Elie's Expositions

A bereaved father blogging for catharsis... and for distraction. Accordingly, you'll see a diverse set of topics and posts here, from the affecting to the analytical to the absurd. Something for everyone, but all, at the core, meeting a personal need.

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Monday, November 21, 2005

Goblet of Fire - Post

We did see Harry Potter IV yesterday - actually not just the boys and I as originally planned, but all five (six-minus-one) of us. I was reluctant to let Shayna go because of the PG13 rating, but she really wanted to and she's generally not the type to get overly scared from movies. Besides, I want to encourage her to read the books.

WARNING - Spoilers for Book/Film #4 and some for Book 5 as well....

Soccer Dad wrote a good review which I mostly agree with; here are a few added impressions:

- Very well-paced and exciting movie, even for those that didn't read the book. I would say this was certainly the best directed of the four films, and all things considered probably my favorite overall as well. Glad my worries about Newell were groundless.

- Much like the book, this installment was darker and more serious than the previous ones - and not just, or even mainly, due to gorier special effects (they were actually much less graphic than I had expected given the rating), but due to the overall theme. In fact, I would categorize the films as follows: the first two, and to a lesser degree #3, were fundamentally children's movies that adults could appreciate on a somewhat deeper level, while Goblet of Fire was fundamentally a grownup film that happened to star children (canonical example of that genre: Stand By Me).

- Films 5 and 6 will need to be treated similarly. Since both books will obviously have to be trimmed considerably, I feel it would be a mistake to favor preserving the more juvenile-friendly material at the expense of the more difficult, mature aspects. E.g., one key theme of book 5 is Harry's disillusionment about his father's youth, based on what he saw in Snape's memories. I would hope not to see that scene/theme deleted.

- Speaking of cuts, I think this film did as good a job as could be expected in deciding which parts of the book to leave out while retaining the central/critical elements. Most of the deletions - e.g., Care of Magical Creatures class, SPEW, the Dursleys, Rita Skeeter's secret, etc. - were relatively standalone and expendable. But one omission that I did disagree with, was the discussion between Hagrid and Madame Maxime where the latter denies her giantish heritage in outrage, while Hagrid is open and proud about his. I thought this was a very poignant scene in the book and fleshed out Hagrid's character significantly, while also setting up a key element of book 5. And it could have been retained without lengthening the movie at all, so its exclusion was pointless.

- I will join the chorus that Michael Gambon just isn't cutting it as Dumbledore, and not only because Richard Harris was so good in the first two films. Gambon simply isn't capturing the essence of the character - and in absolute, not relative terms. I think they should have looked harder at the replacement when Harris passed. It isn't too late to reconsider for the subsequent two films, in both of which Dumbledore has much more of an on-stage and pivotal role than in the first four.

- Cedric's death, and his father's subsequent reaction, were intended to be powerful for all viewers but hit me especially hard - for obvious reasons. I had trouble holding it together for several moments after that.

- But to end on a happy note, I loved every one of the teen angst / Yule ball related scenes. I was howling with laughter when Ron had to practice-dance with Prof. McGonagall ("...put my hand on your what??"). Also, as Soccer Dad noted, any scene with Fred and George was hilarious. I beg the Muggle powers that be, please don't cut their big departure scene in film 5!!


At 11/21/05, 12:28 PM, Blogger Soccer Dad said...

We - or at least one of us - might well go again during the week. Two of our older children haven't seen it yet. (One saw it with a friend yesterday.)

I'm not so down on Michael Gambon. I think he generally plays Dumbledore with the same studied obliviousness as Harris.

I will still stubbornly claim that the Sorcerer's Stone is my favorite movie, if for no other reason than that it was largely how I envisioned the book. (Some would say that that was the failing of the movie.)

Did I miss something or did they largely do away with the Harry Potter theme music of the first 3 movies?

Because it was based on action not characters I wonder if it would hold up to non-readers (or to those with no prior exposure of any kind to Harry Potter). How are we supposed to care for any of these characters if we don't know their backstory and we get precious little of it here?

At 11/21/05, 2:09 PM, Blogger Elie said...

The theme was there at the very beginning, played in a somewhat more dramatic and somber fashion which I felt really helped set the mood. Other that that I didn't notice it much.

On a related note I would love to find the lyrics to the rock-style songs played at the Yule Ball. The titles are listed here.

