Goblet of Fire: Best Adaptation Yet
After a slight hiccup in plans--okay, huge hiccup (our show was sold out)--Tim and I saw the much anticipated Harry Potter film on the IMAX. As predicted, that was a great way to see it. Not only did the incredible imagery completely envelope me, but the $11.50 price tag seemed to prove daunting to all but the serious filmgoers.
Unlike with previous Potter films, I "spoiled" myself for the layout of the film ahead of time. After having read the book a round dozen times, listened to it on my iPod once and discussed every nuance in exhaustive detail, I figured I had a pretty good idea of the twists and turns of the plot. With the other three films my disappointment seemed to hinge on what was missing from the book. I spent the first viewing each time hoping for this scene or that line of dialogue, and then being thoroughly peeved. It kept me from enjoying the parts that did make it to the screen.
It's possible my enjoyment of this film is due wholly to this experiment, but I'd like to think that more credit lies with two people in particular: Mike Newell and Patrick Doyle. This film, far more than the other three, made me feel like I was actually at Hogwarts, hanging out with the Gryffindors. In truth, the main reason I read this books repeatedly is because of the sense of environment. It's a place I like to visit, and I enjoy the company of the people. With each of the three previous movies I strongly felt that we were watching Hollywood Brand Cliff's Notes, with all of the action and none of the ambiance.
I had my hopes high that Mike Newell would bring a truer flavour to Goblet. He's a master at catching the nuances of human interaction. I loved Four Weddings and a Funeral (in spite of Andie MacDowell). But the film that really intrigued me about the possibility of Newell was Mona Lisa Smile. Not much good can be said about that movie overall, but Newell's handling of the dorm scenes made it watchable. He managed to really bring life to four characters that the script had rendered trite. Given that Hogwarts is the ultimate boarding school, I thought that the possibilities of Newell bringing Hogwarts to life were excellent. And he didn't disappoint.
I was discussing the film with my sister (who was sidetracked by the omissions from the bookstory) and I mentioned how much I liked Patrick Doyle's music. She: "I didn't notice it." Me: "Exactly". I apologise to the vast majority of Harry Potter Nation for going public about how strongly I disliked John Williams' score for the first three. I'm not a musician of any sort, so the best way I can describe it is that it sounded like music boxes. Very tinkly-sparkly and extremely artificial. I imagine it was to convey a sense of whimsy and wonder, yet it always struck me as too precious. The real 'magic' world of the British Isles is harder, darker and more seductive. Patrick Doyle's score with it's heavy Celtic influences seemed more like the ambient music of a Wizards' School in the Scottish Highlands. Having a less intrusive, more organic score did a lot to pull me into the Wizarding World and keep me rooted there.
I'm really pleased with Goblet as a whole. It doesn't approach the book, of course, but unlike the other three films I think it is a worthy companion piece for its corresponding novel.
There were two parts I was disappointed with, primarily because I feel like they were cut solely for the sake of saving money. For movies that gross so much, it seems miserly.
1. At the Quidditch World Cup, the Weasley Group is very decidedly in the Top Box with Fudge et. al. In the film, they are relegated to the cheap seats. Not only that, we are treated to a stupid monologue from Lucius and Draco about how the Malfoys' Top Box seats make them better people. The only reason I can think for this is the filmmakers' desire to not spend the money on the set for the Top Box. Purple curtains and gilt chairs are much more of a pain than a wooden railing.
2. One of the most touching parts of the book is when Harry, assuming he has no family to care about his performance in the final task, is surprised by a visit from Molly and Bill Weasley. A three-minute scene with Molly and Bill was sorely needed for the texture of the movie because the jolt of jumping straight into the third task was unpleasant. In addition, the visit is crucial to the larger story arc, because this is where Fleur Delacour meets Bill. The girl uproots her life, moves to England and plays a large part in future novels, all because of this first encounter. I'm guessing it would have been too much of an expense to bring in the two additional actors. That's a shame, because the film would have benefitted highly.
--? Why is Gambon permitted to portray Dumbledore in such a distasteful way?
--? Can we replace Gambon with anyone? At this point I feel strongly that Queen Latifah would make a better Dumbledore.