November 19, 2005

Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Well, I just got back from the latest entry in the adventures of the boy wizard. I liked it, but I did not find it to be the best one of the series, perhaps that will come with multiple viewings, but not yet. That isn't to say it is bad, it is a solid film, but, like with any movie, it has its flaws.

I have not read any of the Potter books, probably never will. That isn't for any lack of desire. My desire to watch films and television and other visual arts, plus the writing, does not allow me much time to read a book. Perhaps one day the bottom of this hobby will fall out from under me and I will get the opportunity to pick up a book, but until then, who knows. I say this because I cannot compare the content of the film with that of the book, which I am sure many of you would like. Anyway, on to the movie.

My biggest issue with the film is the flow of the story. It feels more segmented than I would have liked, sort of like chapters in a book. That setup can work, but it didn't for me here. The flow is too chopped up, it is like they go through one segment, for example, the Quidditch World Cup sequence at the beginning. The scene opens does its thing and ends, and that's it, we're onto the next scene with not much transition. The cycle then repeats itself. Also, the story doesn't seem to be all that strong, the whole thing plays out as all effect and no cause. Kind of as if they get to the last 20-30 minutes and realize that everything leading up to this is effect and they have to quickly get in the cause. In other words, there's a lot of hurry up and go nowhere. Not enough forward motion as I would have liked.

Now its time to move on to the good stuff. There are a number of interesting scenes that show our characters entering adolescence. The guys obsess with getting a date for a big dance, the relationships become more complicated, their maturity level increases. This leads to our heroic trio having darker adventures, and this one does up the ante in terms of peril, so much so as to rate a PG-13.

The acting is decent, the adults all fill their roles ably, although their performances are more one note through character necessity. The kids, on the other hand, have moments of nuance and moments of annoyance. Some scenes show the kids and the conflict they feel, the emotions play across their faces, other scenes have them just doing the opposite of what they should.

Oh yeah, one other thing that bothered me, and the series in general, is the timing of all the problems. Why do things only seem to happen when he's at school? Do the bad guys just decide to leave him alone for summer vacation? It would seem logical to think that he would be more vulnerable during the summer months when his wizard crew isn't hanging around?

Mike Newell sat in the director's chair this time around, the third director following Chris Columbus and Alfonso Cuaron. He brings a more vibrant color palette to the table than Cuaron did in The Prisoner of Azkaban. He does a good job at bringing some of the set pieces to life and directing some excellent quiet character moments. I still don't care for the choppy, chapter like staging.

There is something else that struck me while I sat in the theater. I was hit with the thought of the cult-like legions of Potter-heads, those hardcore fans eager to snap up anything with his name on it. How can these people dedicate themselves so ferociously to a single franchise? I am sure they like other things to, but the rabid abandon some fans go after these things is hard for me to fathom, and this goes for other franchises too, it isn't limited to this one. There are way too many films that I want to see to limit my mindset to just one. But this is really a talk for another time.

One final note before closing, a comment which will be of no consequence in a couple of days. Is the box office draw dropping? Usually big film openings like this one draw packed houses, things like Star Wars, Spider-Man, and Lord of the Rings. This theater was nowhere near being sold out, is interest dropping? I don't think it will reach the $90 million opening weekend predictions. Although, I am sure it will still do fantastic.

Bottomline. I know, I know, I did not delve too deeply into the story at hand, but despite wanting to write about the film, I was not inspired to tell the story. I plan on seeing this in IMAX as well, perhaps then I will report more on the story? Anyway, the main thing you should take away from my views is that it is a very entertaining film, but not the best Potter. It will entertain you and it moves briskly, despite it's 150 minute runtime. This is well worth your time.



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