I'd hoped to post this earlier this week, but no such luck. Still, better late then never, and at least it comes in before everyone's attention switches to Brokeback Mountain ... which opens here in L.A. today, and which I'll see tomorrow ....
Okay, back to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Do NOT look behind the cut if:
- You plan to see the film and don't want spoilers.
- You've seen the film, loved it, and want to keep that happy feeling.
Everyone else can go
Let me start right off by saying that this isn't going to be a "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is love" post. Still time to stop reading if you want to.
I saw the film last Friday, and while there were some things about it that I liked, my overall response was "thumbs down". And I'm sorry about that, because pretty much everyone else on my flist loved it, and I'm consequently left feeling rather curmudgeonly. :-(
Let's start with the good things. One thing that I liked was that so much of this film takes place outdoors. I love the setting of Hogwarts -- off somewhere in the remote reaches of Britain, set amongst hills and lakes. I loved the final shot in the film -- that long vista of hills and water as the Durmstrang sailing ship and the Beauxbatons flying carriage are shown starting the trip home. I liked the Quidditch World Cup stadium. And I liked getting to see new parts of Hogwarts.
I liked Ralph Fiennes. Well, more than liked. He's the best thing in the film ... the best thing in any of the four films. The only problem, of course, is that his Voldemort is so charismatic, so seductive, so effortlessly evil, that it's impossible for me to believe he's afraid of Dumbledore. Oh, maybe Dumbledore will indeed prove to be the better wizard, and I know it's not fair to fault either of the actors who have played the headmaster, because they've played him the way JKR wrote him, but really ... Voldemort is Milton's Lucifer, and while he may be bested by God in the end, he certainly isn't afraid of him.
Now a laundry list of things I didn't like about the film:
- The adult actors were given nothing to do, and the kids can't carry the film.
- The adults are becoming more two-dimensional with each film, instead of the other way around.
- The filmmakers showed no interest in making this film accessible to someone who hasn't read the book.
- Unlike the earlier films, this one seems to be targeted almost exclusively to a teenage audience, and one that's grown up on fast-paced video games. So we get an expanded and reworked first challenge for Harry that gives us "Harry on his Firebolt being chased by the dragon; OMG will he be able to elude her". We don't get the much more interesting (to this adult at least) scene between Harry and the sphinx in the Maze challenge (talk, not action).
- In line with (4), there's way too much time spent on teenage hormones. So teenage wizards and witches in training are as awkward and tongue-tied around the opposite sex as their Muggle counterparts are. Gee. Who'd have guessed.
- The scene in the Prefects' bathroom between Harry and Moaning Myrtle just dragged on forever. Couldn't we have had less of this and a little more time spend on the book's big revelation about Snape (what Harry learns during the pensieve incident)? The way the film handles the Snape thing, we don't even know if it registered on Harry, let alone if he told Ron and Hermione what he learned.
- The film has a weak ending. Where's that anticipating-things-to-come scene at the end of the book between Dumbledore, Snape, and Sirius Black?
That's enough, I think. Everyone who reads the books or sees the films comes to the work with his or her own particular interests and biases, and I'm no different. I did like the novel, but don't think the film did it justice. And that brings up what I think are two more serious problems than the ones I listed above. First, GOF is a long book, and Order of the Phoenix is even longer. If the filmmakers had to eviscerate GOF (throwing out or just touching on most of the serious material in the book -- the Death Eaters, the incident at the Quidditch World Cup match, Barty Crouch Jr.'s escape from Azkaban, Snape's history, etc. -- in order to make a pushing-the-limits 2.5 hour film, then what can we expect they they film Phoenix?
A bigger problem for me, though, is the kids. I didn't believe the three principals as 14-year-olds in this film (no more than I believed Viktor Krum was no more than a seventh-year student, making him about 18), and I'm afraid the disconnect between their actual ages and their onscreen ages is just going to get worse with each of the films to come. We're between a rock and a hard place here; barring some catastrophe, there's no way that new (younger) actors can be brought in to play any of the kids who have speaking parts, but at the same time the current actors are going to become less and less believable unless they develop the skill to play younger. That's going to be a challenge.
Now, I haven't read past GOF yet, so maybe the scene that I'd most like to see at this point is to be found in one of the later books. If not, maybe someone has written it? *asks hopefully* What I want is a good, long, strong scene between Voldemort and Snape ... between Fiennes and Rickman, where Fiennes can be fierce and seductive as Voldemort, and Rickman can finally be allowed to act (something that hasn't been permitted in any of the films to date).
Okay, that's it. Sorry about the length ... I didn't realise I had so much to say.
*posts and wanders off to do RL work*