I would guess only a small percent of those that see these movies are totally unfamilar with the books. But judging from one example, Debbie never read any but the first book and she enjoyed the movie, though not as much as us fans.

At 11/21/05, 2:47 PM, Anonymous Tova Menken said...

I agree with you about Gambon. Although I haven't yet seen the movie, I've seen about a dozen clips online. Gambon's portrayal of Dumbledore is way off the mark in the scene right after Harry's name comes out of the Goblet when he shakes Harry and yells at him. I cannot believe that Gambon "studied up" on his character (as any decent actor should) by reading even one of the books because he would know that Dumbledore would NEVER lose control like that at Harry - or at anyone for that ,matter except perhaps "you-know-who". Of course, having actually seen the movie, you may feel differently...

At 11/21/05, 3:00 PM, Blogger Elie said...

Tova: That was the specific scene I was thinking of - Shalom called my attention to it after we left the movie. But even besides that larger slip, I think his overall portrayal is flat. Since the character has already been portrayed by two actors I don't think continuity would be too damaged by replacing Gambon, but I doubt that's being considered.

On a another note I found the lyrics to
"Do the Hippogriff":

Move your body like a hairy troll
a learning to rock and roll
I spin around like a crazy elf
a dancing by himself
I boogie down like a unicorn
I brew a storm til the break of dawn
a put your hands in the air
Like an ogre just don’t care

Can you dance the hippogriff
Mama ma mama ma mama ma
Flying off from the cliff
Mama ma mama ma mama ma
Swooping down to the ground
Mama ma mama ma mama ma
Wheel around and around and around
Mama ma mama ma mama ma

Move around like a scary ghost
Who’s spooking himself the most
Shake your booty like boggart in pain
Again and again and again
Get it on like an angry specter
Whose definitely out to get ya
Step your feet like a leprechaun
Get it on, get it on


At 11/21/05, 7:16 PM, Blogger chuck said...

i agree gambon lacks that giddy mysteriousness that dumbledore portrays in the books
but then, books are always better, even hunt for red october which was an excellent movie, didn't live up to the book

you wrote: Cedric's death, and his father's subsequent reaction, were intended to be powerful for all viewers but hit me especially hard - for obvious reasons. I had trouble holding it together for several moments after that.

i gotta tell you something i heard at the 10th siyum hashas 8 years ago
it was a WWII camp story and it was described in detail imagine getting off the death train the harsh lights, freezing breath, hugh snarling dogs, shouting soldiers, crying parents, wimpering kids,
1 little boy about 6 or 7 being separated from his mom, struggling to get back to her arms,a sudden silence in which you can hear the child cry "bin ich nisht alamul gevain a voyla?"

(wasn't i a good boy?)

8 years later i still tear up when telling this story

At 11/22/05, 6:15 PM, Blogger thanbo said...

OK, SPEW is just as well gone. But I would gladly have seen 30 sec. less of the dragon task, and add two minutes to explain the "brother wands" association with Priori Incantatem (which explains the parseltongue, and shows Dumbledore's deeper plotting side); Rita Skeeter as a bug to lay the groundwork for forcing her to write the truth in Book 5; and the thousand galleons to set up Fred & George for all their work in the 5th book.

At 11/23/05, 9:48 AM, Blogger Elie said...


I'll agree with you on "Priori Incantatem": it was important to understanding the climactic scene, and wouldn't have taken much screen time to include.

Skeeter's secret and the prize money would both have been "nice to have's" but again, since they had to make some cuts, those were arguably the least damaging to the central story.

On a related note, I wonder if Rowling had a say for the movies, in terms of which scenes could be safely cut, or any other changes between the book and to the screenplay? Since only she knows what will be critical in the last book, you would think she should have unquestioned veto power over the movie adaptations.

At 11/23/05, 12:41 PM, Anonymous chuck said...

well how long does this movie run 2.5 hrs what would've happened if it ran 3 hrs?
a couple of things are gonna be an issue
1 Priori Incantatem is gonna be important in book 7 as mr olivander was kidnapped in book 6
2 rita skeeter being a bug is also important to book 5 as you say
3 book 7 is gonna have a huge fight scene, the goblins are gonna side with the humans but the powerful elves will too, but SPEW shows why, the giant/hagrid/maxine talk is needed to show that affiliation etc
4 fred & george can start without harrys money but really it would have taken 2 minutes to add that

well there tons more but its still a great movie


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