Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

When I entered the theater to watch Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, I didn't remember much about the book except that I didn't like it very much. The film reminded me why. Sure it stands well enough on its own as a fantasy action-adventure. But as a Harry Potter fan, it was impossible for me to see the movie on its own i.e. completely independently of the book. All reviews I've read so far call it the best Harry Potter movie yet but I beg to differ. That credit would still go only to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

The Prisoner of Azkaban was a classic. With a complicated plot that included an ingenious time travel segment and stunning plot twists that suprised us with who the good and bad guys were, the book was an exhilarating read. Goblet of Fire was a huge letdown after that since it was just too simplistic. And that, naturally, is what happens in the movie too. It is a straightforward tale that has more swashbuckling action but holds few surprises. Its as if J.K.Rowling wrote the first 3 books in the the true spirit of writing, understood that they were made into movies and then wrote Goblet of Fire with the eventual movie in mind.

What Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is is the best Harry Potter action movie yet. The three contests of the Triwizard tournament are action-packed and full of thrills, spills and chills. The special effects are spectacular and there are several "Wow!" moments, especially in the first one - the fight with the dragon. Many of the segments, like the opening Quidditch match(which, unfortunately, is cut short) and the scene in the fight where the dragon walks on the Hogwarts roof, are truly breathtaking.

The movie also gives us our first look at Voldemort. Granted that no amount of makeup could create a Voldemort scary enough to rival what we've imagined, but Ralph Fiennes is unrecognizably creepy in the role. We also have a new Dumbledore since the actor who played the headmaster in the last 3 movies is no more. Though his face is almost completely covered up by the big white beard, the new actor seems a little too young and animated - very un-Dumbledore-like.

I'm a big advocate of the theory that the experience of watching a movie doesn't even come close to the thrill of reading the book it is based on. But I have to admit that the non-wizarding portions of the book translate very well to the screen. With familiar actors, who are now 4 movies old, donning the same roles, Harry, Ron and Hermione have become real people rather than characters in a book. So the emotional attachment we have with them is stronger than what we would've had if the characters had remained on the written page. So the shyness, love, jealousy and all those other feelings that are part of the teenage years work well on screen and make segments(like the Yule Ball dance) funny and enjoyable.


At 12:51 AM, Blogger Visithra said...

interestingly i liked this one more than the 3rd - i was dissapointed by the 3rd. Given i dont read the books and love mysteries i thought it ended too abruptly in the 3rd. My fav remains the 1st one followed by the 4th and then the 2nd

At 3:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a minor correction "We also have a new Dumbledore since the actor who played the headmaster in the last 3 movies is no more." - Richard Harris only played Dumbledore in the first 2 movies. He died before making the 3rd movie, being replaced by Micheal Gambon.
I agree with you about Dumbledore being very un-Dumbledore like in this movie - he was never ever rough or angry with Harry in the book.
Emma Watson (Hermione) needs to stop overacting with her eyebrows. It was so annoying to watch her except for the scene where she cries after the yule ball.
I also think it's unrealistic to expect the Harry Potter films to be stand-alone movies anymore. We're into the 4th in the series and there is far more back story and references than there were in the first 3 movies/books. The 3rd movie is definitely still my favourite as there was a change in style from the first two and Alfonso Cauron did a great job with the Prizoner of Azkaban. However I feel that Mike Newell has also done an excellent job bringing the 4th book to life, managing to condense the 700-odd page book into a tight screenplay. However I was dissapointed that Professor Snape didn't get more screen time!

At 4:19 AM, Blogger Vidya said...

My brother who is a die hard HP fan was of the same opinion. "Goblet of fire could have been made into two parts or a slightly longer movie to capture all the details of the Quiditich World cup and other details" is what he said. I havent seen it so cannot really comment on it.. But as far as the books go Book 3 was the best!! both movie wise and book wise. ( Sirius Black was gr8 ^_-)

At 5:00 AM, Blogger Kumari said...

NIce review Balaji :)

HP4, the movie would rate just 6/10 on my scale and that too only for the visual effects. I guess it is tough to bring all the minor details to life but it still doesn't justify changing plots, erasing Dobby completely and including Barty Crouch Jr in the dream scene. Like you say, HP3 was definitely better.

