Monday, November 21, 2005

THERE'S A WILD MAN, WIZARD, HE'S HIDING IN ME, ILLUMINATING MY MIND: I can't imagine I'm the only person around here who went to see Goblet of Fire this weekend. Nor should I be the last -- while it doesn't bring all the extra oomph of Alfonso CuarĂ³n's take on Azkaban, Mike Newell did an admirable job of distilling the first of the Really Long Rowling Books into a compelling movie.

Unlike, say, Order of the Phoenix, Goblet of Fire includes a certain narrative backbone that must take place in a particular order -- selection of the champions, three tasks, and the graveyard. Everything else is just windowdressing. I approve of every choice Newell made as to what to cut and what to keep. Ditching the house elves? Amen -- perhaps even Hallelujah. Reimagining the cast of characters present for the opening scene so as to make the core plot flow more quickly and smoothly? No problem. Keeping the Quidditch World Cup but making it last all of 3 screen minutes? Absolutely necessary.

Interestingly, what with all the slicing and dicing, the Yule Ball remained a lengthy and detailed set piece. I think this was necessary if there was to be any advancement whatsoever of the interpersonal relationships in this installment, as there was absolutely nothing else going on at Hogwarts in this story except the Triwizard Tournament.

Three other observations. First, my sole directorial quibble: who decided it was a good idea to render Albus Dumbledore a waffling, uncertain old man? Second, seeing a non-matinee showing of a Harry Potter movie during its opening weekend remains one of the few great communal movie experiences. One group shared a bag of Bertie Botts' Beans before the movie started, another circulated all sorts of themed paraphernalia -- it was generally an exuberant crowd who had obviously been awaiting this night for some time.

Oh, and third: among the many (MANY) previews was a trailer for King Kong. I have no interest in King Kong the Man or Monkey as a general matter of policy, but wow, did it look like a good movie. I can't think of the last time that a trailer actually moved me from a NO to a YES, but this one did.

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