Sunday, November 20, 2005

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Just got back from seeing the new Harry Potter movie. My first reaction, in brief: too much Michael Gambon. Not enough Alan Rickman or Ralph Fiennes.

Longer version: The movie seemed rather rushed throughout. Understandable, since Mike Newell was trying to cram a seven-hundred-page book into a two-and-a-half hour movie, but I don't think anyone who hasn't read the book would have a clue what was going on. On the other hand, I guess Newell didn't feel a need to cater to the four of them.

More importantly, Newell seemed to focus on some of the teen-romance-y and slapstick comedic elements at the expense of drama. The conclusion of the movie, after Harry returns from his confrontation with Voldemort, was cut stunningly short; but the Yule Ball was dragged out beyond all reason. Several of the most dramatic and important scenes of the movie—the entire World Cup, especially the confrontation with the Death Eaters at the end; the lesson about the unforgiveable curses in Moody's class; Harry's experience in Dumbledore's pensieve—were so hurried that all the impact was lost; and the conclusion felt like the director decided he was out of time and just had to throw something on to let the audience know the movie was over.

The other major disappointment of the movie was Michael Gambon's portrayal of Dumbledore. I'd read complaints that the Dumbledore of Goblet was too angry, which I thought were silly. Dumbledore's anger is mentioned several times in the books; he's supposed to be terrifying when he's mad. And that's what got to me. Gambon's Dumbledore always seemed excited, agitated, on edge; he spent a lot of time yelling and fuming, and never seemed to have too much self-control. The sense of composure and confidence that Dumbledore radiates throughout the books was completely missing; at the same time, his anger didn't seem very impressive. Gambon just doesn't seem to have the raw presence to carry Dumbledore off properly.

But the movie did get one thing, the most important scene, spectacularly right. Harry's entire graveyard encounter with Voldemort was creepy; and Ralph Fiennes has the presence that Michael Gambon lacks. At his first entrance he channels Darth Vader; a minute in he's radiating power and evil in the way Lord Voldemort should. You really feel that this guy can command respect, and that most people would be terrified of him. If only the climax weren't marred by a completely inept conclusion, I would have walked out of the theatre thrilled.

Bottom line: the movie's worth seeing. It's not spectacular, but some of the effects are good (Harry's fight with the dragon is pretty cool), and the showdown with Voldemort is well worth the ticket price.


Blogger McAfee said...

It might have been better for you to have seen the movie before reading the book.

November 30, 2005 5:06 PM  

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