The Underground Lake #30: Forced Perspective: A Look at Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

by Brandon

This is Brandon signing back on, bringing you another new episode of The Underground Lake. I have no real old business, so let’s get right to it.

Like you all, I have seen Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Since its green light, there has been a lot of controversy among Potterphiles. How can they fit 728 pages into two and a half hours? Why is Barty Crouch, Jr. in the Riddle house? Where the heck are Dobby and Winky? Where’s Ludo Bagman? Where are the Dursleys? These questions and many others had Potter fans entering this movie not knowing what to expect. What I got when I left was something special. I submit for your entertainment and consideration: FORCED PERSPECTIVE!

IT BEGAN IN ’01

It was Book Four that got me. I liked Book Three okay, but it was Four that blew me away. Suddenly, there was real depth to the characters. They were making complex and ADULT decisions. Not to mention, Book Four contains THE MOST CLEVERLY ORCHESTRATED KIDNAP TRAP IN HISTORY! That was the most exciting bit. I LOVED Moody! He was and still is my favorite DADA professor. When that turn happened, I was floored! I could not conceive that that man could betray me in that way.

The other huge moment was the three little words that changed absolutely everything:“‘kill the spare.'” To me, you guys can have Sirius and… you can really have Dumbledore, too. The saddest and most heartbreaking death of them all was Cedric Diggory’s demise. Sirius and Dumbledore were grown men who knew what they were getting into (true, Dumbledore was still weak from the potion, but if he had enough power to sustain both a Wingardium Leviosa and a Petrificus Totalus on Harry for over 10 minutes, he could’ve gotten away – he just chose not to because he knew he had to die). Cedric touched that cup having no idea that the cup was the culmination of an 11-month plan to kill Harry. He was defenseless. He was an innocent child who, based on what we know, never did ANYTHING wrong. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I hope from this then you can gather my reverence of Four – it is the best book. So… it was with extreme trepidation that I sat in an IMAX theatre at midnight waiting for the film version to start. How does one take 728 pages and condense it to two and a half hours?

MY THOUGHTS ON THE MOVIE

BRILLIANTLY, that’s how. I have, at this point, seen it twice. A rule I have with both HP and Star Wars is this: the first time is sheer experience, and the second time is with the actual discerning eye. Let me tell you, I am very particular when it comes to my favorite book. I had finished my reread (like most of you) the day before it opened just to refresh myself on some of the richer details. Let’s address what was missing first:

  • – Ludo Bagman and the whole Weasley twin scam
  • – Winky and the fact that Harry’s wand was used to conjure the Dark Mark
  • – The fact that the Death Eaters were AFRAID of the Dark Mark
  • – BERTHA JORKINS, anyone?
  • – S.P.E.W.
  • – My absolute favorite moment between Harry and Ron when Harry chucks the “Potter Stinks” button and gives the fantastic line: “…maybe now you’ll have a scar. That’s what you want, isn’t it?”
  • – Rita Skeeter calling Hagrid on front street as a half-giant.
  • – The fact that Rita Skeeter is an Animagus.
  • – ALL of the obstacles in the maze
  • – THE DEMENTORS KISS OF BARTY CROUCH, JR!!!
  • – The fact that Harry can resist the Imperius curse.
  • – The exciting Dumbledore vs. Fudge political debate in the hospital wing.
  • – THE CALLING OF THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX!
  • – And perhaps the most memorable and important line of the “Remember Cedric” speech: “REMEMBER CEDRIC DIGGORY!”

For the die-hard fans in the Potterverse, the absence of these is an infamnia, as Don Corleone would say, but here means ‘unforgivable’ (wow, I sounded like Lemony Snicket). I realize that most of us could have tolerated a Gone With The Wind-sized epic that was a strict adaptation, and I promise if I get to direct Seven, (which would be my dream), I will do my best to make it so. However, believe it or not, Warner Bros. did not make this movie just for us. They made it for everyone, and not everyone knows or cares who Bertha Jorkins is (she’s not even actually IN the book, aside from her shadow). The important bit is that unlike the almost unforgivable absence of the Marauders back story in Prisoner of Azkaban, most of these absences do NOT detract from Books Five and Six and, presumably, Seven. In fact, some of the changes I really enjoy. I love the exclusion of Dobby and the substitution of Neville in regard to the second task. This change brings Neville into more prominence and in light of what we know about him in Book Five, this change is absolutely essential to show us that Neville is here to stay.

The only issue I had was the Dementor’s kiss or lack thereof and the subsequent argument between Dumbledore and Fudge. This removal strikes a serious blow to the heart of Book Five, which is the fact that Dumbledore must now fight a war on two fronts. And if Germany taught us anything, it is DON’T FIGHT A WAR ON MULTIPLE FRONTS. I think I have rationalized that, but I’ll get to it later. As for the end, what exactly happens to Barty Crouch, Jr.? Does he go to Azkaban? They don’t exactly spell it out, though an interesting touch was that lingering look that TFPWWNBN gives him. Was that the tiniest hint that perhaps there is more to TFPWWNBN than meets the eye?

