Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Re-reading and Re-watching: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Continuing on to the fourth book in the series, I have been re-reading and re-watching the Harry Potter series, after more than a decade, from a different perspective.  I’m much older and one would hope, wiser.  I also wanted to re-read the series for more details of the much overshadowed Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff houses.

I first came across the Harry Potter series right as the Book Four was coming out.  My younger cousin had the first two books with him, the weekend my dad and stepmom got married.  I finished both in no time, found the third book and was all set when the fourth book came out later that year.  Interestingly, the beginning of Book Four does a good job of describing the past plot-lines in the first few chapters, making it seem as though it was designed to bring in new readers right away, setting them up to understand the story, and letting them read the first three books at another time, if they chose to do so.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire gets right into the trio’s growing pains and we experience Ron, Harry and Hermione going through the ugly emotions of jealousy, fear, isolation, awkwardness, and unrequited love.  This book also established the pattern of a heart-breaking death for each of the remaining books in the series.  Book Four launches head-long into puberty and emerges on the other side more mature due to darker themes.

As always, spoilers ahead.


In Book Four we meet a whole score of new characters and the wizarding world is expanded once again to reveal the global wizarding community, the Ministry of Magic, the Death Eaters, the other schools of magic and even more magical creatures such at giants and the merpeople.

Within the Ministry we meet Ludo Bagman, Amos Diggory, Bartemius Crouch Jr and Sr, and Winky the House Elf.  At Hogwarts we meet Mad-Eye Moody, Professor Grubbly Plank, Padma Patil, Madame Maxine, Igor Karkaroff, Victor Krum and Fleur Delacour.  We also meet Rita Skeeter within the wizarding world at large and come across mentions of the Lestranges and the Lovegoods.  Clearly, J.K. Rowling is setting the ground work for additional characters to come.

As far as Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff mentions, Hufflepuff gets more of a spotlight in this book since Cedric Diggory is in Hufflepuff and is the Hogwarts first champion in the Tri-Wizard Cup.  Professor Sprout is finally specified as the head of Hufflepuff and during Hermione’s push for S.P.E.W. we learn the Hufflepuff dorms are close to the kitchens.  Unfortunately, Rowling keeps reminding us that Hufflepuff is extremely sore at Harry competing, since Hufflepuff so rarely wins at anything, and also hinting that Hufflepuff usually loses the most in Quidditch, which makes Cedric the rare Hufflepuff champion. Ouch, J.K., ouch.  Cedric’s father, Amos, is rather a jerk to Harry most of the book, which I guess was meant to temper the heart-break of Cedric’s death.

I can’t really determine why Hermione’s campaign for the societal welfare for the house elves is so prominent, other than to set up the relations between wizards and other magical creatures such as the giants, centaurs, dementors and elves.  This would explain why Dumbledore keeps Hagrid around, as a positive envoy to the giant community, and also what Dumbledore fears about Voldemort that he will ally with the dangerous creatures to wreak havoc that Dumbledore alone in not equipped to face.

  I understand this but Hermione never really talks to any of the house elves when she first establishes her campaign and this just kind of smacks of racial undertones that we experience in real life 
ourselves.  The well-meaning but blatant unawareness of the privileges that white people experience.  I’m not saying Hermione was unaware of wizard privilege but rather than speaking to a house elf about their experience straight away, she just goes to the library.

Voldemort reveals more details than we’ve ever received during the climax, he mentions the powerful magic that protects Harry while he is with the Dursleys and although each of appearance of Voldemort is quite terrifying he still makes the dumb decision to wait a whole freaking year for an absolutely convoluted plan to succeed and bring him Harry Potter in the flesh.  All he needed was Harry’s blood.  He did not have to have him directly in front of him and he did not have to attempt to duel with him.  Duel?!? WTF?  You did not offer a fighting chance to either of Harry’s parents.  Why start with manners now?  And do more research, numb-nuts!  You didn’t know about twin wands?  You could have had Malfoy or Snape be kind to Harry for once and find out more details about him.  So you’d know what to expect.  Ok, rant over.


