Friday, November 25, 2005

Remember Cedric Diggory

Rapid remarks on the fourth Harry Potter

Overall Well directed, well acted (aside from Daniel Radcliff who, as always, is overmatched) and well written. The story, you know, though it has been bowdlerized, not ruined. Fans will be satisfied. Newcomers might be puzzled, and should anyway be referred to the books.

Unanswered: When Harry and Voldermort duel in the graveyard, their wands connect and Voldermorts last four spells, killing spells all, are repeated (Harry's most recent spells, oddly, are not.) In the book, Voldermorts wand spits out the ghosts of the last four people he killed: Cedric Diggory, and old caretaker, Lilly Potter, and then James. According to the wand order, Lilly died first. Yet in SS, Voldemort tells Harry that he killed his father first. JK insists it was a mistake for Lilly to leave the wand before James, and the error (I think) was corrected in later editions. The movie, however, elects not to settle the matter. We can't tell, in the confusion, who emerges first from the wand and Lilly's line from the book about Harry waiting for his father is omitted.

Emotional wallop: My two favorite moments in the series are when Harry draws on the inspiration of his father to save Sirius by conjuring the patronus in POA, and when he emerges from the maze with the body of Cedric Diggory in GOF. The POA moment was muffed in the movie, both because we weren't shown the stag (which represent his father) and because Daniel Radcliff is a god-awful actor. The GOF moment, a much more difficult scene, is handled perfectly. We see the joyful and celebrating crowd slowly realize that one of the two boys is dead, as Amos Diggory rushes to his son's side and Harry wails in a mix of frustration and utter despair. Some of you - especially those of you with sons - will weep. Radcliff's acting in this scene is every bit as poor as his performances in every other scene in which he appears, but at this, the movie's money moment, the director rescues both audience and actor.

Sliced: All sub-plots and color are excluded from this movie. There is no Winny, no Bagman, no Percy, and no Dobby. The trip to the World Cup is rendered meaningless, and we're shown no Quidditch, and no acts of Muggle torture. Crouch Sr's maddness is abbreviated, and his murder is never explained. Also, excised from the movie, and I suppose the series, is Belatrix LeStrange. In the movie it is Barty Couch jr. and not her, who destroys the Longbottoms. Certainly these edits were necessary for the book to become a 2 hour film, Yet without these characters and their moments, the story is notably thinner.

Furthermore: Daniel Radcliff still can't act. Rupert Gint is better. Emma Watson and Alan Rickman aren't given enough to do. The castle is the marvelously creepy place we saw in POA, and not the cheerful funhouse from the first two movies.

And finally: The book's best line - when Dumbeldore tells the assembled students to "Remember Cedric Diggory" - is missing. Dumbledore's final speech, to the best of my recollection, is intact aside from that coda. I don't know why it was deleted, but I am pleased to report that this was the filmmaker's only real misstep.*

Update: Recalled another misstep: During the riot on the campground Harry is knocked unconcious, and he awakens (with no brain-damage. As if.) to see a destroyed and entirely-abandoned camp. Where did everyone go? And, because he needed to become separated from the others, why couldn't he simply have gotten lost in the woods, as in the book?