…BUT WHAT I LOVED WAS…

As a film student and a future screenwriter, I definitely say this was the best of the four. While it didn’t have the visual panache of Alfonso Cuaron’s beautiful style, the content was all the way there. Dan Radcliffe has really stepped his game up, leaving me no longer worried as to how he will do in the MOST emotional thus far of the series, Order of the Phoenix. And if I may make one plea on his behalf to some of the less adept film reviewers: comparing Daniel Radcliffe to Macaulay Culkin as far as child acting abilities go is irrelevant and an unfair comparison. Culkin has been acting since he was five and has played a huge variety of different kinds of characters and was in 12 movies before he could legally drive (and he was SOOOO creepy in The Good Son). The boy hosted SNL when he was ELEVEN, for goodness sakes. Dan Radcliffe has been in Tailor of Panama and the Harry Potter films. He’s played a grand total of TWO characters in his life (in movies, that is). Give the kid a break.

The vast difference between Rupert Grint and Ron Weasley that I have noticed over the past weeks has solidified Rupert as one dang good actor. If you have seen interviews with the trio of late, you’ll notice, Rupert BARELY talks. He’s much more reserved and calm and tends to observe. Ron, however, manages to steal his scenes as usual with the perfect witty remark. I especially love how he handled the rift between Ron and Harry. Who else was shocked to hear him say, “Piss off”? I know I was. I think if he stays in acting, he’ll be like the new go-to funny British guy. Unfortunately what I just realized is that aside from the ‘Harry vs. Ron’ bout in Four, the books have thus far never really given Ron a dramatic moment. Ron is a deep character, but Ron’s instinct is to always go for the joke rather than deal with the magnitude of the situation. Hopefully, Seven will give us a serious turn from Ron, because I would love to see what Rupert Grint does with it.

I predict Emma Watson will become the new Keira Knightley once Keira Knightley stops being the current Keira Knightley. In POA, Emma showed us her acting stuff and she continues to shine in GOF. Particularly potent was her overwhelming concern for Harry. She has shown a side of Hermione I felt absent in the previous films: that mothering tone. To me, Hermione and Harry could never “get together” because Hermione acted too much like she should be his mother. The similarities between her and Mrs. Weasley (in personality and not looks, thank God) toward Harry are almost palpable. I about fell out of my chair when she told Harry to go bed after the Yule Ball (and did she not just throw a delightful fit at Ron and then cry just like a girl would?). An interesting effect the movies have that the books don’t is something Roger Ebert said in his review. He said that based on the movies, he always assumed that Harry and Hermione were supposed to get together just because of how much time they spend together. Looking back at the movies, especially Three and Four, you see that is truly the case. Those two spend way too much time together to be “just friends” in the movie. The effect of the books is that we are inside Harry’s head in a way we can’t be in the movies. Harry makes it clear as early as POA that he has NO eyes for Hermione.

But look at me going on and on about the trio. They were awesome in the movie. Let’s address the other things. Moody… LOVED HIM!!! There’s a reason he was my favorite DADA professor. And here’s something that just dawned on me: Moody asks Neville about the Cruciatus Curse and then performs it in front of him, causing him to freak out. I can’t believe with ALL my HP wisdom, this is the first time this dawned on me. There was a fiendish glee in Brendan Gleeson’s eye during that scene and then it hit me: BCJr WAS IN THE ROOM WITH THE LESTRANGES! If we are to assume that Barty Crouch, Jr. was in fact lying when he told the Wizengamot that he was being framed for the torture of the Longbottoms, then he was actually with the Lestranges and was complicit in the torture of Frank and Alice Longbottom. Neville was standing a foot away from one of the very people who took away his parents and watched him torture an animal (which looked like no spider I’ve ever seen on Earth) in the same manner that he tortured his parents… OH SNAP!

The teachers were up to their usual standards. I have to say that though I love the Alan Rickman “Snape” (notice I said “Snape”, because there is a vast difference between the Alan Rickman rendition of “Snape” and the literary character TFPWWNBN – the Alan Rickman “Snape” is not yet complicit in the murder of Dumbledore therefore he is not at fault… YET), they are severely falling behind in the scope of his evil. Though the “smacking the trio” scene was hilarious, it was not nearly the level of supreme meanness that is TFPWWNBN. By this point in the novels, TFPWWNBN was livid at Harry’s escape from expulsion in Book Three, thus compounding his hatred and open hostility toward Harry. If they intend to do away with most of the Marauder storyline (which I feel they will and will get to a little later), then basically we have a kinder gentler “Snape.” But I just realized something! If they pursue this course with “Snape” in the films, then when we get to movie six, those who have seen the movies and not read the books will receive the shock of all time. “Snape”, the delectably evil, yet subtly charming Potions master, is in fact Dumbledore’s murderer!! It’ll be so shocking in that respect. Therefore, forget almost everything I just said. Go Alan Rickman!

