My Critiquing Opinionatedness: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Movie)

(Plot)

Harry Potter’s fourth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry proves yet again to be a deadly one as his arch-nemesis, Lord Voldemort, makes it apparent that he’s still out to get revenge.

This year, Hogwarts plays host to the legendary Triwizard Tournament, where one candidate (called “champion”) from each of the three great schools of magic (Hogwarts, Beauxbatons, and Durmstrang), gets magically selected and bound by the Goblet of Fire, to compete in three difficult, life-threatening, magical tasks. This year’s competition, however, becomes more ominous as Harry Potter’s name gets mysteriously selected to compete as the fourth champion, along with the other three. As the tasks grow harder, so does our hero’s life become more at risk. Harry and his trusted friends desperately attempt to figure out how to survive these magical tasks, and think, with every successful completion of each, that the worst is already behind them. But with the enemy working inside the protective walls of Hogwarts unbeknown, evil is looming just beyond the horizon. Nothing could ever have prepared the-boy-who-lived from what the Dark Lord had in store for him next. In fact, the whole of the wizarding world could never have seen this one coming. Dark times are upon them from here on.

(Review)

The fourth installment to the internationally acclaimed series proves yet again to be another great hit, as Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire turned to the cinemas in the middle of November 2005.

This time, we get to see the much beloved cast once again, as well as a couple of new faces, up to their usual antics, only one year older, and dealing with more mature issues. The movie definitely boasts of the same dark quality Cuaron brought to the series in the previous movie, digitally enhanced by equally big and stunning special effects. Great cinematography and direction is evident throughout the entire course of the movie, from the introductory scene all the way down to the closing credits. And although I find myself more drawn to Cuaron’s vision than to that of Newell’s (I just love the Whomping Willow and how alive it was with antisocialistic sarcasm and human bitterness, and how Cuaron used it to tell the changing seasons; as well as the climactic-taking-of-Sirius-Black’s-soul-by-a-swooping-swarm-of-Dementors scene, his execution is exactly how I imagined a wizarding world should be), the latter’s overall execution is, I have to admit, better. Nonetheless, I can’t help but compare the two directors. Easily noticeable are some habits the directors liked to use. Cuaron always used the “fade-in, fade-out” technique when changing scenes, whereas Newell liked to incorporate scenes that are too cliche to be expected in such a big production (i.e. The zooming in on the single mangly boot as the coveted portkey, for comedic emphasis; the Mary Poppins-like descent by the more experienced magical folk, for effect; the ominous closing of doors by the traitorous character, for audience impact, making people think they “know who did it now”, and a lot more). Unfortunately, although I now hold the two directors in high regard, they still had their fair share of shortcomings. Cuaron failed to draw out the necessary emotions and personalities from his cast, ergo, character deliveries came short and somewhat poor. Meanwhile, Newell seemed to have been able to do just that, yet tended to cut scenes just when things started to get good (i.e. The World Cup match), and draw out and linger on the other more unnecessary scenes (i.e. The dragon scene). Still, kudos to Newell for his successful work and effort, the movie still had tremendous bearing and remained, in the end, effective.

The screenplay was awful, that is to say, for those Potter-fanatics, like myself, who might get seriously disappointed by the major editing that was done to the original story of the popular book. Sure, they can’t include every single detail in the book for time and (probably) financial constraints, but did they have to miss out on some of the good parts? A lot of “stuff” from the book were missing in the movie, namely (in no particular order):

1) Hermione’s political awakening about house-elf rights leading to the formulation of her self-created organization, SPEW, and how she forced Harry and Ron to recruit other students and failed miserably,

2) The great match in the Quidditch World Cup (where once again, they failed to pick up that Quidditch was actually everyone’s favorite part in the first movie, and therefore became what they look forward to the most in each succeeding movie, and have been disappointed thus far in assuming that the match will have been a good one this time around), that showcased Krum’s flying talent, giving reason as to why he’s actually famous, and how our heroes watched his spectacular showmanship using binoculars that rewound the too-fast-scenes automatically,

