Friday, December 30, 2011

Movie and Book – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)

I am re-reading and re-watching all of the Harry Potter books and movies.  You can find info about this and links to all related posts here.

Plot (no spoilers):  Harry attends the Quidditch World Cup and sees an attack from Death Eaters – supporters of Lord Voldemort.  When he gets to Hogwarts he finds out that there is going to be a Tri-Wizard tournament featuring champions from Hogwarts and two other wizarding schools.  Even though there is an age restriction that he doesn’t meet, Harry’s name is somehow picked as a second representative of Hogwarts.  The challenges in the tournament are deadly, so someone may be trying to kill him by placing him in the tournament.  There is yet another Defense Against the Dark Arts professor – one who teaches them the three Unforgivable Curses (control, pain, and death) because he feels they need to be prepared to defend themselves from them.  Harry, Ron, and Hermione are growing up and experience their first Ball.  Meanwhile, Voldemort is plotting his return to full strength.

Thoughts about the book:  This book was the first one to be aimed more at adults than children.  It is longer than the first two books put together and features mature themes regarding friendship, dating, morals, ethics, politics, greed, ambition, and the press.  It greatly expands the mythos behind the story by showing other wizarding schools and a lot more about Voldemort’s former supporters.  It has the first death of a major, good character, so it also ups the ante in regards to there being real danger.  It is the only book of the series to win the Hugo Award for Best Novel of the Year. 

The character of Cedric Diggory, who was mentioned in the prior book, has a much larger role in this one as the Champion representing Hogwarts.  Cho Chang, who in the prior book Harry noticed was pretty, becomes more of an object of his affection in this one.  We meet many new characters, although some of them did not make it into the movie (see below).  The Pensieve (a device for storing memories) is first shown.  It will play a key part in later books.

Rowling did an excellent job describing the challenges boys face when first trying to get the courage to ask a girl out.  As a former 14 year old boy myself I can tell you that she absolutely hit the nail on the head when Harry wonders in frustration, “Why do girls always travel in packs?”  As much courage as it takes when you are young to walk up to a girl and ask her out, it is much, much harder to walk up to a group of girls and ask one of them out.  Are the giggles and whispers because they think you are lame for asking or because they think you are cute and wish you had asked them?  I’ve experienced both reactions and they look very similar when they are happening.

I was confused about one thing.  Right from the very first book it was established that Neville Longbottom was raised by his grandmother.  In this book we are told that when everyone thought they were safe (in other words, Voldemort was dead) his parents were tortured with an Unforgivable curse by a Death Eater and went insane.  They have been cared for ever since in a wizard hospital.  I thought a later book made a very important point of the fact that Neville’s parents were killed by Voldemort the very same night as Harry’s.  I will have to see if I misunderstood when I read those books.

This was the first book in the series that made me sit up and take notice of the story.  By the time I finished reading it I was very excited for what was going to come next.  There was so much story potential and scope that had been added.  After the re-read, my excitement was tempered somewhat by knowing that Rowling decided not to pursue many of those potential storylines.  I still enjoyed the book much more than the prior three.

Thoughts about the movie:  Alfonso Cuaron, who had directed the prior movie, turned down the chance to direct this one because he was still working on the post production for the prior film.  Directing this time is Mike Newell.  Like Cuaron, he was also a “one and done” director.  Cuaron did have one major impact – he convinced Newell that this book could be shot as a single movie by getting rid of extraneous subplots.  The result is a movie that is similar in length to the others, despite the comparative length of the book.

Robert Pattinson was an unknown at the time of getting the key role of Cedric Diggory.  Based on his current fandom he was well cast, since the books describe the Diggory character as getting very similar reactions from girls that Pattinson does from Twilight fans.  There is also an interesting moment in one of the extras on the Blu-ray disk.  People are following Pattinson around as he is getting ready for scenes and at one point the 15 year old Emma Watson is just hanging out in the 19 year old Pattinson’s dressing room, for no particular reason, other than she apparently wanted to.  Gee, I wonder why she may have felt like doing this.

This was the first movie of the series to be rated PG-13 because of the intense danger in some sequences, although I thought the first one pushed the boundary of its PG rating.

