18 November, 2005

Goblet of Fire: Best Adaptation Yet

No Spoilers

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.

SPOILER HERE

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.

Random Questions:

--? 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.

11 Comments:

At 11:57 AM, November 19, 2005, Blogger melusina said...

Finally, someone else doesn't like Gambon! I thought he was awful in the last one, and yea I realize we can't get Richard Harris back, but lets find a more Dumbledore-y Dumbledore.

I'm sooo looking forward to this movie, it hasn't opened in Greece yet though.

 
At 12:07 PM, November 19, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Erin and I went to see it yesterday too. Oddly, I felt like it was one of the most uneven of the Potter films. I really liked the Tri-Wizard tournament stuff, and all of the Voldemort scenes were great, but I could have done with a significantly shortened ballroom scene.

The movie clocked in at 2:20 and I found myself looking at my watch during these scenes. I like long movies, but this one felt that it could have been better if they had cut it more. Still, I recognize that they're trying to condense a 900 page book into a feature-length movie, AND they're trying to get relevant scenes in that are important to the rest of the series. I guess if they'd deleted the ballroom/dance scenes there would have been many fans who would be upset that the movie was all and only action.

I noticed the same thing about the music. About halfway through I realized that the music hadn't asserted itself in that Williamsian way. Instead, it remained a stron supporting character, never stepping forward to proclaim itself as a lead. Very refreshing. John Williams will deservedly go down in history as one of the greats from this era, but it's nice to hear someone else have a shot at HP and his world.

I also thought the adapted screenplay managed a nice balance between the characters. It would be hard to adapt the 900 pages to a movie, get all of the plot in, the important action scenes, and all of the relational stuff, and still manage the huge cast of characters Rowling has writtten into the story: harry, hermione, ron, dumbledore, snape, hagrid, fleur, the russian tri-wizard guy, cedric, voldemort, malfoy, malfoy's dad, wormtounge-I mean, worm-TAIL, etc, etc, etc.

Final note: I thought the cinematography in this film was especially dark. Lots of greys and charcoal tones, even in the underwater scenes. In fact, the warmest color in the film seemed to be the flesh tones of the characters. Color grading/color correction is labored over and treated almost as another character in films, so you can be sure that the director did made the decision to darken the film conciously.

 
At 12:09 PM, November 19, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

(Sorry, that's Jason above)

I also thought that Gambon's Dumbledore was too spry and young feeling in a few scenes. Definitely not the way I wanted to see it played, but much better than if, say, Shatner had the role. :)

Harry!... must win... tri-wizard cup.

Jason

 
At 12:40 PM, November 19, 2005, Anonymous tom said...

This was my completely favorite book of the series. Being that it's the mathematical center of the storyline, so much happens.

The ball was okay, but Mrs. Weasley at the third task was definitely a missing necessity. I forgot about Bill meeting Fleur there. I hated the dragon chase scene.

I didn't hate gambon, but his performance in this movie was a bit jarring. Of the old Brits I could think of a few that would make a good Dumbledore. Christopher Plummer, for example, would probably be watchable. I remember the grandfather scene in National Treasure made me think of him as a Dumbledorean type of mystical secret-keeper.

 
At 1:06 PM, November 19, 2005, Blogger Kat Coble said...

'cept that Plummer is Canadian. As is Shatner.

Since Rowling is adamant that only Brits play in the films, I think that costs us a good option (Plummer) and saves us a bad option (Shatner. Shudder.)

I was really wanting to give Gambon a fair shake. In the last one I thought perhaps I was just too used to Harris. In this one, with Dumbledore getting ENRAGED at Harry, and then acting visibly agitated during the scene surrounding the Penseive, I realized that Gambon has NO FRICKIN CLUE about the character he's playing. The much-chatted-about interview he gave with Empire Mag about happily NOT reading the books says a lot about him.

Don't know if he's British or not, and I'm too lazy to open IMDB right now and find out, but if I had to genuinely cast Dumbledore I would go for Pete Postlethwaite. His performance in "In The Name Of The Father" was very much how I see Dumbledore. Patrician, yet sacrificial and loving.

