Friday, November 18, 2005

Cinema Is Not Dead

Last night, a friend talked me into attending the midnight showing of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Regular Indulge Yourself blog readers and those familiar with my Passions page will not be surprised to hear I eagerly jumped on this idea, despite the two hours of sleep it would mean. On a work night.

For me, movies are not just a form of entertainment. They are an experience. There is something unique about the big screen, the Dolby surround, the smell of the theater, the feel of the seats, the energy of being in a crowd. I love the previews and the music over the credits and watching at home can't even come close to duplicating it. So this year I've been very dismayed by the whole Box Office Situation. Mediocre films (Fantastic Four) and outright bad ones (War of the Worlds) did okay but not always what their hype foresaw. Good films (Elizabethtown and Kingdom of Heaven) and great ones (Serenity) were failures, either real or perceived. It all generated a fear in me that the movies I like, the ones I eagerly go to the theater to see, won't be made anymore.

Well, I'm happy to say my fear is premature. Maybe it's a no-brainer that HP will do well, but more importantly, it has saved the whole movie experience for me.

We had a new movie theater open in June. Every time I've been there, the theater has been only half full, even for films I expected to be a big draw. It worried me, because this theater is part of a family-owned chain and more vulnerable, I believe, to the whims of the marketplace.

Well, color me stunned. This midnight show on a school/work night was packed. And I mean sold out, every seat filled half an hour before show time, when normal show times have an empty theater that far before the start of the movie. There was cheering when the film started, and that set up that energy I mentioned earlier. We're talking college-age and young adult attendees here, not teeny-boppers or kids. It was very heartening.

How about the movie itself? I mean, War of the Worlds made over $200 million and it was the worst movie I've seen since Catwoman.

Goblet of Fire is definitely the best Harry Potter movie yet. It was condensed and stripped and modified, and I wasn't thrilled with ALL of the changes from the book, but it was meaty and well-acted and really, really funny.

Sorcerer's Stone was an experiment. Even with Chamber of Secrets, the jury was out on whether these kids could act, whether they could fulfill the expectations generated by JK Rowling's wonderful characterization and storytelling. Prisoner of Azkaban convinced me they could, but in Goblet of Fire, they have really come into their own. Especially Daniel Radcliffe, who was oh-so-earnest in the first film and is now good enough to mine his and others' experiences and convince us he's really feeling what he's supposed to be feeling.

Most of the rest of the casting is as superb as ever. Many students and teachers from past editions are marginalized, but there is still enough Snape to make Megan sigh, and Neville gets a much greater role, something in which nerds everywhere (and I'm one) can rejoice.

Probably the best surprise of this film is the humor. The book has plenty of it, a lot generated by things that aren't in the movie, like the old man in his housecoat at the Quidditch World Cup, Stan Shunpike trying to impress a Veela, and Dobby the House Elf. The movie manages to make everyday comments and images funny. Fred and George are a hoot (would always love to see more of them!) and though Brendan Gleeson's interpretation of Mad-Eye Moody is much different from Jim Dale's, he does a great job.

Ralph Fiennes is a superb Voldemort, and I'm looking forward to more of him in Order of the Phoenix. I'd like Michael Gambon to settle his Dumbledore down a little, however.

My only REAL complaint is that after a year that saw a new book and a new film, the delay before the next one of each will be, once again, far too long (book 7 is not to be worked on until next year, probably not finished until 2007, and not published until 2008, and OP the movie starts filming in a few months, to be released in June 2007).

1 comment:

AuthorM said...

There can never be enough Snape.