|We resisted all things Harry Potter for a while. We scoffed at the people who waited in line for hours to buy the books at midnight. We giggled at the losers who went to opening night screenings of the movies dressed as wizards. We rolled our eyes when friends expressed disappointment that we hadn't heard of Quidditch. We even came up with a name for the obsessed: "Pott-heads."
And then some bastard friend convinced us to read the first book. It was good. We read the rest of them and then started watching the movies. Eventually, our interest in Harry Potter somehow reached the point where we felt compelled to see Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire on opening weekend. Not opening night. Not dressed up. Not even really remembering the names of all the minor characters. But at the rate our geekery is progressing, check back around the seventh movie; we might just be wearing a hand-crafted Sorting Hat to a premiere.
Of course, there's really no shame in being swept away by Goblet of Fire. It's easily the best of the Potter books, and it makes a very fine transition to the big screen, a pretty remarkable feat for a text that clocked in at well over 700 pages and required severe cuts to bring it to manageable cinematic length. Those dismissing Potter as a series of kid's stories need to divest themselves of that notion right now; Goblet of Fire is dark. There are nasty critters, scenes of violence, and a damn scary Death Eater signal in the sky. Good people die. And although Harry Potter thwarts an attempt on his life, the forces of evil otherwise pretty much kick the stuffing out of the forces of good.
Large portions of the book were cut outright and others greatly simplified to hone the story down to its most important elements: the Tri-Wizard tournament, a competition of severely dangerous tasks undertaken by representatives of three major wizarding schools; the return of Voldemort, the dark wizard who killed Harry's parents and countless others; and Harry's and Ron's hapless search for Yule Ball dates. With most of the movie focusing on these primary elements, it comes across as a taut, concise thriller.
And lest you think it's all doom and gloom, the movie also, surprisingly, turns out to be the funniest Potter movie to date. The humor is a welcome relief from the darker portions of the movie, even though all the laughter makes it that much harder to take some of the tragic events that occur in the film. Particularly amusing are Harry's experience with a not-so-nice mail-delivery bird and best friend Ron's mortifying practice dance with professor McGonagall in front of the class.
As good as Goblet of Fire is, it isn't completely without faults. Some of the supporting characters probably deserve more development, as do subplots that are begun and are then seemingly abandoned (forgivable offenses, in that we really do understand that distilling the essence of a massive book into an entertaining movie is profoundly difficult and was done very well). The character of Fleur Delacouer seems to exist solely to scream piercingly, and it's most unfortunate that a movie series featuring the intelligent, resourceful, and generally kickass character of Hermione Granger added a stereotypical, useless damsel in distress this time around. And what is up with Michael Gambon's portrayal of Dumbledore? That character is supposed to have warmth and grace; Gambon makes him abrupt and violent. Could we arrange for a resurrection of Richard Harris, please? All these are minor quibbles in the grand scheme of things, though...Goblet of Fire was one of the most enjoyable movie-going experiences we've had recently.
One last thing. All you hard-core Pott-heads out there who keep bitching all over the Internet about how much this movie sucked because Hermione had a pink dress instead of periwinkle blue one? Please get a friggin' life.
Ignatius J. Maul