Goblet of Fire
is about to change.
Anyone who has
read the Harry Potter series knows going in that …and
the Goblet of Fire marks a very different tone for the
series. A dark mark, if you will. Both book and film fans,
however, may be startled at how that translates on screen.
The three main
stars remain as charming as always. Daniel Radcliffe still
has the proper gravity as Harry, and seems to have the chops
for the character to transition to action hero. In one scene,
he even proves he's working out for the job, in just a little
too good a shape for a 14-year-old whose main exercise is
Of course, most
sports don't look that strenuous to an outsider, so Quidditch
could be very taxing. Certainly, Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint)
raves about the athleticism of Viktor Krum (Stanislav Ianevsky),
though this is the first film to not actually feature a
Mike Newell had a tough job. Not only does he follow the
surprisingly masterful Alfonso
Cuarón, but he has to bring the feel good nature
of the films to downer subject matter. Should anybody have
missed this, Harry Potter basically survived a killing spree.
The whimsical nature of the earlier stories manages to distance
us from that fact. The Goblet of Fire brings it home
in a direct manner that no stirring magical themes can gloss
Worse for Newell,
continuity has started to matter, as J. K. Rowling started
pulling more and more minor plot threads to the fore. Many
of these threads had been omitted for time in the earlier
films. Already, the details of Voldemort's graveyard will
upset purists, rendered wrong after Rowling's latest book,
…and the Half-Blood Prince, apparently published
after this film went into post-production.
In the films,
the formerly inconsequential Cedric Diggory (Robert Pattinson)
gets thrust close to the center stage as an important older
rival for Harry. This pushes a few other characters aside
in ways that the producers may regret; Snape (Alan Rickman)
and Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) become little more than cameo
actors, though Rickman makes the most of his few scenes.
it plays fairly well. Newell and screenwriter Steven Kloves
have pared the story down to its essence as a thriller,
moving the action inexorably forward to a confrontation
that poor Harry cannot understand is coming. Though the
scar left by Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) pains him, its import
is opaque until the climax.
As he hurtles
toward destiny, Harry also finds time to discover more terrors
in social interaction with girls. Shyly crushing on the
out of the blue Cho Chang (Katie Leung), he finds himself
just as hapless as his best mate Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint)
is with Hermione (Emma Watson).
focuses on the human drama, more in keeping with his resumé.
It's useful in the film's denoument, which has an air of
tragedy to it that earlier franchise director Chris Columbus
might have turned painfully mawkish.
though, the director sacrifices more than a little of the
wonder. Magic only exists here if it serves a specific plot
point, rather than filling every corner of the film as it
seemed to in previous installments. The supernatural exists
as a crucial part of the Tri-Wizard tournament, but disappears
for long stretches. When it's there, though, it's something,
as the dragons and mermaids are nothing short of spectacular.
film remains stunning, but Newell lacks an overall vision
for it. He takes a stab at creating a watery motif, but
seems to lose interest about halfway through. The same goes
for new character Rita Skeeter (Miranda Richardson), reporter
for the Daily Prophet, thus not really carrying through
the lesson Harry should be learning about the damage adults
can do with no greater weapons than assumptions and agendas.
a nicely uncomfortable sexuality to the role, letting innuendo
roll out of more lines than should be possible. But then
As Mad-Eye Moody,
Brendan Gleeson manages more of an impact, filling the role
with great gusto. A lesser actor could be upstaged by the
wandering eye, but Gleeson keeps the upper hand. Both he
and Fiennes make valuable additions to the cast; hopefully
they'll be useful in The Order of the Phoenix.
The Goblet of Fire is a serviceable entry in the
series. Though it steps back from the strength of the third
film, it entertains well enough with some true chills. The
power of yellow journalism may be muted, but Newell does
certainly make plain the simple evil of the Nazi-esque (and
slightly Klannish) Death Eaters. Again, this one's not for
the small kids; Harry and his crew are all 14, and the material
is more appropriate for that age.
maybe that's appropriate. The older we get, the less magical
the world seems. But it would be nice to let the magic stay
alive in the Harry Potter series.