Friday, November 18, 2005

Movie Review: Harry Potter, take 4

The Monk and Monkette2B saw the midnight show of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire this morning at the 11:59/12:01 show at our favorite theater -- the Loews Keystone (free plug!).

Goblet is probably my favorite or second fave of the Potter books (Azkaban is quite good and more succinct). And adapting a 700+ page novel into a 2.5 hour film is no easy task. Gone are the patent irrelevancies viz. the main plot surrounding the Tri-Wizard Tournament: Hermione as elf union organizer, much of the classroom scenes (if not too much), the usual I-hate-Snape stuff from Harry. Unfortunately, some other parts are clipped that comprised hints as to the identity of the hidden villain and there were about three scenes with Rita Skeeter that ended up completely irrelevant. And the other schools received short shrift -- the Beauxbatons beauties and the rough looking skin-headed martinets from Durmstrang.

But those gripes are fairly minor. Overall, the movie is at or near the best of the bunch and definitely worth your cash.

First, the pacing is relatively swift, so the movie does not FEEL like 2.5 hours long. Indeed, it could have used a bit more exposition; therefore I hope the DVD will have extra scenes in it.

Second, the composition of the numerous effects scenes is much better than in the previous films, including Azkaban -- the effects are more fluid, more realistic and the kids (especially Danny Radcliffe) react much better than in previous films (compare the poor climactic scenes in the first two movies with this one and the difference is obvious). Give credit for Mike Newell who may have taken a page from Peter Jackson's Special FX direction manual.

Third, the kids are better overall. Radcliffe especially. He made some strides from movies 1-2 to #3; he makes a leap forward in this one. Emma Watson was always the best actor of the three main critters, and that's still true. She has a future after the HP series without doubt. Rupert Grint is the weakest link, but his screen time is less than the others' and he has made progress too. Ancillary Friends of Harry have decidedly minimal screen time, other than the Weasley twins' comedic interludes.

Fourth, Mad-Eye Moody is great. Nice job by Brendan Gleeson.

The movie has to balance the double tone of the series in what is the darkest of the movies to date, and of the first four books. That is not an easy task, and there are a lot of elements in the movie that have to be meshed into the larger storyline: the kids are in full puberty with all the trouble that brings, there is dating pressure and an extended dance/ball scene including Hermione's Cinderella moments (coming down the stairs to meet her date at the Yule Ball, then flinging off her shoes after an unhappy ending to the evening), tension between Hermione and Ron or Harry and Ron, resentment by other students toward Harry who is an unwarranted intrusion into the Tri-Wizard Tournament, and the background to the Death Eaters and Voldemort's reincarnation. The result can be a bit choppy.

Overall, the movie is good. I'd see it again in theaters and will obtain the DVD (especially because the Monkette2B is an HP FREAK).

Hits: effects, panoramic views of Hogwarts campus, main tri-wizard tourney set pieces, kids much better, Gleeson, Michael Gambon has a larger role as Dumbledore, McGonnigal and Snape not forgotten despite minimal importance.

Misses: screen time for the other schools, Harry's love interest (you'll see, the girl he went to the Yule Ball with is way cuter than the one he pined over), Fleur de la Couer's performance in the tourney looking especially weak (bad b/c she's the lone girl), Voldemort more icky than scary, the unsatisfying end scene.

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