Sunday, October 4, 2015

RE-READ: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling my first read of Harry Potter many years ago, this was my favorite book in the series and I think it’s easy to see why.   It’s the first chunkster of the series at 734 pages and so much happens in those pages.  There’s the Quidditch World Cup, and the Tri-wizard Tournament which introduces other magical schools and a whole wider world of wizarding.  This is also the book where things get real.  At my local library this is the book where the series starts getting shelved in Young Adult rather than children’s fiction.  The death of Cedric Diggory was shocking and devastating on my first read.  Rowling lets us get to know him and we like him.  He's a good and decent person and young, the apple of his father’s eye and then he is dead.  People say George R.R. Martin isn’t afraid of killing people but Rowling in her way is just as brutal. And of course Harry meets the real LIVE Voldemort in person for the first time and the struggle he is up against becomes very real as well.  So this book represents a definite turning point for the series on top of all the adventure and happy mayhem.   It will be interesting to me to see if it holds onto the top spot by the end of my re-read. 

- As I mentioned this is where the books start getting longer.  It feels like the books were popular enough at this point that the publishers were like "J.K., you write as long a book as you like!"  I am perfectly happy with this, though there is at least one book of the last 4 four that could have used a little heavy editing. 
-Characters introduced:  Rita Skeeter, Madame Maxine, Karkaroff, Victor Krumm, Barty Crouch, Mad-eye Moody, Fleur DelaCouer
- My re-read is seriously making me dislike the character of Ron and wonder why on EARTH J.K. put him and Hermione together?  He's not a bad friend to Harry despite his petulant jealousy in this book but he could not be less supportive of anything Hermione does and is constantly sniping at her.   Most of the arguing he and Hermione do in this book isn't even in a “I like you and don’t know how to express it way” but frequently in an annoyed or patronizing way.  He says things like “They enjoy being enslaved” about the house elves which how am I supposed to like him after that (not that anyone is much better)?  In this installment he is also so shallowly obsessed with appearances and fame (Victor and Fleur).  Basically he’s an idiot and perhaps relatively typical for a 14 year old boy but Jeez! 
- Speaking of Ron being a jerk, there is he and Harry’s fall out.  While Ron's feelings and behaviors are immature, the issue of what it is like being Harry Potter's best friend really needed to be addressed.  It's amazing that no jealousy has flared up before quite frankly.  Being Harry's best friend can't be easy for Ron and for that matter he kind of floats in the shadow of both Harry and Hermione so it was only a matter of time before he rebelled.  It was a good way to get it out of the way.   
-S.P.E.W.:  This is a really problematic story line for me mostly because NO ONE thinks what Hermione is doing makes sense – not even folks like Hagrid.  Ron is openly disgusted by it.  Hermione is not trying to take away the house elves work, she is simply saying that they should be rewarded for that work as any human would be.  I get that most folks, out of guilt or shame, may avoid dealing with it but folks like Ron, Hagrid, Fred and George are openly derisive and hostile to the idea  and there is no resolution in this book.  There are a lot of story lines in this book and this didn’t really serve any purpose besides giving Hermione something to do and making everyone else look like gigantic assholes.  I honestly can't remember where this ends up going in the series  - I'm sure J.K. isn't making a case for slavery - so I guess I will re-visit later in the series.  I was just really surprised how little support Hermione gets for her campaign.
- I am very curious about the sorting hat and which houses people get put into.  Hermione, while she certainly is brave, is equally clever - so why not Ravenclaw?
- I love  how the character of Neville develops and that in some ways his story is harder and more heartbreaking than Harry’s.  Harry also has to face how unfair he has been to Neville - never asking him about himself and his family and not even thinking about seeking his help with any of the tasks.  
- Floods of tears at the end of this one. Just floods.  The loss of Cedric, the betrayal/overall douchebaggery of Fudge, Fawk's and Mrs. Weasley’s sympathy and compassion for Harry and the Weasleys wanting to take Harry in, Snape’s unflinching readiness to do something completely dangerous and terrifying (this is more apparent on a re-read, knowing what he is agreeing to), the standing cheers for Diggory and the tough talk that Dumbledore gives the students.*sobs*
- Jim Dale’s reading was particularly good for this book.  Although he does pronounce certain names oddly like  - "Uh-Lester" instead of "Al-i-Ster" Moody.

FINAL VERDICT:  I still really love this book and can't imagine it being rousted from the top spot.  It effectively marries the lighter more charming tone of the earlier books with the grimmer more serious tone of the later books.  Plus, I love the tri-wizard tournament stuff and Voldemort's return is suitably dramatic and emotional.  5 out of  5 stars!


So I feel for the filmmakers on this one.  This is a long book and there is so much that happens.  Trying to fit all of it in a 2.5 hour film must have been a real challenge.  I'm sorry to say that with this particular film they did not meet the challenge.  It's not a very good movie, at least for someone who is a fan of and has just read the book.  It's choppy and too condensed so that it misses out on a lot of what makes the book so fantastic.  There are also some changes that don't make a lot of sense to me like turning Beaux Baton and Durmstrang into single sex schools which serves no purpose besides perhaps allowing for the dramatic entrances of the schools' students.  They also added a couple of small things which I liked because they give Neville some color (dance lessons and him coming in from the dance late) but which seems indulgent when they're cutting and slashing everywhere else.  It makes me covet a Harry Potter TV series.  The first few books may only need a 3-4 episode series but once you get to Goblet of Fire you could have a 10 episode series that would really give the book room to come to life. 

I'm not sure I have anything else very profound to say about the movie except to outline all the things I wish had been included.  There's no Ludo Bagman, no Bill or Charlie Weasley, no Percy Weasley for that matter, no Dobby or Winky.  They completely change the Barty Crouch and junior story line and I'm not sure it works as well as in the book.  All the boys in the film inexplicably have really long shabby, unkempt hair - no idea why.  Emma Watson's acting is back to being a little stilted and forced after I thought she had improved in Prisoner of Azkaban.

There are a few things that I liked of course.  Viktor Krum is quite a bit more attractive than how he is described in the books which makes me happy for Hermione.  She deserves to be coveted by hot boys:0).  The scene when Harry comes back with Cedric after the third task is well done; very emotional and effective.  It's fun seeing Robert Pattinson and David Tennant before they were quite the thing.  

FINAL VERDICT:  Being that this is my favorite book of the series, this movie was perhaps always destined to not work for me.  The movie struggles to handle all the books content and doesn't quite succeed in capturing the magic of the book.  3 out of 5 stars.

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