By Miguel E. Rodriguez

Director: Mike Newell
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes, Brendan Gleeson
My Rating: 9/10
Rotten Tomatometer: 88% Certified Fresh

PLOT: A young wizard (Radcliffe) finds himself competing in a hazardous tournament between rival schools of magic, but he is distracted by recurring nightmares.

[DISCLAIMER: This review will more than likely contain spoilers, as well as Potterhead references galore.  I apologize in advance.]

When I first saw this movie, I grieved over how much of the enormously entertaining book had been sacrificed on the altar of box office viability.  Why not make two films out of it?  (Which they did later on with the final book, of course.)  What happened to Winky?  What on earth is going on with the tournament scoring?  (Seriously, try to keep track of it…it makes no sense in the film.)  Where’s the subplot about how Rita Skeeter obtains her inside information?

Watching it again years later, for perhaps the 6th or 7th time, I think I’m a little mellower.  Comparing a movie to its source material is a fool’s errand.  There’s a great story about how, years ago, someone complained to Raymond Chandler how Hollywood had ruined his book, The Big Sleep.  Chandler calmly pointed to a bookshelf, and said, “Well, there’s my book right there.  Hollywood didn’t ruin it.  It still exists.”  (I’m paraphrasing, to be sure.)

So.  Movies and books, apples and oranges.  To quote Carl Weathers in Predator: “It comes with the job.  I can accept it.”

Having said all that, I think the best way to give my impression of the film of H.P.a.t.G.o.F. is to list what it gets right and what it gets wrong.

RIGHT: The second task, involving hidden treasures in the Black Lake.  I loved the look of the mermen and mermaids and the hinkypunks.  This scene managed to captured almost exactly what I saw in my head when I read the book.

WRONG: The first task, involving retrieving a golden egg.  We see FAR too little of how the other contestants fared in their attempts, jumping right past the first three just to see what Harry does.

RIGHT: “Mad-Eye” Moody.  I’ll never be able to read the books again without seeing Brendan Gleeson’s magnificent performance in my head.  That amazing enchanted eye, the facial tics, the glee with which he transforms a student into a ferret…it’s perfect.

WRONG: The Yule Ball.  As it appears in the film, it literally brings the movie to a halt.  It’s all about the interpersonal relationships between Ron, Hermione, and Harry, but nothing happens to move the plot forward.  I can’t help thinking there was a better way to stage this pivotal event.

RIGHT: The events in the graveyard.  I can recall vividly the moment when I read the words, “He was dead” in the book.  I sat up on the sofa, my eyes grew wide, and I exclaimed out loud, “Holy s**t!”  The movie gets this entire sequence right.  As I recall, the graveyard covered two or three entire chapters in the book, and the film condenses it nicely into a 10-minute sequence.  (Approximately.)  It’s the moment, in both the books and the films, when the franchise became much more than “kid stuff.”

WRONG: Snape’s role in the film.  The movie curiously omits the incredibly relevant moment in the book when, after Dumbledore observes the Dark Mark on Snape’s arm, he tells him, “You know what to do.”  And Snape nods curtly and leaves the room.  That comes into play to a GREAT degree in the latter stages of the franchise.  Ah well.

And I’ll leave it there.  I could go on.  All in all, it’s a good film, a great spectacle, and a turning point for the series.  They could have called it, Harry Potter and the Advancement of Maturity.

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