A letter to J.K. Rowling
Another Potter? Only if you insist
By Todd Leopold
Rupert Grint, Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe in "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire."
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(CNN) -- To: Ms. J.K. Rowling, c/o Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Somewhere north of Platform 9 3/4 King's Cross Station, UK
Dear Ms. Rowling:
Please believe me when I say, with all due respect: Enough. Enough, already.
I have been a fan of yours since the day in late 1999 when I first picked up "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone." (I know you called it "Philosopher's Stone," but we Americans are rather thick when it comes to knowing our alchemical totems.) I eagerly consumed your tale of Harry's first year, and quickly went on to books two and three.
Book IV, "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," came out just three weeks after I began at CNN.com in 2000. It was all Harry all the time around here, and I couldn't get enough. I nearly got into a car accident while reading "Goblet" on my way home from work one day; that's how enamored I was with Harry's adventures and your witty, imaginative writing.
But you've let it get out of control. The New York Times actually changed its best-seller list because your books were hogging all the top places. And the books led to the movies, and not even that ham-handed Chris Columbus could kill off your hero, despite his best efforts. (Oh, Ms. Rowling, you practically expect to hear a "boing!" spit-take after some scenes in "Sorcerer's" -- uh, "Philosopher's Stone." If your books are Monty Python, Columbus' style is Benny Hill.)
And then came Book V, "Order of the Phoenix," another many-hundred-page doorstop that kept me scrambling during the day covering its frenzy and awake at night gobbling down just one more chapter. Ms. Rowling, I'm not 14 years old anymore! I like to sleep! Your imagination knows no bounds, doesn't it?
The movie of "Prisoner of Azkaban" came out 18 months ago, and it was good -- directed by Alfonso Cuaron, excellent turns by the maturing crew of Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson (not to mention the usual British old pros who play Hogwarts' faculty and staff), a little bit of darkness sprinkled amid the light and laughs.
Now, in 2005, it's a double whammy. Just a few months ago you published Book VI, "Half-Blood Prince." And on Friday comes the film version of "Goblet of Fire," directed by Mike Newell ("Four Weddings and a Funeral," "Donnie Brasco") and written for the screen again by the able Steve Kloves.
Ms. Rowling, I don't mean to complain. Your books are a joy. The films range from good to excellent (and, since they're produced by Warner Bros., a division of Time Warner just like CNN, no doubt the money they bring in helps pay my salary). Your imagination is unparalleled: wonderful character names! Clever plot twists! Rich settings! You are, I understand, perhaps the wealthiest woman in Britain, and you deserve every penny of your great and good fortune.
But you've given me this Potter problem. Now I have to see the movie. Now I have to stay awake and read the book. Now I have to wait for Book VII, and who knows when you'll be done with that?
I mean, do you know how many hours you've taken from my life? And all I've received is pleasure. My college English professors would be aghast.
So, please promise me you'll be finished soon, OK? I don't know how much more of this I can deal with.
I remain, your humble reader,
(Editor's Note: The original story directed this letter to "Charing Cross Station," not "King's Cross Station." The error has been corrected -- and we hope the letter now goes in the proper direction.)
Yes, it's Harry Potter weekend, a Friday fans and Hollywood (All-Flavour) bean-counters have been anticipating for months. Given the mediocre year at the box office -- with receipts down and buzz way down -- the bean-counters may be even more excited than the fans. (Watch how Harry's gotten scarier -- 1:52)
"Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," in book form, was 700 rich pages of plot, in many ways the hinge of the series. Not only was Harry thrust into a major, multi-school tournament, but he finally came face-to-face with his nemesis, Lord Voldemort. The book was much darker than its predecessors, and set the stage for the books to come, with an older, quickly maturing Harry. (Read the review.)
The movie, to fit in a standard two-hour running time (it actually runs 2 hours, 30 minutes), has stripped away many of the book's subplots in favor of its heart: the tournament and the Harry-Voldemort confrontation. That's not to say it's missing minor characters or that distinctive Potter flavor -- the muckraking Rita Skeeter and pretty Cho Chang are still here -- but a movie has to get to the point or else turn into one of Andy Warhol's eight-hour examinations of somebody sleeping ... or "The Blair Witch Project."
The gang is back: Besides Radcliffe, Grint and Watson, Michael Gambon returns as Dumbledore, the ever-terrific Alan Rickman is Snape, Maggie Smith is McGonagall, Robbie Coltrane is Hagrid and John Cleese is Nearly Headless Nick. The newcomers include Miranda Richardson as Skeeter, Brendan Gleeson as Mad-Eye Moody and -- most notably -- Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort.
Advance reviews have been highly approving -- 10 points for Gryffindor! -- with more than one calling the film the best yet. If there's carping from some, it's that they find the devotion to the books tiresome -- or, at least, not very magical.
Well, to each his (or her) own. They could be watching "Freddy Got Fingered."
"Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" opens Friday.
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