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Book to movie review: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

(I only review movies that are based on books, and I do not review them as independent works, but as inter-semiotic translations, interpretations or adaptations of books. Therefore a perfectly good movie (when seen independently of the book) may get a negative review for not being a good adaptation. Note that a “good translation/interpretation/adaptation” does not necessarily mean “scrupulously exact”. The two genres are to a certain extent incompatible and therefore a movie adaptation can never be completely true to the book.)

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is a visually great movie, full of action, and the young actors have come a long way from the first movie. The previous three Harry Potter movies could be watched and enjoyed by people who had not read the books, but this movie zooms along at such a great speed that an audience member who has not read the book has a hard time figuring it all out (this has been confirmed by several people), so fast does it flick from one scene to another, almost like a two and a half hour trailer for a longer movie.
Having seen the other movies but not read the books would help a bit, especially with the back-story, specifically the pre-existing relationships between the characters, which are so sketchily shown in this installation in the series that the depth of reference is lost unless you have knowledge of the prequels, and no-one who has neither read the third book nor seen the movie would be able to figure out the business with Sirius Black, which shows that the film-makers know that they already have an audience that knows the stories, and made this movie for them and not for new audiences.

It has been necessary to cut out large chunks of the book, simply in order to make the movie an acceptable length. This keeps those members of the audience who have read the book filling in the gaps and supplying missing scenes in their minds as they watch. For the most part the film-makers have made good decisions as to what to keep and what to discard, and in spite of the missing chunks of story, the movie does manage to preserve the spirit of the book, always a good thing when having to please readers. As a pair, I think book and movie complement each other, the book filling in the exposition and missing scenes in the movie and the movie helping readers to visualise the scenes from the book. If you plan to see the movie, be sure you have at least seen the last movie and preferably read the book. You will be doing yourself a favour.

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