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GOF Minority Report

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:

  1. You plan to see the film and don't want spoilers.
  2. 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:

  1. The adult actors were given nothing to do, and the kids can't carry the film.
  2. The adults are becoming more two-dimensional with each film, instead of the other way around.
  3. The filmmakers showed no interest in making this film accessible to someone who hasn't read the book.
  4. 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).
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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*


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 9th, 2005 11:19 am (UTC)
The good thing about your review is you don't make new points from what I already felt, you just react differently to them which hasn't spoiled my fun, lol. So that's good.

On to debating. I do to some extent agree with point 1. But for me, that came in the last film already when the main adult characters were simplified to the extreme and kinda spoiled it for this film, really. I believe that one of the reasons why Snape wasn't given more screen time (either as himself or through the pensieve incident and the perception Harry has of him) already came from the fact that the previous film managed to make him evil in Harry's (and the viewer's) eyes, with no ambiguity whatsoever. When I saw PoA last year, that was one of my main problems. Snape's evil, full stop. Why bother now giving him a more multi-dimensional personae if evidently all that counts is what Harry and the others think of him? This ties in with your point 2, but like I said, I think that that was particularly true of the last movie. To me, GoF didn't make them more two-dimensional, PoA had already done that job and GoF was just going with what that movie had done.

3. I disagree. We're way into a saga, if you haven't read the book, at least you should have seen the previous films. If you haven't seen those, then why would you bother seeing movie number 4 in a series of 7? In that sense, the movie was perfectly fine for whoever has seen the previous movies. And it had the added bonus of not completely turning its head from the book, which for those of us who have read it makes it more enjoyable.

4. Again, I disagree. It's targeted to its intended viewers. The first two were as well. I don't think any of the films so far have been targeted at adults. Not one bit. It doesn't mean adults can't enjoy them, just that you shouldn't expect something from a movie that isn't meant to be. The books are young readers' books. From number 3 on, they're even teenagers' books. The films are that as well, I see nothing wrong with that. Like the books, they're evolving with the characters and the intended audience. As Harry grows up, so do his fans in a way and the films follow that process. The first couple of films were really more kids films, thes past two were clearly more teenage kids and I'm not surprised, nor am I disappointed that that's what the producers and directors are aiming for. I think it's just often more difficult for adults to reach within to their inner teenageer than to their inner kid. Mostly because there is more of a gap between two generations of teenagers than there usually is between two generations of kids (not sure I'm making myself clear, here, but I'm talking about ther difference in real and imaginary worlds for kids and teenagers).

Ooops, I rambled to long, have to cut my comment in two. :-D
Dec. 9th, 2005 11:20 am (UTC)
Continuing my ramblings... lol

5. Well, that IS what the books 4 and 5 are mostly about, so I don't see how that's a problem. On the contrary, I like that it shows we ARE dealing with teenagers, not adults or even young adults. That's one thing I've liked about the books so far--and one thing the movies have been faithful to--and that's how true to their age the kids are depicted. It works really well for me, even if it means the characters can be annoying. Teenagers ARE annoying.

6. I do agree with you on that one, but like I already said before, I think the film directors have made Snape the way they think it's enough for him to be and so probably felt we didn't need to go back to something that was established enough form Snape's depiction in PoA.

7. That scene isn't a good scene to end a movie on, I can kind of see that. I still mourn its absence, mind you, but I'm hoping maybe they'll have it in the next movie? Or in the extended version or something? It's rumored that the DVD will have quite a few deleted scenes on it, and I admit that like for TTT, I'm hoping they'll give the movie its full impact.

That said, I thoroughly enjoyed it for many reason, one of them being that it is fast paced and both dark and funny. I loved the kids, I enjoyed seeing them becoming better actors (though Emma still needs to improve, omg. She kinda does gysterical well, but the rest wasn't all that convincing). My love for Ron has been expanded even more, because he was always the better actor of the three and that's pretty clear he's probably going to remain the best one of the three, lol.

Also, regarding their age. I have a 14 year old boy at home, and I've had the "priviledge" of dragging around a slew of his friends here and there, dropping in on convos and such, and the age gap? I don't see it. I also remember being a teacher in a British school not unlike Hogwarts (well, except for the magic obviously, lol) and believe me, those three were completely believable in the light of my own experiences. That was one of the things I found thoroughly enjoyable about the characters, that they were so alike the kids their age I knew. It really was quite perfect on that side. :-)

As for Ralph Fiennes, yes, he was good. He wasn't breathtaking, he wasn't all that amazing, he was just very good (and had really good makeup, which helped a lot in making him what he was). Personally, I wasn't as blown over by his performance as everybody seemed to be. Sure, it was grandiose and all, but that's always easier to translate than subtlety. I didn't think his performance was very subtle, really. I kind of think that Snape's performance in the first couple of films was way better. I also believe that had Alan Rickman been given more opportunity to show off what Snape can truly be, then his performance would have most certainly outshined Ralph's. Then again, I've always thought Alan was a better actor so my liking Alan's performance better could clearly stem from bias, lol.

On a cinematographical level, that movie was good. What they kept of the intrigue worked, the alternance of action and humour worked... it was a really good movie for me. It was mostly enjoyable, something the previous one hadn't been. But then again, I admit I only ever watched the Harry Potter movies as I would watch kids movies, and have always had the kind of expectations for them I would have from a kids movie, not an adult one like you seem to have. That might be why I enjoyed it so much more than you did. It wasn't a brilliant movie, sure, but then again, I wouldn't expect it to be on the same level as say... something like Donnie Darko or some really good piece of cinema. As it was, it was really quite well done and made me laugh and smile and thrill during the whole two hours. I'm just happy about that. :-)
Dec. 9th, 2005 11:40 am (UTC)
The filmmakers showed no interest in making this film accessible to someone who hasn't read the book.

I've seen a number of people making this point, and I have to say I'm a bit surprised by it because I'm someone who hasn't read any of the books, and I've enjoyed each of the movies including GOF. So in my ignorance of what I was missing, I had no problem enjoying the story and following the plot. This is why I haven't read the books yet. I'm afraid it'll spoil my enjoyment of the movies, which I was really surprised to love so much. And based on what you're saying was cut out of the movie, I think I've made the right choice in waiting to read the books, because I know I would be annoyed at what was left out.

Dec. 9th, 2005 01:10 pm (UTC)
I didn't read the book, but saw the movie and it's not really *that* hard to understand, see. Not like there's a clever story or *very good* actors.

I certainly would like Fiennes, would he spend more than 10 minutes on the screen.

You forgot to mention the hair. God. Someone hire a *French* hairdresser.

To me, it's not a movie for kids, it's not a movie for teenagers and not a movie for adults. It's just a bad movie. Period. Actually it's more a very long video clip than a movie but then... what's new there?

Of course there are wonderful special effects. A pity good special effects don't make a good movie.

Dec. 9th, 2005 05:29 pm (UTC)
Of course there are wonderful special effects. A pity good special effects don't make a good movie.

LOL. That was my exact feeling after I watched the last Star Wars film.
Dec. 13th, 2005 07:17 pm (UTC)
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?

Yes! I was so mad they cheated us out of that, especially the Snape-showing-his-Dark Mark scene.

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?

That's one of my big concerns, too. I think it makes continuity more difficult with each movie, when they leave out what I consider important stuff.

As for the scene between Snape and Voldemort - - probably not. Maybe the very last book, but it's unlikely you'd see it in a movie. Unless Harry witnesses it. Was it the sceenwriter, or somebody, who said that they will only show stuff pertaining to Harry? Like, only scenes he's in, or stuff he observes.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )