean, there are almost 4 whole films spent waiting for his imminent arrival. It’s not surprising, then, that the results are a little disappointing. Voldemort, instead of seeming evil beyond all measure, comes off as a somewhat foppish, petulant child, far past his golden years of murder and destruction. While I think the character evens (and evils) out nicely in the next films, here he just seems a bit lackluster. Similarly, Michael Gambon continues to confuse and disappoint me, turning Albus Dumbledore into an angry, accusatory git. His characterization is detached yet manic, and there never seems to be anything working behind his cold, unfeeling eyes. It’s just unpleasant.

The Second Task (Click to Enlarge)
The main things going for the movies are the well-dramatized versions of two of the three tasks in the Triwizard Tournament. It almost makes no sense for a dragon to come unchained and chase Harry around the castle (okay, even I am embarrassed that I wrote that), but the Added Action Sequence is really well filmed, and there is a sense of danger that isn’t quite captured in the book. Similarly, the almost completely accurate and faithful adaptation of the second task in the lake is actually brilliantly filmed, and the green, muted aesthetic is really beautiful.  The third task is changed drastically from the book, and for some reason it’s not a task that requires any magic. Basically, it’s distilled into a race from scary hedges, like a slightly more claustrophobic version of The Happening.

Hermione, forgotten again.
Stranger than the things that are changed in the film are the things that are left out, most specifically anything involving Hermione/House Elves and Sirius Black. Hermione’s creation of S.P.E.W. is, admittedly, not the most compelling part of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, but Hermione’s quest for the promotion of elfish welfare is an important thematic step for the franchise, inviting people to question the saintly attitude of the wizarding community. So much of the books until this point have been about the wonderment and joy of being a wizard, but, to paraphrase LOLcats, Wizards is Dickz. Wizards are so high and mighty, always asserting their dominance. It’s sad to see the seeds of that story development completely abandoned.
More time is given to the forgettable Cho Chang and Harry love story than to Sirius. Seriously
Also, where did Sirius go? Not to be spoilery for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, but the relationship between Harry and Sirius is important, and to see it distilled down to one conversation is really disappointing. I realize that the movies can’t be 4 hours long, but would it have killed the filmmakers to add one more Hermione/Sirius chat?
The Malfoys: Almost Completely Forgotten
Ultimately, a lot is left out of this film, and a lot of what is left out is really important. What’s left in the film is really well filmed and aesthetically pleasing, but it’s clunky and lacks any kind of narrative flow. If you have read the books, then the movie (though not great) is not a huge disappointment, because you have the knowledge of the missing events. If you only watch the movies, however, you miss out on so many crucial character notes and events. Still, even with its imperfections, it’s still not as upsetting as films 1 and 2.

Film Grade: B-
Book Grade: A- (Check out the Book Review HERE)
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