3) Ludo Bagman’s character, and how he swindled and seriously avoided Fred and George throughout the entire book, just because they won the bet when they predicted the unexpected results of the World Cup (the Irish team winning, but Krum getting the snitch), and how Harry ended up just having to give them both his prize winnings from the tournament of a thousand galleons so they would stop pestering the ministry official, and with which the boys will use later on to finance their surprisingly successful joke shop,

4) The appearance of veelas as the Bulgarian team’s mascot, where their capabilities of alluring men were shown off, which could have been used to emphasize Fleur’s character,

5) The vital role of the character Winky, the Crouch house elf, not to mention Dobby’s appearance as an individualist Hogwarts kitchen staff, and his being the first elf with a salary (which apparently he spends on mismatched socks), and his involvement in Harry’s second clue,

6) The actual weighing of the wands scene by Mr. Ollivander himself (though it doesn’t have that much bearing to the plot),

7) Caring for Hagrid’s blast-ended skrewts after his loosing confidence in his ability to teach since Malfoy’s accident with the Hippogriff the previous year,

8) Some ordeals in the maze (i.e. the Sphinx guarding the path to the Triwizard Cup and her “spider” riddle), and how Hermione kept teaching Harry useful spells (i.e. Protego, the shield charm, or the four-point spell, which turned Harry’s wand into a useful compass) in preparation for such ordeals,

9) Rita Skeeter’s gossiping tactics, as well as the gravity of all her mean rumors, and how Malfoy had been helping get all the juicy stuff (i.e. The missing Divination class scene where Harry fell asleep and dreamt of Voldemort, which caused him to subconsciously writhe and scream in pain, much to Professor Trelawney’s delight that her false predictions of Harry’s demise had then started to realize), and how Hermione discovered her secret as a beetle animagus (wherein the deliberate secrecy of such, that one is an animagus, is illegal in wizarding laws), which Hermione then used for blackmailing the nosy journalist into quitting,

10) Percy’s appearance as the rebelling Weasley son, and how he now disregards his family and only cares for his work and future in the Ministry of Magic (much to Molly’s pain), this year as Barty Crouch’s unnoticed assistant,

11) The actual parting of ways between Dumbledore and Fudge, which is of course, fundamentally crucial to the next installment of the series, when they disagreed on he-who-must-not-be-named’s revival,

12) And a whole lot more (which seemed to have veered and flitted away from my suffering memory at the moment, thus disabling me to continue on pointing out missing parts from the movie without having to reread the whole book, not that I’m saying all scenes should’ve been included in the movie, it’s just that it could’ve been nice *rawr*).

Of course, being the obsessive compulsive perfectionist that I am, I have naturally found some inadequacies in the film, SOME of which include (in no particular order):

1) Karkaroff’s scene where he ominously closed the doors to where the Goblet of Fire was situated, which was obviously used to lead viewers into thinking that it was the scene where he puts Harry’s name in the goblet. This, for me, is inadequate, for it really was supposed to be Barty Crouch Jr. who did it in the book, who of course is pretending to be Alastor Moody at the time, the current Defense Against the Dark Arts professor in Hogwarts,

2) The Patil twins being Gryffindors when Padma is, in fact, a Ravenclaw in the book. Parvati’s companion during her scenes should’ve been Lavender Brown,

3) The revelation of Barty Crouch Jr.’s character as a fake Alastor Moody, for he was supposed to be trance-like after taking Snape’s veritaserum, and how he was supposed to be instantly killed by Fudge’s dementor and its kiss, when Dumbledore originally wanted him to be sent only to Azkaban so that he would still be able to testify, which in turn caused the unfortunate disagreement between the two famed wizards, which paves the way for the wizarding world’s stature in the next book.

As for the actors’ performances, they were, much to my dismay, mediocre…

1) Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), me thinks, needs to spend more time in acting classes. Though there had been some improvements from the last installment, I still can’t see and feel the exact emotions from his passive face and stiff body language. Somehow I can’t help but feel that after three wizarding years of playing the same role, he should by now be able to put more emotion to his otherwise lacking performance, say, grasp how Harry truly dislikes the attention brought about by his unfortunate fate, for instance, and somehow portray that on screen.

