Before we suffer through “Goblet of Fire”
I’ve never seen Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which makes it unique among the Harry Potter films. Before I ever picked up a Harry Potter book, I went to see Sorcerer’s Stone, Chamber of Secrets, Prisoner of Azkaban, Order of the Phoenix, and Half-Blood Prince in the theatres, the last of which encouraged me to read the series before the films ruined all the surprises for me. But without the books to keep the plots fresh and sensical, it was like I never saw any of them at all. While Sorcerer’s Stone stuck with me slightly (Harry’s a wizard!), the rest simply washed over me and made few impressions (as was made clear when I tried to predict where the story was going while reading). As an added bonus, without the key plot points of Goblet of Fire, the fifth and sixth films made no sense at all. I watched the pretty pictures dance across the screen last summer, but I didn’t really grasp what the heck was going on.
That said, I’m sure I saw five of the six films. As I read the books, fuzzy images from the films flashed in my head. They weren’t enough to figure out where the plot was going, but they confirmed that sometime long ago, I’d paid $10+ to sit in a crowded movie theatre, inhaling buttered popcorn and prying my feet off the sticky floor. I even had vague memories of seeing at least one film at the midnight release (maybe Order of the Phoenix?), because I recalled judging each and every person who showed up dressed as a wizard, complete with broom (or in the case of one amazing gentleman, complete with Swiffer Mop). Yeah, it was easy to judge from my comfortable place as a non-fan. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
Reading Goblet of Fire was a little like reading Deathly Hallows – I had no context for it. Save for the spoiler that Cedric Diggory would meet his untimely demise at some point in the story, I had no idea what to expect in the least (and that spoiler only popped up when I leaned over to my friend during Half-Blood Prince and asked if Edward Cullen was in this film). Even as the plot unfolded, nothing seemed familiar. I didn’t have a single visual. Nada! Zip!
So it would be logical to conclude that I’m really looking forward to watching Goblet of Fire. Why wouldn’t I be excited to see what this mysterious film looks like?
Well for starters, I’ve heard absolutely awful things about this particular installment. Just atrocious things. Things that would make a Death Eater cringe.
Back in the days before I gave a lick about the Harry Potter series, I sort of laughed at how uptight fans got about the films. Every time someone whined that a “very important scene” was presented differently or left out entirely, I rolled my eyes and muttered under my breath “What do you expect? It’s an adaptation. Relax!”
“Whaaa! Whaaa! The director took liberties. Boo hoo! The film isn’t an exact regurgitation of the books. Gasp! Sob! I’m going to go cry in my butter beer.” I just couldn’t understand what the big deal was.
I still think that there is absolutely no way to redo a book perfectly on film. Something is always lost or changed. That’s the nature of the process. But now I’m a little more protective of the original work. I know what I want to see and how I want to see it, and if that’s not what I see, I may be seeing red.
There’s a lot about Goblet of Fire as a book that’s odd. The story jumps right on in with the death of Frank Bryce, a character we do not know yet in a location we are not familiar with. This uncharacteristic opening continues with the Quidditch World Cup, which keeps us away from Hogwarts far longer than usual. When we finally get to the school, we’re introduced to Beauxbatons and Durmstrang, inundating the story with a whole new slew of young wizards. And from that point forward, the story pretty much centers around the Triwizard Tournament, which is a complete break from normal life at Hogwarts. Even the Moody/Barty Crouch Jr. plot twist is unpredictable and borderline pushing it. The whole book is weird. Not bad. Don’t misunderstand me. It’s not a bad book – just an unusual one.
Maybe I’m trying to give Mike Newell the benefit of the doubt. If I can punch some holes in the source material, I won’t feel so compelled to punch holes in him after seeing the film. It’s a faulty strategy and it won’t work, because J.K. Rowling is always right and the filmmakers are subsequently questionable, but you can’t blame me for trying.
I’ll be watching Goblet of Fire tomorrow night. And just for a change of pace, I will be blogging while I do so.
I won’t be posting each comment as it happens – that would result in an ungodly number of blog entries. But I’ll post the whole log, in order and with the appropriate time stamps, when everything is said and done.
That is assuming I’m still conscious after slamming my head against the TV in utter exasperation.
Yeah, I’m keeping my expectations low. From this point, I can only be pleasantly surprised.