Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Directed by Mike Newell
It’s interesting how the Harry Potter movies have been growing up with the actors. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the fourth of seven, directed this time by Mike Newell, has an adolescent quality – of the awkwardly cute variety. As a PG-13 film, it deals with dating and the agony of not knowing how to deal with the opposite sex. Some of the best drama involves Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and Ron (Rupert Grint) having a perfectly awful time both before and during a school ball since their social skills are so poorly developed – and that’s after Harry wowed the school by slaying a dragon.
Most of the action in Goblet revolves around the “Tri-wizard Tournament”, an international competition among magic schools – more of a death-defying ordeal, actually -- meant for older students – that Harry gets thrust into courtesy of the titular Goblet of Fire. The tournament consists of three trials – the first of which is the dragon fight. It’s a high-octane sequence – probably more intense than anything in the earlier films. The dragon itself is very well rendered – he flies, breathes fire, crashes into buildings and bridges – great action.
Two groups of foreign students arrive at Hogwarts for the tournament, adding new blood, creating dramatic possibilities. The first is a group of beautiful French girls from the Beauxbaton School of Magic. Their entrance in the great hall stuns Harry and Ron – their adolescent minds are overloaded by so much beauty. The girl chosen by the Goblet for the tournament, Fleur Delacour (Clémence Poésy) is perfect as the unattainable older girl – Harry and Ron are transfixed in her presence. It works well with the teen-angst theme, which contrasts well with the almost surreal dangers that the contestants face in the tournament. The other international entry is a group of boys from Bulgaria – the main character among them (the entry in the tournament) is an underdeveloped character – he had only a couple of lines and he was supposed to be the competition for Hermione’s (Emma Watson) affection. The whole international angle seemed awkward. I have always (in the earlier Potter movies and this one) found the production design and costuming very convincing – stylized, but believable – as a representation of an English boarding school. While I loved the costuming of the Beaux Baton girls, the Bulgarians looked like a 19th century caricature. The filmmakers would have been wise to make these characters look and behave more realistically.
The tournament is much more intense and thrilling than the usual Quidditch matches – I’m glad that they decided to de-emphasize that. The real strength of Goblet, like the previous three, is the outstanding supporting cast of British actors. Brendan Gleeson is new this time as "Mad-Eye" Moody, a darkly whacky “Defense Against the Dark Arts” instructor with a zoom-lens prosthetic eye. Miranda Richardson also plays a new character: Rita Skeeter, a saucy reporter who flirts with Harry while her pen scribbles away by itself. Robbie Coltrane is back as Hagrid – but this time he has a love interest -- the head of Beauxbaton. My favorite character in this series is Professor Snape -- Alan Rickman is just dead-on – he doesn’t even have to say a word – and I’m sorry that they gave him a smaller part in Goblet.
If you haven’t seen the first three Potter movies, you should see them before Goblet. The filmmakers assume – and rightly so probably 95% of the time – that the viewer knows the back story of the main characters, particularly Harry. It’s wise that they do it that way – it saves time and very few moviegoers need to be introduced to these characters.
It’s inevitable that Goblet be compared to the other Potter films. I’ll rank this one better – by a good margin – than either of the first two, but not quite up to the standard set by Alfonso Cuarón in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (#3 in the series.)
Finally, Goblet is very much a big-screen film – powerful in its visual appeal – it will lose quite a lot in conversion to DVD format.
Images are copyright Warner Brothers.
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