Saturday, November 19, 2005

HARRY POTTER & THE GOBLET OF FIRE - a lesser movie than the sum of its parts

The new HARRY POTTER movie is a decent enough 2 and a half hour version of the novel and if you like the novel no doubt there is some charm in seeing it up on screen. It is fun to see Harry nervously asking out Cho Chang and to finally catch a glipse of evil Lord Voldemort. But if you are not a fan of the books you will probably be bored by the unrelenting gloom of the surroundings and the uncomfortable mix of a corny high school romance and a far darker gothic thriller. This strange mix of the cute and innocent and the far grittier core story is, of course, evident in the book itself. But over a sprawling mass of 600 odd pages each strand has a bit more room to breathe and the contradictions are not so evident. In the movie, the mood swings jar. Most notably, in the penultimate scene we have the long-awaited clash between Voldemort and Harry. Nasty things happen and they are shot with authenticity and acted with conviction. When Harry emerges from this harrowing encounter we feel that he has been through something that is literally terrible. But he emerges into the cute Olde Worlde Hogwarts, with cute friends, kindly wizards and floppy scarves. This return to Enid-Blyton-land subverts the preceeding emotional intensity.

Overall, this is a good movie in its parts. It is well acted, well shot and while I found it over-long it is hard to see where the editor and screen-writer could have cut it down without losing key plot points. But put together I find the tension between the two story strands untenable. Presumably this tension will only get worse in the next two movies as the body count increases. This raises the key question of how suitable and indeed enoyable a movie this will be for kids. The classic horror movie tropes are all in evidence, and as the kids get stuck in a vicious maze at the end, I half expected Jack Nicholson to come bounding out with an axe. More practically, 2 and a half hours is a long time for kids to sit still. The movie has been given a 12A certificate which puts the responsibility with parents to decide if their under-12s are up to it. I would advise extreme caution.

HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE went on global release yesterday.

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