The fourth film seems to condense and re-arrange characters and plotlines even more so than the previous film, which is to be expected since the fourth book is so much longer than the previous three.  We don’t see Bill or Charlie, Ludo Bagman is entirely cut out and replaced by Barty Crouch Sr., no Winky or Dobby.  George and Fred’s plotline is eliminated, as is S.P.E.W.  There is no mention of Hagrid being a giant and being removed as a teacher, and Rita Skeeter’s role is greatly reduced and we barely see any of the Quidditch World Cup, though the events in the beginning; Voldemort in his father’s house, mirror what happens in the book.

Barty Crouch Jr is introduced from the start and both his role and his father’s role are greatly expanded.  The subplot about his faked death in the book is cut. This makes sense as the audiences that have not read the books would have been greatly confused as to who Barty Crouch Jr is but I still worry that much of the connective tissue of the plotline is still absent since in the book, those details were mentioned but in a film, it would be hard to show, especially the scenes with the Death Eaters and why Crouch Jr.  acts apart from them, why they have their own agenda.

As a result, more characters that we are familiar with get more moments than what was allotted in the book and are really an unexpected joy to witness.  First off, Filch!  I remember at some point watching one of the Harry Potter films and turning to my sister and whispering, “Filch is the best part in the movies.” 

I think that opinion must have started with this film.  David Bradley, who plays Argus Filch, and is also well-known for playing Walder Frey in the Game of Thrones series, very nearly steals the movie in his limited scenes.  Filch does not play the comic relief role in the book, but provides very welcome comic relief during the darkest times in this film.

McGonagall gets more to do, especially in the Gryffindor dancing lesson scene which is not in the book but highlights more of Rupert Grint’s acting ability.  He still eclipses both Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson at this point, but both are maturing and catching up fast as actors.  Some of the harder passages in the book to read are when Harry and Ron are feuding, Rupert makes Ron’s actions subtle and believable.  Daniel just kind of randomly explodes with hatred, there is no lead up.

Flitwick and Snape get to do more, Flitwick even gets a few lines while Alan Rickman’s Snape get to provide a bit of physical comedy.  

Neville has a few beautiful scenes in which he is practicing dancing by himself in the boys dorm room and even stays out the latest for Yule Ball.  Even Seamus, who is normally in the background, shows concern and takes care of Harry after the second task, pulling him out of the water and wrapping him in a towel.  You get the sense that the child actors have really grown up together and are just as close knit as real life classmates or siblings even.

My favorite shots include the beautiful tracking shot in the beginning, as Ginny leads the way to the old boot – port-key, up a grassy hill just before dawn.  She and the boot are silhouetted against a dark cloudy sky tinged with streaks of gold.  

Also anytime we see the Durmstrang ship or the Beauxbaton’s carriage pulled by winged horses.  

Lastly, the climactic scene in the graveyard when Harry and Voldemort’s wands connect, it’s reminiscent of the Star Wars light-saber battle.

Cedric’s death is beautifully done, there is enough weight and time allotted, so that we feel the gravity of the situation.  In the books Harry rarely sheds tears but here in a visual format it was absolutely necessary to witness.  Daniel Radcliffe performs this magnificently.  Amos Diggory is much more agreeable in the film and it’s absolutely heart-breaking to see him cry out in pain.  

This, every time....
 I have to commend the director Mark Newell, for not only keeping the same look from Alfonso Cuaron’s third film and thus making the transfer seem seamless but for also allowing Cedric’s death to move more slowly, even though in the book Moody rushes Harry away from all the others.  Newell also managed to get a more spirited performance from the actors playing Fred and George, than in the previous films. 

Like the book, the fourth film functions superbly as a catalyst for the rest of the series, as Harry responds to Hermione's question at the end “Everything’s going to change now, isn’t it?” “Yes.”  Onto to the next!


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