As I mentioned at the beginning of yesterday’s post, I didn’t get into the Harry Potter series until the first three books were already out – though I think Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was still in hardback. Because of that, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire has always held a special place in my heart since it was the book that really launched me into the fandom. In fact, it was the first (and as far as I can recall, only) midnight release party that I went to, though I did work the one for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows seven years later.
The movie version of this story has been a particular favorite too as it came out in 2005, the year I was studying abroad at Oxford, where many of the buildings were actually film locations. There was even a Harry Potter club that sorted us into houses and organized a special screening of the film before it was officially released to the public (we all squealed every time we saw a place we recognized – “That’s New College!!”). On top of that, my girlfriend L was kind enough to join me in Leicester Square for the world premiere and we still laugh about how I climbed onto the shoulders of some random guy to see over the heads of the crowd, and how my weaseling skills ended up getting us about four rows back from the front. I even remember seeing Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) and Robert Pattinson (Cedric Diggory) in their velvet jackets.
Needless to say, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire will always be my ride-or-die, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have a few critiques now that I’ve revisited both the novel and film.
Overall, I enjoyed the book version of Goblet of Fire just as much as I remembered. Of course, I had completely forgotten about Hermione Granger’s Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare (S.P.E.W.), as it is completely written out of the movies, and didn’t realize that Dobby the house-elf gives Harry the gillyweed instead of Neville Longbottom, but for the most part, the story was familiar. And, having read all seven books once before, I was more attuned to the foreshadowing that J.K. Rowling weaved throughout the text.
Indeed, I didn’t really have too many complaints until I got to the movie version, where it seemed like much of the story had been left on the cutting room floor or rewritten altogether.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I totally understand that these films are “based” on Rowling’s books, which means that changes are inevitably going to be made. And as each successive book was longer than the last, it’s only natural that each movie omits more and more things.
Plus, it’s not like these changes really hurt the story – having the Weasleys, Harry, and Hermione sitting in the nosebleed seats (movie) instead of the top box with the Malfoys (book) at the Quidditch World Cup; replacing Ludo Bagman (book) with Cornelius Fudge (movie) as the event MC; and turning Beauxbatons and Durmstrang into girls’ and boys’ schools, respectively (movie), is somewhat immaterial. Yet meeting Bellatrix Lestrange in one of Albus Dumbledore’s memories and learning more about what she did to Neville’s parents in the book adds a weight to the story that’s missing from the screen. On a lighter note, we also miss seeing fun creatures like unicorns and nifflers!
Growing up, I liked Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire because 1) I enjoyed imagining myself as school champion, and 2) I liked getting a glimpse of the wizarding world outside of Hogwarts. By opening with the Quidditch World Cup, for example, and then moving on to the Triwizard Tournament, Rowling gives her readers a sense of just how large, varied, and so much like ours this world is.
As an adult, I appreciated it more as a transitional tale. Goblet of Fire is the bridge between the lighter stories and the darker ones, beginning on one note and ending on another. It is also, at its heart, a coming of age: After years of rumors and sporadic run-ins, Harry learns early on exactly what sort of wizards the Death Eaters are and finishes his year facing off against the resurrected Dark Lord. The whispers of tension and animus become manifest and set the stage for what’s to follow… war.