Two words: RALPH FIENNES!!! Oh SOOOOOOO evil. By the way, anyone else completely disturbed that they actually showed Wormtail cutting his hand off? In any case, I have seen the face of ultimate evil, and it is the face of Ralph Fiennes. So wonderful was his turn as Voldemort that it is sort of sad that Voldemort is only at the very end of Book Five and not in Book Six AT ALL. I wanna see more Voldemort. He looked exactly as described though as with most things, not at all how I imagined him. I always treated Voldemort when I read the books as I treated the monster on LOST. I never want to see it; I just like to know it’s there. So I have never truly conceptualized the physical figure of Voldemort. He was always just an entity of evil. Ralph Fiennes, however, lived up wonderfully to that entity of evil and now I cannot wait to see him and Michael Gambon go toe-toe in the ministry. Speaking of Michael Gambon, I now wish to address the universal question…

RICHARD HARRIS OR MICHAEL GAMBON?

My best friend Lesley and I are on opposite sides of this great battle among HP fans. Fortunately for me and unfortunately for her, I have an editorial column and she doesn’t, therefore I get the last word. I love Richard Harris (rest in peace), yet even when it was assured that he would be Dumbledore forever, he was always Grandpa Dumbledore. He was the Dumbledore that explained everything at the end of all the books (except Book Six for… sigh… obvious reasons). But when JKR described Dumbledore’s burst through the door to Moody’s office in Book Four and “radiat[ing] with power”, where she, in effect, gave us a preview of the Dumbledore of Book Five that laid the smack down in the Ministry, I could never see Richard Harris credibly do that. But Michael Gambon, to me, is perfect because in relation to me he’s old, but he’s so youthful and vibrant. I knew it when I saw POA and he was RUNNING up the stairs to the Fat Lady’s picture. RUNNING! This 150-year-old man had the youthful exuberance and energy to RUN up stairs two at a time because of the urgency of the moment.

I see Dumbledore in the same way I see Yoda. He should look old, but not feel old. To me, Dumbledore shouldn’t look old until the end of Book Six when he’s hanging on to his last bit of power. Michael Gambon has yet to have to handle one of those lengthy Dumbledore monologues where he explains a crapload of info to Harry about everything that has happened (but which he WILL have to at the end of Five). I can, however, picture Michael Gambon in full form, going toe-to-toe with Ralph Fiennes in the Ministry, hurling spells, ducking and dodging objects and fire and spells, basically kicking butt. And while we are on the subject of OotP…

HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX – THE MOVIE

As a screenwriter (or rather, a future screenwriter), I know as the filmmakers do that the task of adapting OotP into a movie is going to be SOOO hard. Unlike GOF, which had so much to be cut (if you took out every instance where JKR explains something that happened in Books One through Three, you could take out 150 pages right there), everything in OotP is SO interconnected that a lot of things are going to have to be condensed and changed. Here’s my thinking:

– Because they took Harry getting in trouble with the Ministry out of Movie Two and the fact that he is blatantly doing magic outside of Hogwarts in the “faux-porno” scene in Movie Three (“Lumos Maxima” my eye… you aren’t fooling anyone, Alfonso Cuaron), I think the entire ‘Harry-on-trial-with-the-Ministry’ storyline will be cut. Because of this, we can easily alter Umbridge’s origin…

– Umbridge – she will still be Ministry-appointed but for a much better reason than the stupid Educational Decree. When we reflect on the fact that Dumbledore’s last four appointments have been: 1) Voldemort in disguise, 2) a useless faux-wizard, 3) a werewolf, and 4) a Death Eater, perhaps Dumbledore is not the best person to hire DADA professors. The Ministry will decide to step in with Umbridge. She will still become the Hogwarts High Inquisitor since they kept in GOF the fact that “the Ministry did not want [Dumbledore] to [tell how Cedric died].”

– No Arabella Figg. No Mundungus Fletcher. The question is: Dementors, yes or no? On one hand, the Dementors are Umbridge’s dirty little secret, and the DADA teacher must always have his – or in this case – her dirty secret to reveal. I think they’ll do “Dudley Demented” minus the Ministry expulsion. The Dursley episode will be there, I think, but it will be much shorter and will not be “funny” like the previous Dursley episodes. In fact, I think as soon as Harry returns with Dudley, the Advance Guard will come to get him and take him immediately.

