Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Potter 4... for the love of money!

Let's talk about something light-hearted...

Well, here's hoping for an extended version on DVD.

As a proclaimed Potter fanatic (along with my 10 year old son) we've been anxiously awaiting the release of movie number 4, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, for almost a year now - counting down the days over the last 3 months.

Not being able to attend during the initial release weekend, my excitement only grew as I watched Potter 4 rake in over $100 million in its first three days, and saw "A" and "B+" critical reviews with such raves as:
"...indisputably the best movie in the franchise thus far."
" may be the best filmed Potter of them all..."
So, last night the time finally came, and there we were, snuggled in our seats, popcorn and Whoppers in hand! Glory Halleluiah!

You can then imagine my dismay when the final credits started rolling and I sat there thinking "That was it?"...

Don't get me wrong, Potter 4 is as well "filmed" a Potter as any. And the cast is as good as ever... well, what you see of them at least.

But, as one viewer commented "Where's the book?"

Obviously the critics who thought this is the best Potter movie yet are the same ones who thought Shrek 2 was better than Shrek – who knows what they were looking at.

To me the biggest question around Potter 4 is how much film was left on the editing room floor?

The Goblet of Fire was the longest of the first four Potter books - and not because it contained the fluff of Book 5. No, The Goblet of Fire was a complex and fulfilling journey with intricate insight and revelation. Potter 4, the movie, developed little of that.

Why? Because Potter 4, the movie, became the most commercialized of the series - because Potter 4 was cut to a "commercially acceptable" 2.5 hours. And The Goblet of Fire is not a story that can be told in 2.5 hours.

This lovely piece of business is done so cinemas can fit in at least one or two extra showings each day - padding their revenues with additional $. There's no other explanation for cutting a film with this much content into a shallow 2.5 hours. Show me the money, baby.

This was the first of the Potter films where I felt "Man, if I hadn't read the book, I wouldn't know a damn thing going on here." And even having read the book, I feel short-changed by the film version.

This movie felt like a combination of a lot of little scenes that were never really fleshed out as they should have been - trying to show that it "knows" the book, but then never painting the complete picture nor being true to any of the individual scenes, nor letting them develop into anything memorable.

I'll give a few examples.

1. Rita Skeeter. In the book this was a huge thread (albeit not an important one). In the movie, she shows up prominently at the beginning and then... poof, never heard from again. Why was she included in the beginning then? Her inclusion, as is, adds nothing to the film.

2. Sirius Black. We see one single interaction. That's it for Sirius?

3. Snape. Why is he even in the film? His part is huge in the book, but here he's onscreen for what, about 5 minutes - tops? Where is the insight into the dark mark and Snape's history?

4. Karkarov. Well, we see him, but... just like Snape, there's so much to his character, in the book that relates to the dark mark, etc. and yet he is truly a nothing in the film.

5. The mermaid task. Sure, some cool effects here - but where is the utter shock and terror the champions felt when they found that it was their loved ones who would die should they not complete the task? They all came out of the water as if they had been out for a casual swim.

6. The Maze. Dumbledore warns "You may lose yourself" in the maze, and we all know the many things that happen there in the book. And yet in the film the maze has nothing more than some vines that grab your legs. Huh?

7. The ending. Probably my biggest problem is the ending - knowing what's coming on Potter 5. What's up with this? Where is the battle between the Ministry and Dumbledore? Where is the distrust of Harry? Where is the sending off of Hagrid to the Giants, the sending off of Snape, the... Damn, there's nothing! This is the key element to the closure of The Goblet of Fire, the fact that there is now a complete dissention and growing rift amongst the "good" wizards.

I could go on, but, that might take longer than the movie lasted itself.

Hopefully when the DVD comes out there will be a 3.5 hour extended version that actually tells the story in some sort of congruous manner. That would be a nice payback for those of us who paid millions to watch a film that really isn't what it could, or should, have been.

Until then, I'll be disappointed in Potter 4... each and every time I go back to see it.



At 1:00 AM, Blogger Bob P said...

A few additional thoughts:

1) I'm sorry - I've tried really hard to like Michael Gambon as Dumbledore, but I can't fake it any more. One key and endearing aspect of the Potter saga is the good Professor's true feeling of caring and tenderness toward Harry, even as he must prepare the boy for the realities he must face. That dynamic was conveyed wonderfully by the late Richard Harris, and seems to me to be absent from Mr. Gambon's current and previous performances.

I think one of the true strokes of genius throughout the Potter films has been their casting, not only for physical characteristics, but for the interpretive sense brought to the roles by those selected actors. The Dumbledore choice, sadly, has become an impediment to my enjoyment of the films.

2) Too bad the final two Matrix films were so bad. No, I'm not off-topic. I was just thinking that if they'd been decent movies, they'd have popularized the idea of one long story broken into two films released within six months of each other, instead of casting an air of doubt on that formula in the minds of the Hollywood moneymen. And, no, the limited indie success of Kill Bill I & II doesn't offset that.

This 4th Potter installment - and its avid fans - would have been perfectly served by said Tinseltown marketing plan. And those moneymen should certainly have known that two back-to-back films of this franchise would have guaranteed a doubling of revenue.


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