Review: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Rating



Director

Mike Newell

Screenplay

Steve Kloves (Novel: J.K. Rowling)

Length

157 min.

Starring

Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Robbie Coltrane, Matthew Lewis, Katie Leung, Stanislav Ianevski, Tom Felton, Robert Pattinson, Bonnie Wright, Miranda Richardson, Brendan Gleeson, Predrag Bjelac, Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, Clmence Posy, Frances de la Tour, Michael Gmabon, Gary Oldman, Ralph Fiennes

MPAA Rating

PG-13 (For sequences of fantasy violence and frightening images)

Buy/Rent Movie

Soundtrack

Poster

Source Material

Review

It’s another dangerous year for Harry Potter as the fourth novel about the “boy who lived” makes the magnificent leap to the big screen. Goblet of Fire promises fans of both the film franchise and the book series a wonderful time in the theater.

This is the year of the Triwizard Tournament, an annual competition between three great wizarding schools. Invited to the festivities are the French girls of Beauxbatons and the Bulgarian boys of Durmstrang. One champion must compete from each school; however, a cruel turn of events puts Harry’s (Daniel Radcliffe) name in the Goblet of Fire from which all participants are selected. He and Cedric Diggory (Robert Pattinson) represent Hogwarts alongside Beauxbatons’ Fleur Delacour (Clemence Posy) and Durmstrang’s Victor Krum (Stanislav Ianevski).

There are three tasks which the wizards must face. Each is a feast of visual effects that makes the original film’s Quidditch match look like a bunch of stick figures riding brooms. Unlike Prisoner of Azkaban , Goblet takes the visual effects and puts them in the forefront of the adventure. This is one of the few disappointing aspects of the new film, as we forget at times about the story. One scene in particular exemplifies this statement: the first task drags on in an unnecessary chase scene while important background information about nosy writer Rita Skeeter (Miranda Richardson) is left on the cutting room floor.

Audiences, however, won’t be disappointed. The pace has quickened since Alfonso Cuaron’s slower Prisoner of Azkaban. Much of this is because director Mike Newell had the daunting task of taking a book that could easily have filled three to four hours worth of film and condensing it into one two-and-a-half hour spectacle. It is nearly impossible to include every scene in the novel but he did a great job cherry-picking the most important narrative aspects of the book.

Some performers improve with age. Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley) and Emma Watson (Hermione Granger) have become decidedly better. They are able to convey adult emotions effectively, having no doubt picked up a few pointers from older and better actors like Maggie Smith (Professor McGonagall), Alan Rickman (Severus Snape) and Michael Gambon (Albus Dumbledore).

Some, however, do not. The biggest challenge for Radcliffe as teenage Harry Potter is to convey a sense of loss and regret while balancing emotions ranging from intense outrage to passionate joy. The problem is that most of Radcliffe’s performance is spent brooding and when he does have a chance to show his range, he fails. He has improved tremendously from his work on The Sorcerer’s Stone but he’s still not managed to graduate into the class of first-rate actors alongside whom he works.

The best actively-working British actors continue to flock to the film and turn in consistently amazing performances. Richardson is sufficiently self-absorbed as archetypal hack writer Rita Skeeter even though her character’s in far too little of the film to be useful. Brendan Gleeson makes paranoid ‘Mad-Eye’ Moody an off-beat but likable character, much like his literary counterpart. Ralph Fiennes, however, caps off the movie as the best new face in the Harry Potter universe. Fiennes inhabits the flesh of the series’ over-arching villain Lord Voldemort. His easily-recognizable face is only barely visible behind the unique makeup of the Dark Lord but it’s his chilling voice that demands attention. Like his favorite animal the snake, Voldemort rasps and wheezes as he grows in power to face the boy that survived his spell of death.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is a markedly better film than Chris Columbus’ first two features (Stone and Chamber of Secrets ) and is highly comparable to Azkaban. While much of Cuaron’s success is based on his ability to use subtext and performance as parts of a compelling story, he failed to develop the awe-inspiring pace that is characteristic of the books. Newell, on the other hand, forgoes some amount of subtext in favor of darkening the story (even more so than Cuaron already did) and speeding up the tempo of the film.

For audiences, there won’t be any question as to which film is better. Goblet of Fire provides more action than Azkaban and feels like a shorter film despite being longer 15 minutes longer. Goblet shouldn’t be considered just another fantasy movie. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable exercise in quality filmmaking regardless of the label that’s put on it.

Review Written

November 17, 2005

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