2) Michael Gambon (Albus Dumbledore), to me, is not very effective in his role. Granted, he can act, but he needs to have read the Potter books more and research on Dumbledore’s character further, for I found his portrayal too intense, in the sense where you automatically know that he’s already out-of-character. Dumbledore is the type of “great wizard” that commands respect from his pacifist ways, very much unlike the aggressive wizard of Gambon’s performance.

3) Emma Watson’s (Hermione Granger) acting is, true to the definition of the word, “acting”. It’s too theatrical that it’s no longer natural. Though I still think she is the best among the three lead actors, I feel that somehow, she lost the essence of Hermione’s character she used to play with such satisfactory accuracy. I think she’s bringing more and more of herself in the role, rather than the other way around the way it should be, regardless of whatever the director’s instructions were.

4) Maggie Smith (Minerva McGonagall) is consistent with her acting, portraying her supporting character to just the right degree, not overstepping on the other roles or anything.

5) Robbie Coltrane (Rubeus Hagrid) still disappoints me in his characterization. After three wizarding years, he still can’t relate to how overly emotional or aggressive he actually should be for his size.

6) Ralph Fiennes (Lord Voldemort), whose being cast in the role surprised a lot of people, was also a bit theatrical, yet unlike Watson’s portrayal, it was rather believable and sufficient enough. Kudos to him.

7) Brendan Gleeson’s (Mad-Eye Moody) delivery of the role was honestly better than I expected, a little less scrawny, scruffy, and grumpy than from what I’d imagined, but effective nonetheless.

8) Katie Leung’s (Cho Chang) portrayal was refreshing for a first-timer, though I fail to see her capable of anything heavier.

9) Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom) looks to be, unlike his character in the book, growing thinner. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, remaining “chubby” should’ve been included in his contract. His acting was too lax, and too geeky. He needs to be more bumbling and spaztic (if differentiating the them is even possible).

10) The rest of the cast was average, no glaring inefficiencies or whatnot for me to comment negatively (or slightly positively) on. As for the casting itself, I was a little disappointed with their choice of Clemence Poesy for Fleur Delacour. Although beautiful, no doubt, I find that she lacks that Veela-esque quality the character is supposed to exude. Her features are too strong and assertive, whereas I imagined Fleur’s to be more angelic, matched with utter delicacy in her movements, topped off with the arrogant air of nobility. A bigger surprise was Frances de la Tour (Madame Olympe Maxime), for most people seriously imagined the character to be fat-lady-of-the-opera big, not the mere unbelievably tall-and-thin woman in the flick. I also couldn’t fail to notice the major change in Warwick Davis’ (Filius Flitwick) character from the olden goblin (which I have read to have shocked even Rowling herself) to the more human midget he should’ve been in the first place. That, for me, was a good call, though still baffling as to why they hadn’t done it sooner.

Overall, it was a great movie. Though, if you happen to be like me, too many differences from Rowling’s version to appreciate the movie in all its grandeur upon the first screening, a second trip to the moviehouse might be in order. Only then will you be able to get over the fact that it was edited to such a great extent (sacrificing so many great scenes) in order to fit the story in a two-and-a-half hour film, and appreciate it for the good fantasy/suspense flick that it is. Don’t worry because beneath all its differences, the movie actually does work (yes, even without so much detail), especially for those who never bothered reading the books in the first place. Plus, I really think it’s that good a movie to be worth a second trip. To all Potter fans, this is one movie you should not dare miss. Although I strongly suggest not to bring very young kids. It’s way too dark for such innocence.

Excerpt:

Ron: What are those?

Harry: My dress robes.

Ron: Well they’re alright! No lace, no dodgy little collar…

Harry: Well, I expect yours are more… traditional.

Ron: Traditional?! They’re ancient! I look like my great Aunt Tessie!

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~ by iamnotfrodo on January 23, 2006.

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