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Saturday, July 07, 2007

RACE TO THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: Drinking down the Goblet of Fire

As of a few minutes ago, my quest to re-read all of the Harry Potter books before the release of the final novel reached another benchmark, as I finished Book 4: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.Immediate thoughts after reading this one again: this is the book where the Harry Potter series really hit its stride. A lot of things from the previous novels converge here and the tale begins to take a very, very dark turn. I think that Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is the Potter books' equivalent to The Empire Strikes Back, in the sense that right up to the moment when Vader told Luke the big secret, Star Wars was still a fairly innocent fairy tale... but with five words, the tables got kicked upside-down and nothing was the same again. So too is there irrevocable change in the wizard world by the closing pages of Book 4... along with the promise of much worse to come.

This time reading it, I couldn't help but see a lot more of Rita Skeeter than I noticed of her the first time I read the book. That was just one of the details that I was able to appreciate more this time around.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire reinforces something that I've been thinking about for some months: that 20 or 30 years from now, somebody is going to have to re-make the Harry Potter movies. Only this time tighter and more faithful to all of the little nuances of the books. Since the last time I read Book 4, I've watched the Goblet of Fire movie ten times, at least. Re-reading the original book the past few days, I was genuinely shocked at how much material was omitted from the book for sake of the movie. The most obvious thing that comes to mind readily is the absense of Ludo Bagman from the movie. And the plot thread about Barty Crouch Sr. and Winky (the scene where Crouch relieves her of duty, I always thought that would be a pretty funny thing to have seen in the movie). But this is such a dense and multi-layered book, I don't know if anyone right now could have pulled off a 100% faithful film adaptation.

This book is also notable for something that I think with the passage of time, has made this detail of the story much more relevant: the fact that the Ministry of Magic, as an agency of government, is too damn ineffective and too fixated on putting on appearances to make people happy. Sounds a lot like our own government, doesn't it?

Well, it's late, and I need to turn in. Tomorrow I start re-reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which is my favorite of the Potter books for a lot of reasons but especially because this is the part of the story where the people decide that if the government is going to keep screwing things up, then they have to take matters into their own hands. Order of the Phoenix is the best damned treatise on defying authority when it needs to be defied that I've seen put out in the past ten years. I just hope the movie coming out next week can do it justice.

So tomorrow it's Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix... which at this rate I'll be able to both finish before the movie comes out :-)