Friday, April 29, 2011

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

When I first read the Goblet of Fire, it was one of my favorite of the series. This time around, I didn't really want to read it. Its length really hurts it. I was going through the beginning of the book thinking, "they're not even in school yet!" It made me feel like it was going to take forever to finish it. The main problem is, and I'm not the first to say so, that once you've read it before, you realize that everything in it is an over elaborate set up just to get to the end. J. K. Rowling seems to think that you can't just have something show up at an important moment - you must first explain the thing so that it will "make sense" when you use it later. I guess she doesn't want something to seem like a macguffin, but I really don't see anything wrong with someone taking the time to explain stuff either while it's happening or after the fact. Pretty much the entirety of the Quidditch World Cup is set up for later elements of the story, and when you couple it with the fact that I really don't care about quidditch at all, it made this a difficult slog through.

On the other hand, there's one thing that surprised me a little on this repeat reading - the death was still just as emotional. Or, more specifically, Harry's reaction to it. While obviously I was not shocked this time around, reading about how Harry was dealing with the loss was just as painful to read as the first time around. It was much of the same when reading about what happened to Neville's parents. She's certainly an expert at tapping in to human emotion.

This was also the first time I noticed an inconsistency. At the end of the book, she says they are waiting for the horseless carriages to arrive. Shouldn't Harry have seen thestrals already at this point? I just looked it up online, and a wiki claims "Harry could not see them that June because he had not yet dealt with what he had witnessed." Sounds like an excuse to me.

Another minor thing that bugs me - why is the only female competitor the worst at pretty much every task?

As you would expect, the movie made a lot of cuts. There's no flashback sequence of Voldemort killing his father, no Winky, no Ludo Bagman, no veelas (or mention that Fleur is part veela), no Weasley twins losing money to Bagman or receiving money from Harry, no Percy, Charlie, or Bill, no Pigwidgeon, no blast ended skrewts or nifflers, no spider or sphynx in the maze, no S.P.E.W., and no Dobby.

Obviously, bringing back Dobby and creating Winky would have increased the cost of the movie, so I can understand leaving them out. Not to mention all the other house elves had Hermione tried to talk to them in the kitchens. I really hate the whole S.P.E.W. sublot, because I just don't understand what Rowling was trying to go for with this. Is Hermione supposed to look like a fool? Because she certainly does in my eyes. The only thing I can figure is that SPEW is supposed to be sort of like PETA - people who champion the rights of other species but bring it to an unhealthy amount of unreasonableness. Because I can't see that Rowling is trying to say "If people want to be enslaved, let them!" but I could see her saying that "Animals in service who are treated well do not need to be freed." I'm sure someone out there has analyzed this to death already - all I can say is for me, I'm happy to see it not mentioned in the movies.

Overall I think most of the cuts really just serve to keep the movie moving at a fast pace. I stayed interested throughout its considerable running time. There's also a few quick additions/changes to the story, and I love all of them. McGonagall teaching them to dance, finding out that Neville is a great dancer, and Snape punishing Harry and Ron for talking too much during a test are all fantastic. There's more Neville and Weasely twins in general, it feels like, and as much as I love those characters you will hear no complaints from me. I also got the distinct impression that the screen writer was in love with Hermione as a character. She's always the one giving Harry advice or worrying after him, while Ron mostly just sits there with a funny pout on his face, if he's even in the scene at all. As of this moment, I like the movie a lot more than the book.

At this rate I don't think I'll be finished my re-read before Deathly Hallows Part 2 is released in theaters. Oh well. With any luck I'll be in time for the home release.


  1. +JMJ+

    I found the death much more emotional during my purposeful reread last year. Not just emotional, either, but also stark--as many real-life deaths are. We just can't believe that someone who was so alive (or simply alive at all) is now dead; and that's exactly how it hits everyone who knew Cedric Diggory.

    What's really interesting is that despite the fact that we see Cedric again after he dies--as well as other victims of Voldemort--we don't really know what ultimately happens to him. It's the exact opposite of what we get at the end of C.S. Lewis' Narnia books, which lift the "veil" between Heaven and earth (or at least Heaven and Narnia) for us--and I find I appreciate it very much. Rowling's way is more realistic and uncompromising--as well as truer to the story.

    S.P.E.W. seriously annoyed me in the book. (I don't think I found peace with it until Hermione met Kreacher.) There was something about a person who is completely new to the wizarding world criticising an established social structure that, yes, can be abused but actually runs smoothly, with benefits for all parties, most of the time. (Now I'm reminded of all the non-Brits who have made the Royal Wedding an excuse to sound off against the British monarchy and monarchies in general. In both cases, we have something deeply traditional that the critic doesn't entirely understand and should probably shut up about.)

    PS -- Ah, those horseless carriages! =P Yes, I'll bet Rowling just forgot that detail when she wrote the thestrals into the next book. Other Fantasy writers who have had to do lots of complicated world building have slipped up in similar ways. There's no shame in admitting she made a small mistake. In fact, I'd respect it more than the "explanation," which indeed sounds like an excuse!

  2. I remember feeling the absolute starkness the first time around. It's that nonchalant "kill the spare" and then, boom! It hits you like a ton of bricks. The next book is just as bad too, but I guess I should save that for the next review.. :)

    I tried to do a little bit of looking around on the internet just now to see if Rowling had made a specific comment about S.P.E.W. and the point she was trying to make. I couldn't find that, but I found some analysis that suggested that while Hermione is obviously right to want to free slaves, she is going about it the wrong way. They cited the emancipation of slaves in America and the extreme prejudice that followed it. I still think the biggest insult to it, as a metaphor, is the idea that the house elves want to be enslaved. It's like suggesting that slaves are too stupid to understand they are being mistreated, and therefore you have to look out for them.


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