November 22nd, 2005 10:44 EST
Movie Review: Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire offers a mysterious and murderous plot; forced into danger, Harry soon discovers one of his protectors has an ulterior motive. Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry plays host to the Triwizard Tournament, in which three students age 17 or older, undergo various tasks in hopes of winning the Triwizard Cup, bringing honor and glory to themselves and their perspective schools. Placing their names in the Goblet of Fire binds them to a magical contract; once entered and chosen, you must participate. Everything goes wrong when a fourth name is thrown out of the Goblet of Fire, and a shocked, underage Harry Potter, already the object of much ridicule, is subjected to more dirty looks, whispers and taunting. Now, four champions must fight to win and survive.
Dragons terrify, mermaids attack, a bewitched maze has danger lurking around every corner, and this is without mentioning the evil Lord Voldemort, who rises again. His followers, known as the Death Eaters, riot the Quidditch World Cup in the beginning, setting the ominous tone of the film. While battling serious tasks, Harry and his peers also must deal with growing pains. Flirtation and slight innuendo are cleverly and comically put in.
Mike Newell, director of Donnie Brasco, Mona Lisa Smile and Four Weddings and a Funeral, takes the helm of G.O.F. While the studio had originally planned on creating two movies from the 734 page book, director of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Alfonso Cuar"n, convinced him to do it in one. Mike Newell cut many subplots resulting in a 2 hour and 37 minute product. Rated PG-13 for fantasy violence and frightening images, Goblet also deals with adult themes in innocent terms. As expected, the children are now growing into young adults. One of the endearing moments is the interaction of Ron and Harry with the opposite sex. As Harry comments in the film, he`d rather duel with dragons than try to understand girls.
J.K. Rowling`s books are, to a reader`s delight, closely followed in the film versions. The Goblet Of Fire involves more action than the first three. Massive editing had to be done to fit the important story lines in a reasonable amount of time. As a result, small, inconsequential details are missing or changed. The Dursleys, Molly Weasley and Dobby the house elf were completely cut from the film, while other roles, such as Harry`s godfather Sirius, his chief student tormentor, Draco Malfoy, and Rita Skeeter, the annoying instigator "reporter`, played by Miranda Richardson, were diminished or not fully developed.
The scenery and wardrobe are stunning. Back again are the long wizard robes, interspersed with normal "muggle` clothing, and the brilliant architecture and landscape of Hogwarts School grounds. New is the beautifully ice decorated hall for the Yule Ball, and feeding into the darker tone of the film, is the creepy graveyard, the Death Eaters` wardrobe (similar to the KKK but in all black), and the physical form of Lord Voldemort. The impressive introductions of the two guest schools are offset by one another. The choreography of the ladies Beauxbatons is very feminine, with butterflies and light stepping, while the male Durmstrang entrance is masculine, complete with tumbles, stomping and fire. The action scenes are thrilling. Hearts will pound at the Hungarian Horntail`s attack, and one might be shocked to see Rowling`s image of a mermaid, the polar opposite from the accepted mythical version. The maze, which brings to mind The Shining, is a confusing path of terror, where the bushes narrow and seem intent on swallowing the champions alive. Breath will be held at Voldemort`s newly risen body; the tension between Harry and Voldemort is almost palpable.
The acting in The Goblet of Fire varies. Dumbledore`s demeanor seems to take on a different tone, an obvious observation as the original actor, Richard Harris, died and was replaced by Michael Gambon starting with Prisoner. Though the books continue to describe the wise Albus Dumbledore as a caring and gentle grandfatherly type figure, the new film version found in The Prisoner of Azkaban, and in The Goblet of Fire offers a more serious, hippy style man with the weight of the world on his shoulders; a weight poor Harry Potter has to bear as well. Lord Voldemort, the wizarding world`s biggest enemy, is portrayed by Ralph Fiennes, in a ferocious and horrifying way. Rupert Grint is a pure delight in his role of Harry`s best friend, Ron Weasley, displaying bitterness and uncertainty, while providing much comic relief. His on-screen brothers, Fred and George, played by James and Oliver Phelps respectively, also relieve tension and show more of their mischievous side attributed to them from the book. While Hermione Granger, played by Emma Watson, is not as prominent, all her scenes seem to be overly dramatic and unconvincing. Daniel Radcliffe, the unassuming hero of the Harry Potter series, gets better with each successive performance.
It is clear that their friendship is one of a strong bond, and as Professor Dumbledore warns at the end, and readers already know, friendship is more important now than ever. Dark times lie ahead for the wizard world, and this dark film only foretells some of what is to come. It is pleasant to see a film series continue to use the same characters. As loyal as the fans are to the books, the film makers remain loyal to the cast members. Would anyone else be able to capture our hearts as well as these three actors have?
The movie is almost equal to the mind`s eye, a testament to both the author`s description and the imagination of producers. The Goblet of Fire is not without it`s problems, though. While the books hint at a crush between Ron and Hermione, the movie doesn`t utilize this relationship, and oftentimes suggests a connection between Harry and Hermione. The pace was obviously rushed, making it difficult for a non-fan to keep up with what`s going on. The dialogue and story had no time to unfold in a moderate way, as there was much plot to be squeezed in, and everything was revealed too quickly. The sound effects were good, but at some parts it would have been more effective to leave silence to build the suspense, rather than pipe in the music.
The first film, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer`s Stone, drew large comparisons to the Wizard of Oz. In both movies, the characters come from less than stellar circumstances and venture into a world that is bright, full of action and danger. The Sorcerer`s Stone was colorful, new and introduced three young main characters to the spotlight. The Goblet of Fire, the fourth installment in the series, finds all students older, wiser and in more peril than ever. The audience has gotten older as well, and though rated PG-13, parents should not deter from taking avid Potter fans to the theatres. More action packed than the previous movies, it also contains ominous undertones jammed into over 2 hours, making it the best of the Harry Potter movies thus far. Though excellent as it is, with minor adjustments, it would be perfection. If what follows is more of this finished product; close book following, excellent special effects, and continued great casting, then Potter fans will be able to rest easy.