Jason, I guess I misread your blog because I thought you were going to see it today. I'm glad you did see it on opening day. That's a bit more fun, in my opinion. I think the Yule Ball was a necessity because it is very important for setting up the eventual romance of Ron & Hermione. (Hush up, H/Hr shippers.)

The one scene that I think I and my sibs agree was ludicrous was the first task. I'm so tired of the "let's fly around Hogwarts" scenes. We get one in every movie. This one went on about 3 minutes too long, and ended with the dragon's death--which wasn't supposed to happen. If you want to shave a few seconds, you could do it there. ALTHOUGH, the classic fantasy image of the dragon clinging to the conical rooftop was a nice future-desktop-picture moment.

 
At 3:38 PM, November 19, 2005, Blogger P. K. Nail said...

I always thought Peter O'Toole would have made a fabulous Dumbledore. I don't dislike Gambon, but his DD did seem quite ... off in GoF.

Glad you liked it. I think my favorite scene is that tiny moment on the train when Ron doesn't have enough money for the sweets. So subtle, but it really sums up an issue that has been strangely absent from the previous films.

 
At 12:54 AM, November 20, 2005, Blogger Casey said...

Well, I got a chance to see it today and I was fairly underwhelmed. I suppose if you hadn't read the books then it might work for you. But there were simply to many things that were glossed over or removed altogether.

And, I couldn't agree more about Gambon's portrayal of Dumbledore. Dumbldore's persona has always been characterized by his calm in almost any situation. The only deviation from his this behavior comes in The Half Blood Prince when drinking the potion from the basin in the cave. It's seeing the usually unflappable Dumbledore in this situation that makes that passage so powerful... *shrug* at least for me.

This little snippet pretty much sums up Dumbledore. Near death with an attack by the Death Eaters on Hogwarts:

"Good evening, Amycus", said Dumbledore calmly, as though welcoming the man to a tea party. "And you've brought Alecto too. ... Charming... "
The woman gave an agry little titter, "Think your little jokes'll help you on your deathbed then?" she jeered.
"Jokes? No, no, these are manners," replied Dumbledore.

 
At 1:11 PM, November 20, 2005, Anonymous Beth said...

I do agree that this has been the best movie yet. I went into it knowing it wouldn't be nearly as good as the book. I told myself over and over not to let the omissions get to me. I was extremely disturbed by the top box inaccuracy and the absence of Mrs. Weasley and Bill. I also felt the movie was extremely choppy. I had to use all my restraint not to groan and complain during the dragon scene which was three times too long and completely inaccurate and boring.

I loved the Yule Ball, the music, and the overall feel of the movie. I was especially glad that they included the Weasley twins effort to fool the age line.

The one thing that I just cannot deal with is Gambon. I don't think they could find a worse Dumbledore. Why is Rowling so intent on having British actors, but she doesn't care that one of the central characters is completely ruined by that hack?! Forget trying to find a good older British actor. Any British actor with an appreciation for the character would be better. I'd rather see a 35 year old actor made up to appear older as long as he maintains the integrity of the character. Dumbledore does not shout at the students! He is a brilliant, talented wizard who commands respect and is on the side of right. He loves Harry. He does not get caught up in panic. He is controlled and dignified. Gambon is unforgivable!

 
At 7:37 AM, November 21, 2005, Blogger Michael said...

Tom Baker is still waiting to play Dumbledore...LOL

 
At 1:45 PM, November 21, 2005, Blogger Patrick said...

Random question:

Gambon, Gambon, have you heard? Mama's gonna buy you a mockingbird!

 
At 10:30 AM, November 27, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am SOOOOO happy to read all the criticism of Gambon. He is POSITIVELY AWFUL as Dumbledore. It is painfully obvious that he has never read the books and has no clue of Dumbledore's personality or character. Gambon really spoils the film for me. I am so sorry to have red recently that he is already cast for the fifth film as well. What a terrible mistake. There is only one actor I can see as Dumbledore: Sir Ian McKellan. Yes, we all think of him as Gandalf in the Tolkien Ring trilogy, but he is a good enough actor to create an entorely new and correct persona as Dumbledore.

 

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