November 6th, 2006


Well, Skylar finally finished the book Goblet of Fire this morning. And that meant that she could watch the whole film -- she'd gotten a head start Thursday -- which she did, repeatedly, throughout the day. She loves it. And I do too, actually. I'd heard mixed reviews, but would rank it just a notch below my favorite of the four Harry Potter films, The Prisoner of Azkaban, which benefits from a tidier plot. The no-longer-children who play Harry, Ron and Hermione are becoming more accomplished actors as the series goes on, which compensates for the fact that more content has to be left out of the films as the books get longer.

The moment that I was sure Skylar would love, when Hermione appears at the Yule Ball, was well done and touching. And there was enough Cho is the picture to please the Bean, who has a bit of a fixation on Asianness. The tasks were all rendered well, deviating from the book where cinematically prudent. And the graveyard scene, while falling short of J.K. Rowling's prose, was still good viewing.

Here's the problem, though. As I was going through our copy of The Order of the Phoenix just now, translating my tape flags into notes written down on the inside cover, it hit me that one of the film's omissions is pretty troubling. The fact that the entire house elf sub-plot is omitted -- presumably for the sake of "economy" -- makes it impossible for a viewer who hasn't read the book to perceive the degree to which it invites considerations of race and class.

The thing that impresses me most about the series is the way that Rowling has managed to make the world less black-and-white with each book, revealing the extent to which the wizarding world has made itself vulnerable to attack through longstanding practices of discrimination. The Goblet of Fire is crucial to that trajectory, laying the groundwork for the nearly unremitting darkness of The Order of the Phoenix. Without the house elf subplot in the former, though, the latter promises to be missing a key ingredient. Understanding the perfidy of Dolores Umbridge requires grasping the relationship between the Ministry of Magic's prejudiced leadership and the customs that make its decisions seem reasonable.