Friday, July 10, 2009

Into the Pensieve

(This is the fourth in a series of retrospectives looking back at the first five films in the Harry Potter franchise.)

I was pumped for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire when it first came out. After my disappointment with the previous installment my anticipation for this film was extremely high, but a little uneasy, though some very good trailers made me a little more calm. Very often though your own anticipation for a film gets you. That was the case with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

Upon my initial viewing of this film, I was met with disappointment. While the film was still just as well made as any of the other Potter films, and in the end it was quite entertaining, it just felt like something was missing from the proceedings. Ever since the film's release when I was 15 years old I've tried to answer the riddle to the question as to why this film felt as if it had something missing. I rewatched it multiple times over the years, hoping that it was just merely a case of the film catching me on the wrong night, but still the end result was the same. Now nearly four years since the film's release, I think I have finally placed my finger upon exactly what was wrong with Goblet of Fire.

Goblet of Fire of course was my favorite book in the series, and it still is, so that is one particular factor as to my disappointment with the film, seeing as how in my eyes no film based on my favorite book of all-time can be just as rich and engaging as the book itself, but that is not the main reason. I've found the two reasons as to why Goblet of Fire just feels so out of place to me, is its style and its lack of humanity.

Goblet of Fire was done in a far different style than all the other Potter films, and this goes for both the visual and audio side of things. The cinematography was more grounded in reality and less fantastical than any of the other Potter adventures. While it has times where it looks similar, the overall representation falls flat. As well the score by Patrick Doyle, while good, is a very different sound than what we are accustomed to seeing with Harry Potter. It is far more epic and less whimsical, leaning more towards Lord of the Rings and less towards Harry Potter. Which leads to the simple fact that I think the tone of this movie was far more epic and ominous then it should have been. There are moments of genuine levity in the book, but they just didn't come through on film.

Though my biggest gripe with Goblet of Fire is simply that the filmmakers lost the characters in all of the epic battles taking place in the film. Any traces of the wit and humanity of the characters from the other films and books is for the most part absent. While the characters do have their moments where they shine and you feel their inner thoughts, there is just plain and simple not enough of it. This reason in conjuction with the one above makes it feel as if you're watching a different film franchise other than Harry Potter, just with similar actors. Though none of this is truly anyone's fault.

The book had a lot of key plot elements that had to be included in the film, more so than any of the other books thus far. The filmmakers could have split the book into two films, but there ultimately is not enough material to do so, so they had to do their best at cramming it all into one film, and in so doing the humanity of the story was lost in the epic scope of the main plot elements. Of course even though I do have my quibbles with this film, it does have its moments.

Goblet of Fire is the only Harry Potter film thus far that can genuinely call itself a blockbuster. It is action packed with pulse pounding action sequence after another. As well the film features some truly spellbinding special effects, certain things such as the dragon and the sequence in the Black Lake are marvels to see onscreen. As well the Yule Ball sequence is quite magical, being one of the few things in the film that lived up to its book counterpart.

When it's all said and done Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is an entertaining film, probably the most crowd pleasing of the bunch, with solid acting from the staple of stars, but as a diehard Harry Potter fan it left more to be desired. While casual moviegoers will undoubtedly love this installment, fans may feel a little left out.

(Stay tuned in the coming days as I will be posting the fifth and final installment of my Harry Potter retrospectives as I take a look back at Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.)

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