– The issue of Sirius. In order for Sirius’s death to have the impact it does in the book, Harry has to have a LOT of moments with Sirius. They really need to hit Sirius’s isolation and the fact that he and Harry are so alike and lean on each other. They must spend a LOT of time together to make this work.

– I have always wanted to be Kingsley Shacklebolt as, aside from Dean and Lee and that random black kid in POA, he is the only other black guy in the series. However, aside from being just a cool character, he isn’t particularly necessary to the plot. That brings me to the Advance Guard. The only people we need to see – those that appear elsewhere – are Tonks, Moody, Lupin and Kingsley. I think those four (and you can lose Kingsley, if necessary) will be our main Order of the Phoenix members. Now, as Lupin talks to Harry in the Ministry when Sirius dies, I think he has to be there, as does Tonks since it is her fighting and losing to Bellatrix that puts Sirius into the action. However, Moody is negligible. He adds richness and I would want to include him, but if they took him out, I’d understand.

– Percy storyline… gone. They can mention him in passing, but there is no need to dwell on it. I’d lose it altogether.

– The Prophecy – In adapting an HP movie, the smartest move is to focus the overall story on one thing and lose everything that doesn’t play into that. In GOF, the overall story was the desperate plot of Voldemort to use the Tri-Wizard Tournament as a means to kidnap and kill Harry. With that in mind, things like SPEW, the Quidditch World Cup, Krum and Karkaroff, Rita Skeeter, and the whole half-giant controversy with Hagrid fall by the wayside. That said, I think the focus of OotP should be the Prophecy and Voldemort’s plan to retrieve it. Emphasis story-wise should be put on:

  • Harry’s dreams – two kinds of dreams: the nightmares of Voldemort and Cedric in the graveyard and the journey to the Prophecy. Also, Harry’s dream that Sirius has been kidnapped.
  • Occlumency – I think there should be only one Occlumency lesson… the horrible first one where it is explained and then Harry tries it and is horrible at it. I do think that like the Patronus scene in Movie Three, at the end of the Occlumency lesson, Harry should finally go into TFPWWNBN’s mind and see flashes of Snape’s memory, and subsequently do away with the Pensieve scene altogether. By doing this, you pay homage to the Marauder stuff left out of POA while giving us the tiniest taste of “Snape’s Worst Memory,” as well as the fact that, a few times, Harry did actually succeed at Occlumency.
  • The Prophecy itself – hopefully they don’t reword it like they did Trelawney’s prediction in Movie Three. Nevertheless, the obtaining of the prophecy as well as Dumbledore’s subsequent explanation are necessary if we going that route.

– Dumbledore vs. The Ministry – I think the contention with the Ministry must be played down a bit. I think Umbridge’s presence in the school can stand for all of that Ministry presence and the mention of – but not dwelling on the educational decrees – can help with that as well.

– Umbridge again -I think we only need the very first DADA lesson. Subsequently, we need Harry’s detention. I will be LIVID if Harry does not have “Detention with Dolores.” I better have my “I must not tell lies” scar or somebody is in trouble.

– I really want to keep the firing of Trelawney because it is HILARIOUS… but it isn’t necessary. However, we have to fire Hagrid. We have to fire Hagrid so that McGonagall gets attacked and is forced to leave the school. It is necessary because when Harry has the dream, he must have no one except TFPWWNBN to go to in the fire.

– Kreacher – I think we need to keep Kreacher so that he can tell Narcissa Malfoy that Harry cares about Sirius so that she can tell Voldemort and ‘yada yada yada’… Sirius is dead.

– No trial for Harry? – We need to get Hogwarts and the trial slows us down, but Harry also has to go to the Ministry. Perhaps that means he might need the trial. I personally say scrap it but he does need to go so that he can see the layout of the Ministry of Magic. Or… change what I said earlier and have the Advance Guard escort him to an emergency hearing at the Ministry right after “Dudley Demented” and then take him to 12 Grimmauld Place after the trial. I like that. A lot of what has to go is the ‘passage-of-time’ stuff.

– I might cut “Christmas on the Closed Ward,” though we do want to see Neville and his parents, if Harry goes straight to 12 Grimmauld Place, then he can spend more time with Sirius, thus prepping us for his death as I said above.

– I really want to keep the great Weasley twin escape, yet going with the Prophecy idea, it somehow doesn’t really fit. Since I’m cutting “Snape’s Worst Memory,” that eliminates the Weasley escape.

Okay, this is getting grossly out of hand and I don’t have my book. Look for a future installment on this issue. I now really want to reread OotP from a screenwriting perspective and figure what to cut. You see what happened when I just tried. Imagine how the filmmakers feel. And to all the people who were miffed about GOF, look at what I just tried to do with OotP and put yourself in the shoes of Mike Newell and Steve Kloves.

THE WHEELS ARE IN MOTION!!!

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