As you may well have noticed, I am not someone who does liking by halves. Why be ambivalent when you can love something? Why potter along with 'ok'? No one wants ok. And I frankly don't have the energy for ok. Which, as you may well be guessing, means that I'm heading towards one of those blogs about something I love. Brace yourselves. It's Harry Potter time. Again.
I'd been looking forward to the release of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire with almost indecent excitement. After all, it's not like I don't know what's going to happen in the film. I know exactly what's going to happen. I even had the good luck of reading some of the Oxford filming schedule after a copy was discarded in Radcliffe Square. So I knew for definite some of the scenes included. But it remains. I was excited. I was even excited enough to ponder if I could squash a screening in somewhere in the manic three days that included two gigs, a play reading, a belated birthday celebration and a new haircut. Given that I don't have a time turner, I couldn't. But it didn't stop me wishing I could or gazing longingly at every Potter advertisement that appeared on my horizon.
On Saturday afternoon I finally - if finally can really be used given that the waiting period was only 8 days - found myself in the VUE cinema in Leeds, the opening music blasting out at me. And I swear that I was excited enough to whoop. I wanted to be dazzled. I wanted to be able to say 'but ooh, look what they haven't included...'. I wanted enough Alan Rickman screen time to keep me happy.
As it was I managed to get all three (or just about in the case of the last one). I've been progressively impressed with each Potter film - and despite PoA's over-use of the bloody werewolf towards its climax I love the tone and feel of the film which seemed to have sensed some of the depth that the first two had missed. GoF didn't have the kind of decaying beauty that PoA had, but everything seemed to be on a larger, more breath-holding scale. And, possibly more importantly, for the first time I felt that the characters I had in my head were starting to play out on screen. Suddenly Harry and Ron seemed much more rounded and confused. I loved them. And whilst I'm here - Snape. I adore him. I adore Rickman. And I'd been scared that because GoF isn't - in actual mechanical plot terms - very Snape heavy, he was going to be consigned to a few swishy robe down corridor moments. If I was lucky. And I got a bit jumpy early on when I thought that he wasn't even going to get a solitary line of dialogue. Which, when we're talking about Rickman's voice, is a CRIME. I've paid my money. I want to hear the voice. But I need not have worried. And, anyway, this being Rickman, Snape's best moments came when he wasn't talking. If anyone wanted a lesson on how to steal a scene when you haven't got a line, watch Rickman. And, courtesy of understanding Snape more than any of the other directors have, I loved Mike Newell.
Even by my standards I concede that GoF is a long book and I wasn't surprised to see that large chunks of the story had been chopped or re-written. No house elves or SPEW, a major character shaving for Rita Skeeter, no Dursleys and a hell of a lot less Hagrid than in the book (no blast ended skrewts for us). Predictably the Dragon challenge got extended and more dramatic whilst the final maze challenge became somewhat simplified. On the whole, given the nature of the film, the changes worked but it did leave a few plot holes and, if I didn't bring my knowledge of the book to the film I'd have been somewhat at a loss as to the reason why Barty Crouch Snr died, or what the heck was going on with the scoring system for the Triwizard tournament. And there are still the gaps in the bigger narrative that drive me insane. To read the books is to know that you're reading a septology. The films stand on their own much more. As ever with the films they also made it a LOT EASIER TO WORK OUT THE TWIST. Hit me round the head with a bottle of polyjuice potion, why don't you.
But if there is a reason why, ultimately, GoF has proved to be my favourite of the films so far (whereas PoA is my favourite book) it was in how unflinchingly it dealt with its climax. For the first time there is no happy ending. Harry may live and escape Voldie but we get actual death that cannot be overridden. And Newell didn't become squimish or shirk away from this. He faced it head on. And I rather loved that.