Review: ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’

Anyone who casually reads the books will notice huge differences in what did and did not make it into The Goblet of Fire, but to finally watch the key scenes so vividly described by the author realized perfectly onscreen is worth admission alone (and even a few extra viewings besides).

Before Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) returns for his fourth year at Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, he, his friend Hermione (Emma Watson), and the entire Weasley clan travel to watch the largest sporting event in the wizarding world, the Quiditch World Cup. The event is sadly interrupted by a fiery attack destroying the fan’s encampment, followed by the appearance in the sky of a green skull with a snake billowing from its mouth. Later back at Hogwart’s, the Triwizard Tournament is announced and a competitor from each of three wizarding schools is chosen to represent their school. Although both under-aged and uninterested, Harry’s name inexplicably appears as a competitor in addition to the three champions already chosen. With the appearance of supposed Death Eaters (You-know-who’s loyal but long-missing followers) at the World Cup, Harry’s name in the tournament, and a recurring nightmare about Voldemort himself, Mr. Potter and friends find themselves in mortal danger once again.

The World Cup. The Goblet of Fire. The three tasks of the Triwizard Tournament. MadEye Moody. You-know-who. All the images taken from the largest book of J.K. Rawlings “Harry Potter” series have been freshly realized and perfectly rendered visually for audiences everywhere; movies like this are the reason to go to the theater and watch with a crowd instead of wait for the DVD. This is what a great book adapted into a good script and realized with enough money to make a film with can do.

Now for the nitpicks (saw this coming, didn’t you?) There are plenty of subplots and bits missing from Goblet of Fire, but a few of which make you wonder why they were even mentioned. For example, all over the cutting room floor must be scenes with Rita Skeeter (Miranda Richardson). With Richardson already cast and filmed for the production (as well as advertised), the Rawlings stab at tabloid paparazzi would have been a telling subplot (especially if it had reached the conclusion in the book) but instead is barely a footnote and quickly brushed aside. In fact, accusations against Harry by the Ministry of Magic (who suspect that Harry alone must be responsible for any evidence of Death Eaters) are among the reasons Harry was entrusted MadEye Moody, but such pressures are not placed upon his cinematic counterpart.

There are plenty more things that thankfully were NOT in the film, but the sheer size of the finished feature and the quickness it takes moving from exposition to exposition seems to lose some of the charm of the previous films; neither the audience nor the characters have much time to breath between encounters. Wizard schooling itself fully takes a back seat to the other tasks at hand, but this is certainly the case in the later books. More so than previous outings, the Weasley twins (James and Oliver Phelps) steal much of the show, and where ever ‘Mad?­Eye’ Moody’s eye roams, actor Brendan Gleeson’s performance as MadEye springs from the shadows to attack the audience at every turn and always a surprise. And with Ralph Fiennes too-brief appearance as You-know-who reborn, the stage is set for Potter and Voldemort’s showdown in the final three films to come.

Even if Rita Skeeter’s film counterpart doesn’t get what she had coming to her in the book and all the house elves of the wizarding world have become strangely silent and absent, The Goblet of Fire is still growing up time for Harry Potter, complete with dying characters and a deserved PG-13 rating. Warner Bros. have again successfully brought in another director (Mike Newell this time) and can even boast success with Patrick Doyle taking over musical score duties from John Williams; everything is in good hands. This is the book and the film that elevates “Pottermania” from children’s story to family fare, and the film succeeds in making that transition as well as the book. With three films before and three to go, this installment doesn’t disappoint in earning its place next to all the rest.

(a three skull recommendation out of four)

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