The dragon fight was wonderful but when i read the book i never imagined them to fly out of the ring and break roofs at all. Somehow it never gelled :(

And yeah, Dumbledore's eyes never once twinkled in the movie.

But the factor(s) that made up for all this -- yummy Cedric Diggory and Viktor Scrumptious :D Spent my time inside Sathyam theatre whistling for these dudes :)

At 7:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I tend to disagree on the book. I liked it better than 1 2 and 3. It explores lot of new areas like bringing in new school students, concept of competition which makes school life so much more interesting than just those silly duels with malfoy all the time.

I however think that book 5 was the worst of the lot before things getting back to interesting in book 6. Not planning to watch movie 5 for sure.

I agree with you though on the movie being not good enough. I thought about all 4 movies that way. With book 4 having most ground to cover, it might've been appreciated.

Also agree on Dumbledore. he seems to be impatient and in hurry most of the time as compared to the earlier movies or the book where we think of him to be the most powerful wizard, intelligent, patient, calm.

At 10:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The book was way too long and in a sense the movie was a relief. I disagree with the comment "opening Quidditch match(which, unfortunately, is cut short)".. The book spent 1/3 of its tedious volume over the match. I liked the crisp editing on that front..and Dobby's chop was ok by me too. I didnt like Harry's crush ..her name is Chou I think. She's supposed to be quite pretty as described in the book, but in the film she was quite Blah. You are on the dot about the emotional attachment we have with the protagonists, which seems to get stronger with each movie.
Good reviews and blogs Balaji, very diverse subjects and excellent flow while you write!
(PS: Read your article on YGP a few days back, Im a 14 year PSBB-ian from KK.Nagar, 92 batch :)..btw, GiGo is the new princi. Wonder if she's be as effective as Hamsa Ramdoss whom I absolutely adored)

At 12:36 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

visithra, since u mentioned u don't read the books, i think i understand :)

nisha, thanx for the correction. i guess gambon slipped into the role well in 'prisoner of azkaban' since i didn't notice anything wrong with the character. but his acting here was not in keeping with the dumbledore in the book...

agree with u on the other points too. hermione does overact. it was kinda cute initially when she was younger. but as she grows older, its becoming irritating :)

and yes, newell has done a good job condensing the book. my dissatisfaction with the movie simply paralleled my dissatisfaction with the book :)

vidya, yep. sirius was a great character and the surprise about his character was probably the best twist in all the HP books so far...

kumari, its clear u remember a lot more about the book than me :) and though the dragon flying out to the roofs wasnt in the book, i thot that was the best part of the sequence as far as cgi goes...

"twinkle in the eye" - that was perfect for what was missing in the new dumbledore :)

anon, a couple of my friends like 4 as much as 3. but this is the 1st time i hear of liking #4 more than #3 and #1. atleast we share the same feelings about #5 :)

shwetha, the comment about the shortness of the quidditch match was purely frm the visual pt. of view. i was amazed at the shots of the tiered stadium, the players flying in, etc. and just wanted more of it. didnt much like cho either. atleast we know she's not gonna be around for much longer ;)

thanx for the compliment :)

did read your comment on the ygp post. just forgot to reply to it :) i was in the '88 batch btw. didn't know about gigo becoming the new princi. very surprising. she was my class teacher in XII. very sweet and quiet. not someone u would classify as 'princi material'. she was 1 of 3 teachers who attended my wedding :)

At 2:04 PM, Blogger Ganesh said...

Balaji the actor who gave life to Dumbledore is oscar nominated actor Mr.Richard Harris

At 6:39 PM, Blogger Orange Fronkey said...

I'm yet to catch this movie!

I watched the first one in the theaters but watched the other 2 on dvd... Actually refused to watch the 2nd one cuz of the stupid flying car thing.. but I was very surprised when I finally watched it.. It's actually my fave of the 3 I've seen. I didnt like # 3 as much.. the dude just fainted way too many times.. blah

At 9:03 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

ganesh, knew his name was richard harris but didn't know he was oscar-nominated. thanx :)

merino, so u like #2... another example of how subjective tastes are :)

At 11:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fav book is 3. Fav movie is 4, though it was a little disjointed. When I think of the movies in isolation, I think 3 was made better. But I think I loved the book so much, the movie didn't match up.

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