Hogwarts gets darker
New director brings only pieces of J.K. Rowling's fourth installment to the big screen, cuts the rest
December 5, 2005 —
Anyone who has ever doubted the quality and merit of sequels need only look to the Harry Potter franchise to see that sequels are not always rubbish. Of course, since these movies are based upon the books by J.K. Rowling, the storylines are already perfected well before the movie is even considered.
One thing that flaws so many sequels is the ridiculous similarity to previous installments. Nothing changes in a lot of sequels - even the jokes are the same in some.
Many times, a sequel is made just to capitalize on the success of the original and very little effort goes into making a quality product that differs from the original enough to make it worth seeing.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire certainly differs from the earlier movies. Considering the Harry Potter series is on its third director in as many movies, one should expect to see some variations in the way each of these movies looks and feels. This is especially true with Goblet of Fire.
New director Mike Newell has crafted the darkest Harry Potter movie to date. The film is practically dripping with a sense of foreboding, as right from the start the focus is on dark times ahead and imminent danger. This is a very serious year at Hogwarts, and Goblet of Fire is determined to make everyone understand how serious it is.
What is the cause of all of this seriousness? This is the year that the Triwizard Tournament comes to Hogwarts.
Basically, the entire movie revolves around the tournament, which Harry Potter has unknowingly (and unwillingly) entered into. See, this is a very dangerous tournament where representatives of three wizard schools must compete in events that could cost them their lives.
The idea of such a tournament is outlandish, even in a movie about teenage wizards, but this plot is true to the novel, so I digress.
Also looming in Harry's mind is a terrible dream he has been having. The dream is a vision of the evil Lord Voldemort, who is still the key villain after all these years. This dream of an impending return of "you know who" only adds to the darkness of the movie.
But Goblet of Fire does retain some of the trademark Harry Potter silliness. However, it is not enough to lighten the mood. Overall, this is a very tense trip to Hogwarts.
And this is perfectly fine, to be honest. After all, the best Batman movies are the dark ones. There is nothing wrong with being a bit serious now and then.
But the problem with this Harry Potter is the pacing. What were lengthy and important scenes in the book have been reduced to don't-blink-or-you'll-miss-it scenes in the movie. The Quidditch World Cup, for example, is on screen for no more than five minutes.
Other elements of the story have been cut completely. Anyone who is a fan of Dobby the house elf had better sit down - he is not in this movie at all. In fact, there is not a house elf in sight throughout Goblet of Fire.
Subplots from the book (like the one surrounding the house elves) do not exist in the theatrical version, and many of the regular characters receive little screen time this time around. Sirius Black does not even make an appearance aside from one scene in which his face appears in a fire.
But one character takes up quite a few minutes of screen time: Mad Eye Moody. The new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor is integral to the plot of Goblet of Fire, which is fine for the book, but not the movie.
To be honest, I envisioned Moody to be a creepy, scarred old man. The movie Moody is just too comical looking (thanks to his extremely goofy looking magical eye) to inspire fear. I wish the film's crew had paid more attention to the little details of the book and gotten this character right.
In the end, it is the little details that could have made the movie so much better, yet they were either ignored or were the first to hit the editing room floor. Even though Dobby was not necessary, he would have been a nice addition.
But for better or worse, Goblet of Fire focuses on the essentials of the story. After all, it is the story that must come first.
Hopefully, the next director in the Harry Potter series will tell the story and throw in some of what made the book so enjoyable. That would definitely be a welcome change.