Saturday, November 19, 2005

Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire

Now, I figure everyone and their dog will be posting their reviews of the Potter movie over the next few days, so I guess I should be a little more in-depth than usual. And lo, so I shall. I'll warn you, though, I didn't get back from the movie until 2 AM last night and had to be up by six to get ready for work. The day of work which followed was jam-packed full of the dullest drudgery one can possibly imagine. Needless to say, I'm not operating at one hundred percent, so if some of this comes out as unintelligible, I apologize. Now, before I get to the review, let me talk a little about the whole experience.

Our tickets were purchased at two in the afternoon (my girlfriend lives right beside the theatre, so it's an easy trip for her) and the 10:30 showings, of which there were two, were nearly sold out. So, in anticipation of a large lineup, we decided to arrive early. We arrived at 9:15, behind at least one theatre-full of people. The line continued to grow behind us until there was no more room on the second floor of the theatre (where both of the screens showing the movie were located). Around 9:45 we noticed that a ridiculously large queue was forming on the floor below. Turns out, those were the people were going to the same movie, same time. Anyhow, we also had to deal with some pushy people in line - a rowdy group of teenagers and a fortyish Asian woman who never gave an inch and kept setting her heavy bag on my feet. Most aggravating, though, was the teenager beside us who spewed his guts all over the floor. Turns out a bunch of people had been drinking before the show (my girlfriend discovered an empty bottle of Canadian Club in the ladies washroom) and this unfortunate seemed to be paying the price. Anyhow, when the theatres did open, the lines were badly mismanaged and quite a few people were angry with the staff. Fortunately, we got decent seats. The previews were either great (Superman Returns and King Kong) or abysmal (The Shaggy Dog and Cheaper By The Dozen 2). All told, the movie finally got started at 11:00. Now, the review....

Some critics (I'd go so far as to say most of them) have awarded Goblet the title of best Potter movie thus far. They're right to do so. Another idea consistently expressed is that this film lacks the emotional resonance of its immediate predecessor. Again, true. Here's the thing about Goblet of Fire. It is not a perfect movie. Indeed, much of the reason I think it's the best of the bunch thus far is because book number four was the first truly great book of the series. The film version has a lot going for it but, ultimately, it's the quality of the book on which it's based that really elevate it above the others. Also, it's the first movie of the series where you'll absolutely have had to read the book in order to enjoy it to its fullest. The plot has been hacked down to a bare-bones minimum in order to jam everything into the two and a half four running time. As a result, some important plot points can be missed if you're not already familiar with them. As for the emotion comment, I think it's fair to say that this film is not as interested in the emotions of its characters as much as the original three were. Part of this is because of the large amount of material to be covered. Part of this is also, I think, because director Newell makes the film feel like an adaptation. In a way that I wasn't during the first three films, I was consciously aware of the fact that I was watching a book being brought to life. This is not to say, however, that the film is bereft of emotions - it's not. In my opinion, it's the funniest Potter film yet and there are a few genuinely emtional scenes given by the actors, just not many. Anyhow, let me do a rundown on what I thought of the performances from the cast and crew.

Director - Mike Newell (Donnie Brasco, Mona Lisa Smile): For the most part, Newell maintains the dark atmosphere created by Azkaban director Alfonso Cuaron. I mean that, though, largely in a visual sense. Otherwise, things aren't nearly as dark as they were in the third movie. Newell handled the action scenes quite well and the quiet, plot-related scenes as well as anyone else in the series. As some critics noted, where he really shines is in making Hogwart's feel like a school, as opposed to some magical playground.

Screenwriter - Steven Kloves (Wonder Boys): Kloves has been on board for every Potter film so far, but this one will be his last outing, as far as I know. He had his work cut out for him here. I don't take a huge issue with what was ultimately cut out, but things like the Rita Skeeter subplot were so marginalized that they might as well have not been there at all. I was also a little disappointed about how the tensions between the three leads (Harry and Ron early on and Ron and Hermione later) were carried out. The former seemed to spring up without any warning and the latter seemed to be forgotten about when the plot needed attending to.

The Leads - Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson: All three are settling into their roles nicely. I think Grint has Ron nailed down and Watson is almost there with Hermione. Radcliffe, I think, still seems a little awkward at times, as if he's just going through the motions, but generally he's solid, which wasn't a given during the previous films. Something that drastically improved in this film was the interplay between the characters. I expect this has something to do with familiarity, but I think the three actors did a great job of portraying their group's dynamic. One scene in particular, where Harry and Hermione are chatting about Viktor Krum, seems so natural that it could have been entirely unscripted.

Voldemort - Ralph Fiennes: He's absolutely amazing as the pure evil Dark Lord. In fact, this is the first time the films have managed to one-up the books in any fashion. Voldemort is far more menacing up on screen than he is on the page. Fiennes does a great job.

The New Kids - Katie Leung, Robert Pattinson, Stanislav Ianevski, Clemence Poesy: Personally, I wasn't very impressed by Ianevski's Krum or Poesy's Fleur. Of course, the pair of them only had a couple of lines each, but most disconcerting was the fact that each of them only had one expression - strike that, Poesy did have to do both aloof and scared. Pattinson was solid as Cedric Diggory. Not much more to be said - he didn't go above and beyond, but he did all that was expected. Leung, as Harry's love interest Cho Chang, seems to be garnering the most press, however. Frankly, I thought she was entirely average, but not much was asked of her, so we'll see how she pans out in the next film.

The Professors - Michael Gambon, Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, Robbie Coltrane, Brendan Gleeson: Gambon's Dumbledore, Smith's McGonagall, Coltrane's Hagrid and Rickman's Snape continue the status quo. None of them do much more than they did last time around. Rickman, who is always fantastic, barely makes it onto the screen, so I was disappointed by that. Now that I'm used to Gambon as Dumbledore (who took over from the late Richard Harris), I like what he's doing with the character. Gambon, I think, will do a great job of portraying Dumbledore as he becomes less of a kind old father figure and more of a hugely powerful wizard. Gleeson, as Mad-Eye Moody, really shines here.

The Supporting Cast: Save for the Weasley twins, who are featured prominently in this movie and get a huge number of the laughs, the rest of the cast is largely disposable. Even perpetual jerkass Draco Malfoy isn't given enough time to draw any ire, as he only appears in three relatively brief scenes.

My grade: A-

Now, I'm going to go take a nap.


Greywulf said...

Excellent review, Cavan!

Word verification thingy: "ngmte" - Small town in Kenya, home of 7 foot tall pygmies.

4:03 AM  
girlzoot said...

Do you think the film would have benefited from being treated to a Kill Bill two parter treatment as they had initially bandied about?

Also if it had been cut into two parts, at what point do you think they would have cut it, and do you think the money making crowd, families would have coome to both screenings?

Oh, and lovely review.

2:08 PM  

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