Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

The book Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is a turning point in the series. Things are no longer bright and cheery. They're mysterious. They're dark. They're deadly.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is much the same. Philosopher's Stone treated us to an introduction of magic. Chamber of Secrets provided a mystery. Prisoner of Azkaban revealed the past. Goblet of Fire shows us a glimpse of the future, and the future is dark indeed.

Goblet of Fire is probably the first movie that requires a viewer to have read the books in order to keep pace. The first ten minutes encompass the first hundred and fifty pages or so of the book, and they are presented in lightning succession. Anyone who doesn't know about the Quidditch World cup and what happened there will most likely be deeply confused.

From there, the movie glosses over many of the deep and evocative scenes that Rowling includes in the book, choosing to focus on the three tasks of the Triwizard tournament. This is somewhat understandable, given that these scenes make for good action shots.

The dragon scene is wonderfully animated; the Horntail looks quite viscous. It may be that director Mike Newell felt the need to justify the undoubtedly expensive CGI, but the scene lasted far too long. The underwater scene was the weakest of the challenges and foreshadowed Newell’s enjoyment of using the camera to blind an audience into confusion about what’s actually happening. That predilection comes full force in the final task, strong enough that you might wonder if Newell was working from the same books that we all love and know.

Newell took a number of liberties with the novel (such as the aforementioned dragon scene); such is to be expected in trying to adapt a weighty tome for the silver screen. No one expects that he be able to fit in every detail, although most will have a favorite peeve of what was left out, due to the sheer amount of material cut. Pun intended.

No, what is the true tragedy is this: Newell changes a number of elements and twists them into almost unrecognizable parodies of Rowling’s portrayal. Barty Crouch Junior could have been trying to mate with lizards for most of the movie, for all of his reptilian attributes. And he’s not even a Parseltongue. Dumbledore is not the gentle but firm wizard of the books; he comes within a hair of actually attacking Harry. And let’s not forget about Emperor Voldemort or the heavy rock Wyrd Sisters.

Fortunately, the movie does showcase some of the better acting seen in the series. The main trio are now comfortable with their roles. Radcliffe is probably the weakest of the three, but he does have much more to live up to. Watson has nailed Hermione to the wall and shows a greater emotional range in this film than previous. Grint plays the awkward best friend with genuine awkwardness.

Most of the returning cast make brief appearances, but a few are conspicuously absent: the Dursleys, Molly Weasley and Dobby for certain. It is a shame to see Snape and Hagrid reduced to handful of minutes as their previous work certainly warranted a larger role. Newcomers are well suited for their roles; no surprise given the hooplah surrounding the search for Cho, Viktor, Cedric, and Fleur. Miranda Richardson’s Rita Skeeter manages to evoke the right level of disgust and fascination with tabloid journalism.

Despite stilted dialogue, the actors present convincing portraits. Scenes intended for a laugh succeed, and the gut-wrenching endcap wrenches the gut. Adolescent sexual tension also rears its ugly head but provides a number of amusing scene.

Visually, the movie excels. CGI is top-notch, and Newell knows how to make use of color to enhance tone. Expect a darker, dirtier look for the world of Harry Potter. It is much the same for the audio tracks; the composition lends itself to subtle influence rather than overbearing noise.

Overall, Goblet of Fire is good but not that good. Fans of the series will go in rabid hordes to see it anyway, but the casual viewer can probably wait for a DVD release and hope that it contains a very extended director’s cut.

Comments (4)

Stephanie:

Hey, you might want to change the name of the first one to Sorcerer's Stone not Philosopher's. Where the heck did you come up with that from?

It is the same thing. Philosopher's Stone was the international (well, UK) name.

As Ken notes, it's the international version... and since Rowling is English, it's the original version. American publishers were afraid that the hoi polloi would not understand the historical reference and would not wish to read anything with "philosopher" in it. Thus they changed it to the "more exciting" Sorcerer's Stone... killing all the historical allusions that Rowling made.

In any case, the first film was released under both titles... every scene that mentioned the stone was filmed twice; once with each name. I imported my DVD from Canada, so it says Philospher's Stone.

I really didn't intend for that to be snobbish though; I actually always think of the first book as Philosopher's Stone. Keep forgetting that most people in the US might not have a clue about what I am speaking.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Potter_and_the_Philosopher's_Stone_(film)

Oh you are such a snob Tyler. Sheesh :P

Thanks for the background, I did not all that stuff!

What would we do without Wikipedia? Oh yea... go dust off those musky tomes on the bookshelf.

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