Ok, so I loved Goblet of Fire.
However, I loved it in a Shining way.
Because they butchered the book. They left out most of it; key characters, key plot lines, key developments. They whipped past things like the Quiddich World Cup and the Pensieve so quickly as to make them fairly irrelevant. They cast Rita Skeeter brilliantly and then did nothing at all with her, leaving out the entire reason she was in the book.
There were casting issues as well. Fleur Delacour should be impossibly, breathtakingly pretty. The actress who played her, despite the adorable name of Clémence Poésy, is just sort of average looking. Cedric Diggory was also an average-looking boy. Ginny Weasley, also needs re-casting; it’s obvious in Half Blood Prince how important she is, and we need more than an average looking girl with mousy-brown hair to play her. How can anyone even notice her next to Emma Watson, she’s growing up into quite a little heartbreaker?
But you know, it all seemed not to matter much when I was watching it. The film looked so fucking good, and the action was so well done and so well paced, that I was almost gasping for breath the entire time. This is certainly the best any of these films has looked, and has the best effects.
Basically, what Newell (the director) seemed to have done is said, forget trying to pack the whole book in, let’s just make a movie that’s cool and fun to watch. And he nailed it, without question.
Yet the problem with this is that Rowling’s books are so dense, so complicated, so rich in characters, names, history, mystery, and magic. You can’t just strip them down and keep what makes them so brilliant. It’s not just about a few kids in a school, it’s about events and people who shape the entire magical world. This is an entire culture, almost a universe that she’s developed.
So while I was loving the movie while I watched it, the more I think on it, the more it bothers me. While certain characters were given plenty of screen time, or made fantastic use of the time they had (Fred and George – god, I love these guys), where the hell was Mrs. Weasley? Where was Charlie, the rock star of the family? Where was Siruis Black (Sure, in the fire, but dammit, he should have more than two minutes screen time!).
I think it was a huge mistake to try to make one movie. They original plan was to split it into a pair; there was enough material for five or six hours of film, certainly, and with editing, you could have had two very good hours of movie. For some reason, though, Newell chose to make one instead. I’ve never heard what his reasoning was, but I have a hard time buying that it was a good idea.
This book, in many ways, is the hinge-point of the series. It’s where things turn serious; it’s where they go from being kids to being young adults. It’s where the romantic relationships are born, and it’s where we see the forces of evil begin to gain ground. So much of the next two books is set up in this one that you really need the side-plots, in many ways.
I walked out of the theater thinking this was the best movie of the four so far. And in terms of just making a movie I think it is. Yet, for all that I think it’s ok to make a great movie by not doing the book right (look at Jaws or The Shining), this is one case where you can’t just make a movie. You’re making an installment of a series, and you’re bringing to life a great mythos. You have to do more than make a movie, you have to maintain that mythos. I am not sure Mike Newell did that.
But what the hell. It’s damned fun to watch. And I’ll see it again. It is a good movie, if we don’t pay too much attention to what’s missing.