It’s interesting when a scene in a story either grows (or, occasionally, shrinks) in your mind, taking on artificial proportions as you think back on it. Often, this can be aided and abetted by Ye Olde Filme Version, which has a natural tendency to expand the action-y bits and contract the talk-y bits. Not that this is a bad thing; different styles for different media and all that.
Both Peter’s encounter with Maugrim (The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe), and Harry’s encounter with the Hungarian Horntail (Goblet of Fire) are written as very short, sharp events; done and dusted in little over a page. In Peter’s case, the film majorly builds up the encounter, whereas in Harry’s case the lead-up to the event is substantial, the effect of which is to make the event itself larger in our memories. It’s rather like the idea of how to throw a punch on stage (or on camera for that matter); if you exaggerate (but not too much unless you’re tending towards comedy) the wind-up and the result (and make careful use of viewing angle), the audience will remember having seen an impressive blow, when in fact it never happened*.
In Peter’s case, it’s another example of having to expand minimal events from a relatively short novel to make it work as a feature-length production, and yes, maybe it drags on a bit, but I understand the intention, and it’s the sort of thing that would work if it was done a little less ham-fistedly.
In Harry’s case, it’s the reverse (having to cut down a long story to keep the film from making Lord of the Rings seem like a quick trip to the corner dairy for a bottle of milk). I think it’s why the film never grabbed me in the same way that the book did: you don’t get the “slow burn” – the ominous build-up of tension as the event gets closer. The film tries to make the encounter more exciting by turning it up to eleven (MOAR DRAGON!!!), but it doesn’t work as well because the audience doesn’t get to share in Harry’s stress as he prepares.
In other news, Happy Easter! Which means it’s been two years of this blog (as of 2nd April). I might have to do a “where I’m at” post sometime soon (short version: “oh, that’s right, I have a blog”).
* Er… yeah. Apologies for that sentence.