Film Review: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
(First posted on Blogcritics.org)
The morning started out tense – trying to get the four of us out the door for a 9:00AM showing of the long-awaited Harry Potter flick. I know, Nine O’clock A-bloody-M. It was a school deal you see. My fifth grade son came home with the news a few weeks ago, that his school had a deal going with a local theater to get all us ‘muggles’ tickets for this special showing. It seemed worth it, despite the early show time. Of course, when this morning actually dawned, it was a little bit harder to be excited about seeing the show, especially for my high school son. “Why do we have to go so early…grumble, grumble.”?
So, we actually leave somewhat on time – rare for us – and we’re on our way. A slight snag in the travel as there is a blocked entrance ramp to the high way. So we find a roundabout way to get onto the highway only to find that the lane we want is blocked off by cones. Shortly before the exit, we slip through the cones, and right into a police roadblock. Yikes!
An officer motions us to pull over, and then proceeds to practically interrogate my husband as to why he thought he was special enough to ignore the cones and do what he wanted. “What if there was a road crew working here, and you didn’t see until too late, and you killed someone. Yeah, he said exactly that. Then we couldn’t find the vehicle registration, and I was ready to cry, when the officer – referring to my youngest in the back seat – “Look, you’ve got a young kid – do the right thing from now on.” Yes, he let us just go, but made us feel like we were just a beat away from a violent criminal career.
About two minutes later we’re pulling into the parking lot, and I suddenly remember where our special ‘muggle’ tickets were. At home. On top of the refrigerator – Not With US.
Now I really started to cry. “I’m sorry, I left the tickets at home, I forgot them!” For a second no one spoke, and then I ask my husband to drive me to the front door so I can run inside and see what I can do. Luckily everything worked out and we were let in without having to purchase new tickets.
The movie started right away, without the usual ‘coming attractions’, and the first scene happened to be a very dark one. Dark in plot, dialogue and just plain dimly lit. So it was hard to see what seats were left available, and we ended up sitting in the second row in front. I’ve done this before, sat in the very front of the huge screen, and not just for any movie – but for something guaranteed to be metaphorically huge as well. Like this summer’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Anyway, into the ‘Fire’. I’d read the book last year, and managed to remember most of the crucial plot points. I thought I was prepared for the experience, but the movie was still overwhelming. I had not paid strict attention to any write-ups or reviews of GOF, because I knew the family and I would be going regardless. As I sat watching some horrifying scenes unfold, I started to remember comments I’d heard about GOF. “Dark”…”definitely deserves its PG-13 rating”…”not for younger viewers”. Also, this was the part of the Potter series that was to have the big “D”--The death of a Hogwarts character. And when that part came, the reaction was audible. There were real sniffles and tears in the rows behind me.
Over all, the movie was very good, and quite long at 157 minutes. The Rowling book was over 700 pages, so there was a lot to incorporate onto film. Certain areas were going to have to be glossed over, or eliminated all together. I was disappointed that there wasn’t a real explanation of the Veela, the entrancing and exceptionally beautiful creatures that had the ability to captivate males. They first appeared as some sort of performing mascots during the Quidditch World Cup games in the earlier part of the book. I would have liked to have seen where one of the boys, can’t remember if it was Harry or Ron, was practically climbing out of their seat (in the nosebleed section no less) because they felt the effects of the Veela.
Speaking of male-female attractions, much – and I mean MUCH -- has been said about this being the movie where all the hormones start to zing and zip and zoom. It’s pretty much true. Though the story moved right along, I couldn’t help but be aware of how all the ‘kids’ have grown. Even Ron Weasley’s older brothers Fred and George looked cuter than I remembered. I noticed the hormonal thing especially with Ron and Hermoine. They both seemed mighty uncomfortable with themselves and with each other. Seeing how the characters were supposed to be 14 years old, that’s about right.
The twist to this installment in the Potter stories was that a long dormant event, the Tri-Wizard Tournament, was to be re-established and this year, be held at Hogwart’s School. Two visiting schools, Durmstrang and Beauxbatons were to have representatives as well as Hogwarts participating in the dangerous tourney. Because of the impending risk of the three tasks, an age limit of 17 is imposed. Of course Harry Potter (remember, he’s only 14) ends up in the game (you know he would), along with the other Hogwarts entry Cedric Diggory, and Victor Krum (who is also a legendary Quidditch seeker) from Durmstrang and attractive Fleur Delacour, from Beauxbatons. Interesting note about Fleur, she’s part Veela, and Kate Winslet was rumored to be have been originally cast in the role. Instead the part went to Clémence Poésy who kept reminding me of a slighty younger Clare Danes. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. She did fine.
Even with a yet another director at the helm, Mike Newell, who turns out to be the first British director in the Harry Potter franchise, the movie works well. (Trivia Note: Newell actually ‘passed’ on Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.) Several key scenes were exactly how I imagined them from the book. The attack on the camp after the Quidditch cup, including the appearance of the Death Eaters and the Dark Mark. Also the opening ceremonies at the Cup games, the stadium, the whole vibe, was just immense. The Yule Ball, and all the angst leading up to it were done perfectly, and also a great chance for Emma Watson as Hermoine to play ‘dress up’.
The scene near the end, as Harry squares off against flat-faced Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), again follows the book nicely, but the Priori Incantatem spell that occurs when their two wands intersect isn’t really explained.
To say much more would probably give away too much, especially if you've not read the book, but what I can say, is that Moaning Myrtle makes another appearance in GOF. Poor girl though, I really don’t remember her being that horny in the book.
So, it was quite the emotional day, between the rushing, the police standoff, the lost tickets, and the movie itself. I recommend The Goblet of Fire, just take your time getting there.