I was finally able to see Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire tonight. Great film overall, but my children will certainly not be seeing it anytime soon.
Of course that was quite predictable, given the intensely dark nature of book 4. I thought the scriptwriter and new director did an admirable job telling what is an extremely complex and drawn out tale in 2 1/2 hours. My main complaint was the harsh way Dumbledore treated Harry in the early scene, after the Triwizard tournament competitors were decided. His manner was, in my mind, uncharacteristically harsh and insensitive, and not in line with the Albus Dumbledore we all know and love from the books. I did miss the artistic flair and touch of director Alfonso Cuarón, but I guess it is too much for a director to commit to more than one of these films. (That makes Peter Jackson’s directorship of The Lord of the Rings all that more amazing, incidentally.)
These minor points aside, the story was told very well in the film. The death eaters at the Quiddich World Cup were chilling, and the reincarnation of Lord Voldemort was superbly done. This book and film are so dark– much darker than any of the other books– there is truly a great deal of EVIL portrayed in this movie.
Along that line, one thing I was struck by at the end was the lack of theology which I wish underpinned the fictious world of Hogwarts and the Wizarding World J.K. Rowling invented. The last scene of Digory’s funeral seemed to be set more in a church rather than the traditional “great hall” of Hogwarts we are used to seeing. Stained glass in the background, pews neatly lined up in rows, banners hanging from the vaulted ceiling, and a pulpit at the front from which Dumbledore delivered Cedric’s eulogy. I had a moment of cognitive dissonance at that point.
J.K. Rowling is clearly a wonderful storyteller, and I must say I have deeply enjoyed reading all of her Harry Potter books as well as enjoying the films which have been based on these works of her most creative imagination. Unfortunately, however, Rowling is NOT a storyteller on a level with C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien. In both of the latter cases, a Christian theology underlies all the tales and adventures– all the interactions of the characters and their epic struggles. Rowling does tell a compelling story, and is able to do so repeatedly in her books… but unfortunately there is no Aslan here. Neither is there what Gandalf describes quite movingly and poetically in the Mines of Moria, talking to Frodo, in the following exchange:
Frodo: I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.
Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work, Frodo, than the will of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the ring. In which case you also were meant to have it, and that is an encouraging thought.
Having read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Book 6), my views of both Severus Snape as well as Albus Dumbledore are undoubtedly changed in watching this film about book 4. Knowing what I now do about the future course of events in the series, I do not look at either of them the same. But rather than lament the lack of Hogwarts theology or sorrow over character changes yet to come in the storyline, I will simply enjoy it for what it is: an excellent and compelling story, masterfully told in both prose and on the silver screen.
And I will also look forward to the release of another epic, “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” by masterstoryteller and Christian theologian C. S. Lewis in a few short weeks! 🙂
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