Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire

We are now slightly more than halfway through this project and I have to say, so far so good.  The kids–now young adults–chosen for the leads have proven to be good actors that have made Rowling’s characters their own and even though they may be a little old for the parts by the seventh film, I can’t imagine the producers finishing the series with anyone else. They’ve also been good at casting the supporting roles. Likewise the production values have been excellent. They’ve taken great pains to keep the sets and exteriors consistent even as they’ve changed directors. This loving care is almost unprecedented in the bottom line world of Hollywood.

But with The Goblet of Fire they are heading into a difficult stretch of the story arc. This book and the next one are huge tomes with a lot going on in them. Steve Kloves, the screenwriter had to cut a great deal of Rowling’s subplots to fit the tale into two and a half hours. Consequently, the film feels rushed in places. Practically no time was taken for characterization, especially of the leads. And that’s probably acceptable. Anybody who starts with Goblet in this age of DVD’s and mass media, deserves to be befuddled. But a lot of the charm of Rowling’s world has been lost too. There’s a little of Harry staring at some wondrous magical manifestation, the sort of Rube Goldberg approach to everyday tasks that Rowling excels in devising, but not as many as in the past three films. Harry can no longer afford to be a tourist in this world.

In Goblet, the gang is growing up. Harry must deal not only with the usual travails of young adults–asking out girls, over sensitive best friends, teachers who hate him–there’s also another plot by the dark Lord Voldemort to thwart. Harry comes through all these tests, though not with flying colors.

There are good performances all around. As mentioned, the principles, Daniel Radcliffe as Harry, Rupert Grint as Ron, and Emily Watson as Hermione, turn in their usual sturdy performances.  Michael Gambon, who took over for Richard Harris as Dumbledore in the last film, lacks the deft touch that Harris brought to the role but that really can’t be helped. Brenden Gleeson is suitably excentric as “Mad Eye” Moody, this year’s defense against the dark arts professor. Miranda Richardson plays reporter Rita Skeeter with satiric relish, even though she doesn’t have much screen time. Ralph Fiennes simply isn’t given enough here to flesh out Voldemort. Hopefully, he’ll be given more in the next few films.

Harry Potter is unique in film history. Sure there have been other series, but I don’t think that there’s ever been such care lavished on them. Much of the credit goes to J.K. Rowling who maintains iron quality control over the project. But it still wouldn’t happen if she weren’t working with sympathetic producers and a studio that believes in the project. We should enjoy these films while we can; it’ll probably never happen this way again.

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