| The Red Right Hand
Yes, I work in a bookshop; No, I haven't read any of the Harry Potter titles. Yes, I enjoy the film releases; No, I don't really care about how true they are to the books. Yes, the plotlines are cleverly drawn out; No, Rowling is not a literary genius. Don't get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy the Harry Potter films and look forward to them with a childlike anticipation but this doesn't mean I run around on a broom shouting latin incantations and begging my Mother for a pair of glasses. You see, it's difficult to enjoy (and I use that word very carefully so as not to be branded as a 'fan') The Goblet Of Fire -or indeed any of the films from the series- in any way without being instantly labelled as a geeky Potter nut; Alas these things are unavoidable.
From the opening scene (which resembles the rolling orchestral thunder of a Batman film - note; not John Williams this time round) it's clear to see that Potter's latest adventure will be considerably darker than before, dealing with more adult issues. Following the Warner Brothers Logo we see a crypt of skulls, a python slithers out from an opening and makes its way through the dank, misty graveyard up to the rickety house on the hill. The caretaker, having spied a light coming from the abandoned house, arms himself with a torch and treks up the hill. I won't go on - if you want a more detailed description you could always read the book. As the scene reaches a climax and the caretaker is dealt with, using the 'killing curse,' we cut to Harry writhing in bed and realise it was all just a dream... or was it? Ooooooh. My reason for bringing this to your attention is the nature of the 'killing curse' itself - possibly one of the most important mutterings from a wizard's mouth in this series, namely because it's the curse that Harry Potter survived and Lord Voldemort's signature move. As the caretaker is paralytic with fear he is struck down by (an evil little quasi-human baby version of) Voldemort with what sounds like "Abracadabra." Now, I'm sorry but if it sounds like a party magician's conjuring glib I can't be expected to take it seriously! The actual word is in fact: Avada Kedavra - which I am told means 'may it be destroyed' in Aramaic but this is beside the point.
The Goblet of Fire is considered among booksellers the weakest of the Potter series to date, partly because of its predictability, cliched coming-of-age mannerisms, seemingly pointless filler-events and cheap character developments. Strangely enough, these things generally make for good family action films - in the hands of the right director, of course; that director being Mike Newell (director of the emotionally driven Mona Lisa Smile and Donnie Brasco) who focuses on the characters more than the action sequences - though they work phenomenally well. With characters in mind, we are treated to a host of new names and familiar faces but many seemingly mainstream threads have been dropped - which is understandable for a film of this size. There are two highlights to the new additions, these being Professor 'Mad-Eye' Moody [Gleeson] and Lord Voldemort (not the baby one, the fully restored one) [Ralph Fiennes]. The first is the new defence against the dark arts teacher - of which there seems to be a new one for every film. Before filling the position he worked as an 'Aura,' an Irish wizard (a wizard who happens to be Irish - sorry to be so pedantic but it saves hate-mail from Potter fans) who hunts and captures dark wizards. His many facial scars and eccentricities give the impression of a terrifying and twisted career - making him one of the greatest characters to date (definitely one for Snape fans). The re-introduction of Voldemort was something I had heard about (what I mean by that is someone mentioned the 'showdown' at the end of the book and how everything leading up to it was simply filler) and it was leaked that he would be played by Ralph Fiennes. When these things are announced one can't help but wonder what sort of performance will be given, how they'll choose to present him, etc. Luckily, Fiennes portrays the dark lord with such a manic intensity that you (the audience) become genuinely concerned for this boy of fourteen; finally the name that people have been cowering away from takes form... the only problem I had was the lack of a nose (yeah, yeah, snake nose, got it... still looks odd - although biologically speaking I was always told that a snake's forked tongue acts as a nose, ah well). Menacing stuff, if not eccentrically camp - as most evil villains are. The array of Tri-Wizard faces (and French backsides) gaining screen time are forgettable enough as are the regularly featured cast, the action scenes are spectacular but rushed and overwhelming and more and more we're left with a lasting forlorn impression that so much has been culled for time sake. It would appear that the route film makers are taking is one of big-budget sequels as opposed to sub-plot-loyalty; in other words, I think at this stage, as the books become longer and the plots more intense, the films should be split up and spread out for the sake of the plot, audience and original texts.
For all that is good in this movie there is always a downside, the main two factors that I can find being pace and Dumbeldore [Michael Gambon] The first one is fairly simple; cram a 645 page novel into a 2-3 hour extremely visual film with an audience of both minors and adults - the problems present themselves. Everything speeds on at such a rate that if you aren't paying the closest attention some things are going to slip by you: for example, During a class, Moody demonstrates the 'torture' curse [Crucio for all you little geeks] in front of Neville Longbottom, whose parents (we later discover) were Aura's (the Father, at least - similar to Moody) and tortured by Barty Crouch Jr. until a state of insanity corrupted their minds and are currently being detained in some magical looney bin named after a saint which Neville can be seen mourning over midway through the film in the form of a stained-glass-window.... *pause for breath* - and this is just a tiny thread pulled from the tapestry of madness that is Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire novel [Edit-you have no idea how long it took to figure all that out, the amount of people I had to ask]. I like Michael Gambon, I respect his work and the films in which he has been, having given many memorable performances. Unfortunately for him the public took to the first Albus Dumbledore, played by the late Richard Harris during the first two films. Had Gambon been employed first (a wiser decision considering Harris' age and status of health - diagnosed with hodgkin's disease) we would have warmed to his style but considering audiences we're used to the kindly Father-figure that was Harris the changes in character were attributed to the changes in actor. Having said all that I've been told the performance and delivery was very unlike that of Dumbledore - but this is really reaching for something to complain about.
On a final note, a lot of complaints were made as to the acting skills and credibility of the young leads. I personally thought the little quirks and mannerisms were charming and fitting to both character and plot. You may disagree and find them awfully cheesy performances - you are entitled to your opinion, yet it is my firm belief that with each passing film, each actor displays another quality raising them a bar above other actors of their age - I may have said this purely because they are British but let's assume I didn't and that I am genuine with my praise (namely because giving praise for an actor is as hard for me as a rock giving birth to a tree - or so I've been told).
18th November 2005
The Scene To Look Out For:
I'm going to be a jerk now. Of all the monumental scenes in this film I'm going to go for the one with Gary Oldman - simply because he's my favourite actor and because I feel he was cheated! He should be allowed to do more!!
Moody, has to be. Gleeson is fantastic and his character is so wonderfully written; an insane mentor for the teenage Potter, truly fantastic! His lines were quick, witty and sharp; the deliverance was superb; the CGI on his eyeball was delightful, he was as all-round impressive as Snape was for the first film.
"How could anybody figure that out? It's completely mental!"
In A Few Words:
Another Christmas, another successful Potter blockbuster, another bag of monies for the Harpy of Children's Literature