Saturday, November 19, 2005

HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE

Don’t just skip right over this thinking it’s my latest rant against all that is Potter. Quite the opposite, in fact. I really, really liked this movie. It’s not perfect, and I’m not suddenly the world’s biggest Potter fan, and no, I will not be reading the books (but that’s got more to do with that I just don’t read), but I did enjoy the hell outta this movie.

My only hesitancy in reviewing this is I have no knowledge of the source material, so I don’t know what to credit to Rowling or to screenwriter Steven Kloves, who penned the last three flicks as well. But in any case, someone involved in the writing process does one hell of a job juggling the various plots going on in the film. Everything feels like it matters equally, be the ominous threat presented right from the beginning, Harry’s participation in the Tri-Wizard Tournament, or even the romantic subplots brewing underneath. Whereas so many action/adventure movies this year threw in a completely uninteresting romantic subplot (HITCHHIKERS, BATMAN BEGINS, FANTASTIC FOUR, THE ISLAND), GOBLET OF FIRE really used it. Obviously, by the time Harry really gets in the shit, nothing else matters. That’s fantastic adventure storytelling – making every moment seem more immediately important than what preceded it.

And never letting up – never give your hero a break. Think of the worst possible thing he could go through, and do it. That’s what makes a movie like this.

And the flick moves like hell. In its two-and-a-half-hour running time, not a second is wasted and I never FELT the length like usually happens with many of that length. Doesn’t make them bad, but for a movie like this, you gotta keep your audience IN it.

And here was my biggest thing with Harry Potter in the past, which is really a personal problem – I never can treat any sort of fantasy as FUN. Comedic relief, fine, but when you’re dealing with magic and all these dark forces, it should never feel like a good time out in the park. The two just don’t link up for me.

So what this did so well is keep the wonder and the magic (not abra-kadabra, but the magic of the story and the imagery), but not make it SILLY. There really aren’t any wacky characters or situations thrown in. Sure, the larger context is that Harry is wrapped up in this game, but it never really seems like a FUN game. People DIE in these, after all.

The games, by the way, are fantastically realized. And here’s where I really credit director Mike Newell. The dragon sequence is a great chase scene. The underwater scene is simply beautiful. And that maze scene…pure suspense. Truly great suspense fantasy.

And the graveyard. When you have this much action and suspense throughout the entire movie, and it builds to something that TOTALLY pays off, it comes off so amazing. Look at Luke and Vader’s battle in EMPIRE. This was the closest I’ve seen to a meeting like that since. It’s every bit as horrible and incredible as the whole flow of the movie built it to be. Anything less would have been so underwhelming (Evidence A: PRISONER OF AZKABAN). And even though I knew nothing of Voldemort or the like, the second Harry sensed it I knew something had gone horribly, horribly wrong. So due credit to not only the writing staff but to Daniel Radcliffe, who overall does fantastic work here.

My problems with the movie are few and far between. The rock music in the dance scene really took it out of the world that was otherwise left entirely intact. Ron and Harry’s bout feels unfounded, and resolves itself with no actual fallout. And as far as I can tell, short of getting pissed at or worried about Harry and Ron, Hermione never really seems to have any problems, and acts mostly as the traditional fallback female role as the voice of reason. That, despite this, she remains a solid, real, and compelling character throughout says a lot for actress Emma Watson.

Right now, this movie's around 11th on my favorites for this year (I've seen 42). However, this is my favorite adventure film this year (unless you count WAR OF THE WORLDS), which I think says a lot in a year with BATMAN BEGINS. So yeah, for those of you who didn't already see it this weekend, I highly recommend it.

Oh, and the Superman trailer is incredible.

2 comments:

Nancy said...

Yes, Harry Potter is incredible. Glad you liked it Scott. And yes that rock music and the moshing was really terrible.

Anonymous said...

Don't even think about it, Alex.