Big Names and Familiar Faces:  This movie continues the series trend of having well known U.K. actors/actresses playing roles both across many movies, and in smaller cameos within only one or two movies.  Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire returns Dame Maggie Smith (Professor Minerva McGonagall), Robbie Coltrane (Rubeus Hagrid), Warwick Davis (Professor Flitwick), David Bradley (Argus Filch), Alan Rickman (Professor Severus Snape), Mark Williams (Mr. Weasley), Robert Hardy (Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge), Gary Oldman (Sirius Black – voice and cgi face only), Michael Gambon (Headmaster Albus Dumbledore), Timothy Spall (Peter Pettigrew), Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy), and Shirley Henderson (Moaning Myrtle).  Joining them this time are David Tennant (Barty Crouch, Jr.), a pre-fame Robert Pattinson (Cedric Diggory), Brendan Gleeson (Professor Alastor “Mad Eye” Moody), Roger Lloyd-Pack (Bartemius Crouch), Miranda Richardson (Rita Skeeter), and Ralph Fiennes (Lord Voldemort). 

In addition, the characters of Cho Chang and Padma Patil are seen on screen for the first time.  Parvati Patil had appeared in the prior movie, but the role was recast. You would think this was done in order to hire twins to play the Patil sisters, but the two actresses are unrelated to each other. 

Finally, the other two Champions are played by people from the same country as their characters – Clemence Poesy (Fleur Delacour) from France and Stanislav Ianevski (Viktor Krum) from Bulgaria.  Some people with nothing better to do tried to stir up controversy about the fact that Poesy had appeared nude in a movie prior to playing a student in this one – as if this somehow meant she would be nude in this one, too.  As one critic pointed out while making fun of these troublemakers, the words “topless French actress” are pretty much redundant.  As it turns out, a couple years later Daniel Radcliffe would appear full frontal nude on stage in Equus at the age of 17.  I saw an interview with the crowd waiting to go in to see this show.  It was almost entirely composed of young women and teenage girls.  The interviewer kept asking them what they were looking forward to seeing and they all got a deer in the headlights look.  One of them finally stammered out that she wanted to be an actress and was interested in seeing Radcliffe’s technique.  So that’s what girls are calling it these days.

Thoughts on the book vs. the movie:  Several subplots were removed from the book to make the movie.  Among them are: the Weasley twins’ pranks and plots to make gag items and sell them (although they are shown taking bets during the Tri-Wizard tournament); Bartemius Crouch being ill and/or missing; the entire subplot with Dobby, Winky, and Hermione’s attempts to liberate the house elves; the entire subplot with Percy Weasley; the entire subplot with Ludo Bagman; the scene with Harry’s adoptive family (the first movie to not have one); almost all scenes of the students in classes, including Hagrid’s and Trelawney’s; and all scenes with Mrs. Weasley (the only movie to not have her in it.)  For some reason, the Rita Skeeter character was kept, but nothing about how she is able to get all of her stories is shown.  All but one of Sirius Black’s scenes is cut.  The first 15-20 minutes of the movie covered the first 200-300 pages of the book.

On the other hand, Neville Longbottom’s role is expanded some and he finally gets to be good at some things instead of the one-note joke that he has been in the novels to this point.  In addition, Ginny Weasley is almost never mentioned in the book once they reach Hogwarts, but the actress is inserted in several scenes in the movie.  Another expansion is the causes and intensity of the rift in Harry and Ron’s friendship.  The biggest action sequence was the one where Harry has to steal an egg from a dragon and it was much more extensive and dangerous in the movie.  For some reason the movie swapped Harry's and Cedric’s roles in the maze when they are discussing who should get the trophy.  Some humor was added with Professor McGonagall conducting a dance practice with the excited, enthusiastic girls and the much less enthusiastic boys.

Unfortunately, the movie also loses the great questions the book brings up regarding the ethics and morals of Bartemius Crouch’s actions, especially in sending his son to Azkaban even though he may have been innocent.  Any ambiguity with Barty Crouch, Jr. is so completely removed from the movie that he is almost cartoonish.  The movie also loses the confrontation between Dumbledore and the Minister of Magic regarding Voldemort and the political reasons the Minister may have for his actions.

Old rating vs. new rating:  I originally rated this movie 3 stars and I am keeping it there.  It does a good job of removing the unnecessary subplots from the book, but loses the moral and ethical questions the book presents. 

Chip’s Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

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