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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Goblet of Fire redux

I braved the elements and saw it last night. It's a wonderful movie for various reasons and I highly recommend it to those that are curious. I won't give any of the plot details away, but I will say this, it's incredibly well-paced (from slow and intimate to fast, big and loud) as it covers all the important plot details that will be paid off in the next few movies. I couldn't believe how much from the book they put into the movie and how surprisingly it didn't feel rushed at all. Thinking about the other Harry Potter flicks along with certain other book/comic book-to-film adaptations that have come out in the last few years, I think it's safe to say that movie studios "get it" after decades of not getting it.

What is 'it' you ask? 'It' means making the film as close to the book as possible but adding some different touches for a better effect. Case in point, The Goblet of Fire is the first extra-long Harry Potter book and a page-by-page film adaptation would be at least five hours long. Instead, certain smaller plots are slimmed down or completely trimmed out to make for a sturdy 157-minute running time. This way, the time just flies by as so much goes on.

Before for the first Harry Potter flick was made, there had been talk about essentially butchering the book's plotlines for a film version. Apparently, there was talk of taking the biggest action scenes from the first three books and throw them into one film. Then there was talk about Americanizing the whole story. Thankfully, none of this happened and the films are what they are: great films for a wide variety of people that make a killing at the box office and on DVD. They keep us excited about the next film in the series as each sequel improves on the last one.

There has always been a struggle between making artistic statements and going for commercial gain. Artists want to be faithful and original while companies with loads of money want to play it safe so they can harbor the delusion that they'll get all their money back. By thinking outside of the "play-it-safe-by-making-it-stupid-for-the-lowest-common-denominator" model, smart, intelligent blockbusters like the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Spider-Man movies and the Harry Potter movies come out. The more you engage the audience by hitting on a lot of emotions (from making them jump to warming their hearts to making them cry), you have something that is dense and watchable over and over.

Since the industry thrives on the DVD market, it helps to make movies that are watchable over and over again. Giving these movies royal treatments on DVDs with extras out the wazoo only helps the enjoyment. Now I'm not saying the film industry is in the clear here; they still make plenty of terrible movies for the lowest common denominator. I was reminded of this before The Goblet of Fire as a couple of trailers made me roll my eyes in disgust. Movies with big stars doing lamebrain slapstick and saying moronic one-liners made a number of the audience members laugh. I'm sure they'll watch those movies over and over again and get something strong out of it for years to come . . .

Yes, I'm a little harsh and a tad arrogant here. My tastes have turned me into a bitter old man that sits alone and doesn't want to be bothered while I watch a movie. Sometimes I think I should not be like this but then there are times that justify such behavior. I enjoy certain movies and certain books. When I feel like dense, profound and relatable stuff is put into them, I feel like the creator is being faithful to his or her voice and is not going for the proverbial "brass ring." I don't think you can intentionally get the major studios to have your ear by gambling on a formula. Like all things in life, you stumble upon that kind of influence by doing what you want to do, doubts be damned. This kind of mindset is something that can last a lifetime; not just the amount of time spent watching or reading.

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