Rewind Reviews: Harry Potter 4-5
Today we continue our struggle with magical adolescence with Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix.
Goblet of Fire marks the part of the book series where the books suddenly double in length and complexity. As such the movies begin to suffer because they have much more material to cover, and many scenes become muddled and shortchanged, if not left out entirely. In my opinion these two movies are the worst of the series, the only ones I would not deem ‘great.’ They have too much story to cover and lose the charm the books and all previous and subsequent movies have.
In Goblet of Fire, Harry is forced to compete in the Triwizard Tournament, a fierce competition between three wizarding schools in which contestants must overcome three fierce magical tasks and outshine their opponents to be declared Triwizard champion. Harry did not enter his name in the competition, one because it is impossible for anyone under the age of 17 to do it, and two, by now he is just so freaking tired of action and danger in his life. “Oh bother, ya know, just my luck,” he pouts, dejectedly closing his textbook as he heads off to battle a dragon.
On top of dragons and mermaids, Harry must deal with finding a date to the Yule ball (since being The Chosen One and a Triwizard champion makes him icky and undesirable), a shocking appearance change in Hermione, a creepy teacher with a magical eye that can probably see through clothes, and the unprecedented return of Moaning Myrtle, his deceased ex-lover.
The movie goes all out when it comes to the tasks and the climax, but swiftly glosses over almost everything else. Plot? Who needs that, when we can linger on the fact that Neville doesn’t know how to dance for another ten seconds? I suppose every important plot point is addressed in some degree, but it leaves no time to marinate before rushing to the next, a problem I imagine audience members who did not read the book (“muggles”) struggled with. The first two tasks were very enjoyable. I love the expansion of the first task, in which the dragon breaks free of his chains and chases Harry to fight on Hogwarts’ rooftop. A very wise cinematic decision that made that scene the standout of the movie. However, other more important scenes were reduced to chopped liver. Most notably was the Quidditch World Cup, a scene that was so vitally pivotal to the book series but leaves almost no impression in the movies, forgotten as soon as it is over.
I guess my opinion doesn’t matter anyway, because apparently you have to be an adult to properly understand Harry Potter. A kid’s series. Riiiight. #personalrant
I will admit that the very first and last scenes of the movie are excellent. The opening scene, accompanied by a new version of Hedwig’s theme, sets the series’ transition from happy-go-lucky to eerie perfectly. There was much alarm as Goblet of Fire raised the rating of this kid’s series to PG-13, but the mood and maturity change was beneficial to the series.
The final scene of the movie is one of my absolute favorites. It contains this unforgettable line:
Hermione: Everything is going to change now, isn’t it?
Yes, yes it is Hermione. Perfect delivery. Perfect mood setter for what is to come.
What exactly is to come, you ask? Apparently an uprising from Hogwarts. At least that’s what Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge and new Hogwarts professor Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton) seem to think. Order of the Phoenix finds Hogwarts under the tyranny of this crazy Ministry hag, as the wizarding government is doing whatever they can to assure the magical population that Lord Voldemort has not returned, despite Harry’s insistence he did. A group of wizards resisting Voldemort known as the Order of the Phoenix has once again banded together at Harry’s urgance, however they refuse to let him participate in their affairs. So incompetent are adults, Harry realizes, that he soon decides to take matters into his own hands, inadvertently playing into Voldemort’s.
Along the way Harry must deal with expulsion from the school, a squad of students bent on giving Harry detention no matter the cost, and the latest in the long, dangerous line of pets owned by Hagrid.
You’re not supposed to compare movies to their book counterparts, but to me it’s difficult not to when the movie based off your all time favorite book is as disappointing as this. The book is the series’ pinnacle; by far the most complicated and lush addition. It is the novel that strives furthest away from magic and deals with real life issues. Politics, rebellion, conspiracies, adolescence, dependence and independence all blend together seamlessly in the story.
The movie isn’t capable of reproducing the book’s complexity. Every scene forges on with relentless indifference to excitement or emotion. In most parts it verges on dour. All action scenes are dangerously underplayed. Where was the thrill in Mr. Weasley being eaten alive by a giant snake? The movie somehow takes that scene, drains it of all suspense and excitement, and leaves its empty carcass there to dangle. It’s passive. It might as well have been removed from the script entirely, for how much it added to the movie.
The movie’s climax is its greatest offense against the series. I wish I could just pretend it never happened. What consisted of three massive chapters in the book was reduced to a few minutes of dodging collapsing shelves in the movie. Maybe I’m biased because it is my very favorite scene of the series. But the thrill of discovering Lucius Malfoy lurking in the shadows, the sense of hopelessness of six kids verses thirty adults trapped in an underground government experiment chamber was just not present in the film.
The movies’ tone shifts were meant to reflect Harry’s maturing and darkening world, but the kid wasn’t dead. These adaptions were huge letdowns for me and their book counterparts.
Do you agree that these two movies were low points for the series? Or am I wrong, and Goblet of Fire is a beautiful transition from child to adulthood that I’m just too inexperienced to comprehend yet? I guess I have yet to experience my “Cedric Diggory” moment. (I got into a Potter fight recently. I’m bitter, sorry.) Leave a comment. Talk about whatever just leave a comment.