Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Pottered Out

Finally watched Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire a couple nights ago, and after all the build-up, I was just slightly disappointed.


The last hour or so of the film grabbed me and didn’t let go, but up until that point (the second competition – the underwater one) I was viewing with something of an “Eh…” attitude.

The first two Potter flicks bored the bejeezus out of me. They were both so lacking in amazement, wonder, life and spark, and what was most tragic was you could see the potential for all those traits beneath their digital surfaces.

Then Prisoner of Azkaban came along and changed everything I thought I knew about the series. I loved Azkaban in a big, expansive way. It was the movie I’d hoped the first two might be. Suddenly the series was about something more than just spells, talking paintings and pointy hats. The movie was so damn mesmerizing that it even proved David Thewlis still had something left in him as an actor, which I’d long since given up on seeing.

I’d heard great things about Goblet, but I knew - despite all the praise - the odds were against me grooving on it like I did the previous installment. And I was somewhat correct, but hopefully that wasn’t simply due to me thinking I would be. The first hour/hour and a half hummed along in a largely inoffensive, unengaging way. Make no mistake, it was scads superior to anything in either of the first two installments, but still a step down from the movie I felt raised the bar.

All the teen angst stuff fell sort of flat for me. I get why it’s there and I see that, in the ongoing story, it serves an important function, but I hope we don’t get too much more of it in subsequent movies.

But then that underwater sequence came along and freaked me the fuck out. Would Ron, Hermione and the other two kids who’d been tied to the lake floor really have died if they hadn’t been discovered and saved? How did they get there in the first place? What the hell was that all about!?!?[1] Craziness. The Tri-Wizard Tournament really was as dangerous as Dumbledore implied early on; I just didn’t expect innocent bystanders to get swept up in the competition.

And by the time “he who must not be named” showed up, I was pretty enthralled. Ralph Fiennes' acting beneath the makeup and digital artistry is stunning. I’ve always liked him as an actor, and he’s one of those guys whose talent seems to often go overlooked. I'm one of the few people who even kinda likes his John Steed.

Lastly, there’s a matter of a certain actor who these days is busy playing Doctor Who #10. I knew David Tennant didn’t have a large role in the film, and I sure wished he’d been given more to do. But what he did accomplish with limited screentime was as far away from the Doctor as anything I’ve seen him do (and I have seen him in a couple other things - still waiting to see his take on Casanova, however). That tongue darting back and forth was pure sliminess. Noteworthy tidbit: Roger Lloyd-Pack (Barty Crouch, Sr.) will make an appearance in an upcoming two-parter in the second Who season/series.

Potter Movie Watching Tip of the Day: Wikipedia is an outstanding resource for someone like me who’s never read the books and needs a little help filling in occasional gaps in the movies. You can click your way into oblivion and find out pretty much anything you need to know about the characters, the spells, the plots, and so forth by simply typing in Harry Potter (or indeed any character or concept you're wondering about). Then click any given blue link that looks as if it will enlighten. After a while, you start to feel like you’re in that maze from the end of Goblet of Fire.

[1] I should probably look this up on Wikipedia.