Tuesday, January 10, 2006

In which Matt concludes his Reviews of recently-watched Movies, and includes another Review, for Good Measure

Review: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and "Lazy Sunday"

I promise, this is the last review for a while.

The general consensus in the Harry Potter fan world (which is either disturbingly or inspiringly well-developed, depending on how you see it) is that GoF was the best Harry Potter movie so far. Now, I've shirked my duty as a fan of the series a bit by not having seen the movie version of Prisoner of Azkaban. (The first two were mostly faithful to the books, and generally well done. I have no complaints about them.) But GoF did a very good job; most of the scenes in the movie were exactly as I envisioned them in the books (eg, the maze at the end of the tournament), a few were wildly different (eg, the Yule Ball), but in all cases they made sense and were enjoyable to watch.

Now we turn our attention to the Lord of the Rings Book Page-Film Hour Relation Axiom. Basically, if you watch the extended versions continuously, that's about eleven hours of (very good) cinema. Now, accepting the fact that the extended versions of the movies omit very little from the books, and noticing that Lord of the Rings is approximately 1100 pages, you have a nice 100 pages:1 hour relationship. Goblet of Fire was, what, 700 pages? The movie certainly was not 7 hours long, so you get to thinking, what exactly was omitted?

One think I noticed right away was no SPEW subplot, and that was perfectly fine with me. That was an interesting aspect of the book in that it detailed a bit of Hermione's character, but it certaintly wasn't essential to the plot, and not wanting to make the movie a three-hour-seven-minute extravaganza (viz. King Kong), it made sense to omit that particular bit of the story. House-elves are irritating anyway.

And speaking of irritating, nothing is more irritating in the world of Harry Potter than damn Draco Malfoy. From what I gather, Draco has an extensive fanbase, and for what reason I cannot tell. He's one of the shallowest characters in the series, serving only to torment Harry; aside from that (except for in the 6th book, where we begin to see traces of complexity emerging from him) he seems to have no purpose. I've got believability issues with him as well. We've all experienced our share of people that just don't like us, general jerks, and the like; some have been unfortunate enough to have been bullied. Draco is beyond a bully; he's just an asshole. Nobody is that mean, and aside from the fact that Lucius Malfoy is probably among the handful of most evil characters in the series, there is no good explanation for Draco's overwhelming enmity towards Harry. At any rate, there is blessedly little of Draco in GoF, which is certainly a welcome omission.

One omission that I do take issue with, however, is that there is too little Snape in the movie. (I've discussed the character of Snape ad nauseum with my friend Samantha, and most of this narrative is based on those discussions. Let the inspiration credit be given where it's due. She will be exceedingly happy to learn that I have grown to appreciate the character.) Snape is by far the most interesting character in the series for two reasons. First, he treats Harry like Harry should be treated: as a student at Hogwarts, rather than as some Messianic savior come to ransom captive Hogwarts. He's the only character in the series, with the possible exception of McGonagall, that treats Harry as such. Yes, Harry is a special person, but that doesn't exempt him from the rules.

Secondly, and more importantly, Snape is the only character in the series who is morally ambiguous. (In D&D terms, he's the only character whose alignment we do not know.) The entirety of the rest of the HP universe falls squarely into one of three categories: people who are clearly on one side or the other (Clearly good: Dumbledore, the Order of the Phoenix; clearly evil: Voldemort, Lucius Malfoy), people who we think are on one side or the other but that turns out to be wrong (Sirius Black), and people who honestly don't care about one or the other side and are only in it for themselves (most of the Ministry of Magic). There's no uncertainty with any of those characters, but Snape is different. Even at this late stage in the series, we still do not know Snape's alliegance, if in fact he has one. It would be a master stroke on Rowling's part to make him simply out for himself, in effect playing Voldemort against Dumbledore with no stake at all in the good vs. evil battle except for personal survival. I don't think this is going to happen, but at this point there's no preponderance of any evidence pointing to Snape being either good or evil. And that, more than anything, makes him an interesting character.

But aside from a lessened focus on Snape, the movie was a very good one. The fact that I can only think of a handful of omissions from the book tells me that the movie preserved most of the important parts. And the movie was not only accurate, but entertaining as well. Definitely recommended if you're a fan of the book series.


Now, Saturday Night Live seems to be unduly cyclical. It has its stretches of amazing funniness, stretches of painful dullness, and everything in between. After the brilliance of most of the 1990s (see Celebrity Jeopardy, Norm McDonald on Weekend Update, and pretty much every recurring sketch from 1992-1994), the past few years have been decidedly uninspiring. So when my dad and I were watching the other week and came across "Lazy Sunday," we were stunned. If you haven't watched it, do so as soon as possible. Here's the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch.php?v=zLElfJ9YCh0

A bit of useful background information: The Chronic is the name of an early 90s CD by Doctor Dre. Because it featured a marijuana leaf on the cover, "chronic" became slang for marijuana too.

I hope you enjoy this comedic masterpiece as much as I did.

1 comment:

EsterC said...

Um, you did mean that Draco is a void surrounded by a sphincter muscle, didn't you? -- EsterC