Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Reader's Digest Version

Al, Austen and I went to see the latest Harry Potter movie at the Franklin Institute's IMAX theater last night. Austen was a prince; he watched the first hour, slept for another hour, and then woke up and watched the remaining 45 minutes or so. I was worried that the IMAX presentation would be visually exhausting (that was the case when I saw the third Matrix movie in IMAX), but it really wasn't. Perhaps the domed screen helped with that? I'm not sure.

In any case, I had really low expectations for this film given (a) my love of the incredibly long, detailed books and the voice characterizations of Jim Dale; (b) my experience with the first three films, none of which really capture the stories properly, IMHO; and (c) the fact that this book was longer and more complex than the other three by FAR. The makers of this fourth film solved problem (c) with some serious—and pretty good—story editing. As ratphooey mentioned, the Dursleys and the house elves are gone. Instead of spending huge amounts of time on a few scenes as the earlier films did, this one shows just enough details in many scenes to give you the gist and then moves on. (In fact, that phrase ran through my head the whole time I was watching: "it gives you the gist".)

The Quidditch World Cup takes less than 5 minutes—just long enough for us to see how a portkey works, what a magical tent looks like, that the stadium is huge, that Victor Krum is the Bulgarian Seeker, and that somebody in the vicinity of Harry sent up the Dark Mark. Phew! Done with that. Next! Except for one scene, the whole movie felt like I was watching with the TiVo fast-forward button down, and for the most part, that was a good thing.

The one scene that seemed to be in real time rather than fast-forward was Harry's battle with the dragon in the First Task, and as a consequence, it felt like it was in slow motion. It took far too long, in my opinion—long enough for us to notice (and be annoyed by) the fact that it wasn't faithful to the book. If I were going to devote more time to any one scene, I think it would have been the duel with Voldemort. While the graveyard scene benefitted from moving quickly from the moment of Cedric's murder to Voldemort's re-emergence, I felt a little drama was lost when the wands connected—the very point at which I would expect the drama and tension to heighten. A little patience (and better special effects) would have served the story well there.

Despite the speed—or maybe because of it—I liked this movie the best of the four. The story edits were drastic enough to make it work as a movie and to keep it from competing with my memory of the book. Fred and George are hilarious throughout, we were both delighted to see more of Neville, and the casting continues to be very well done. As ratphooey mentioned, however, it *is* very scary, especially during the Third Task, and I wouldn't recommend it for small children. (Austen seemed to be little enough—or tired enough—not to be fazed by the dark storyline, though he did startle several times.)

Posted by Lori in movies at 12:28 PM on November 23, 2005