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Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Review


RATING:
(3 STARS)

With Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the series’ filmmakers reached their biggest obstacle to a successful adaptation thus far—condensing the enormous fourth Harry Potter novel into a manageable 150 minutes. Of course, purists fumed over the cuts, but on the whole, I think screenwriter Steve Kloves did a solid, if imperfect, job. There are a number of hiccups along the way, but it remains an action-packed and exciting entry in the series.

As Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint), and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) get older, their lives are beginning to change. Classes at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry are getting more difficult. There are distractions—like the Quidditch World Cup and their hormones—to worry about. And this year at Hogwarts, two rival schools of magic are visiting to take part in the Triwizard Tournament—a prestigious and very dangerous competition that hasn’t been held in over a hundred years. Harry and his friends are below the age limit to compete, but that doesn’t stop someone from entering Harry’s name. He’s becomes one of two Hogwarts champions, along with Cedric Diggory (Robert Pattinson). They compete with Fleur Delacour (Clemence Poesy) and world-famous Quidditch player Viktor Krum (Stanislav Ianevski). As Harry struggles to survive the tournament, he has to confront the possibility that someone at Hogwarts wants him killed. And with Voldemort’s followers becoming more and more visible, Harry and his friends worry about the possibility that much more dangerous things are about to happen.

Where Goblet of Fire stands out most is in its action sequences. The scenes in which Harry evades a dragon and some angry underwater creatures are thrilling and very well-filmed. The maze sequence is realized very differently than it plays out in the novel, but I think what’s onscreen is more compelling. This story, perhaps more than any other Potter adventure, is inherently cinematic. That’s because of these action scenes, and the series is lucky to have a director in Mike Newell who can handle the challenge (something he even did in the very much inferior Prince of Persia: Sands of Time).

Much of the rest of the film feels rushed, and despite Kloves best efforts, a lot of the intrigue as to who is trying to harm Harry is lost. He decides to keep much of the romantic subplots, which become more pronounced as the series progresses. I could’ve done without that, but I’m sure there are plenty of Potter-philes who would have been up-in-arms if the Yule Ball was left on the cutting room floor.

Goblet of Fire is also noteworthy because it’s the first film in the series to earn a PG-13 rating. Parts of this film are genuinely frightening, while others are quite sad. It’s hard to believe this is the fourth film in a series that began with such childish films as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I’m thankful the filmmakers didn’t try to pretend this was anything other than the dark tale it is. By building upon what Alfonso Cuaron did in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Newell is able to capture the best elements of the later books in the series.

While our three principal actors started out very slowly, they all took steps forward inPrisoner of Azkaban. Here, they are solid once again, but still a bit lacking in certain areas. I fault Kloves for not writing Daniel Radcliffe convincing dialogue in the more emotional scenes. I didn’t fully believe him, but I thought his performance was as earnest as it could have been. Rupert Grint mopes around a lot, but at least he gets to step outside of his comfort zone a little, and I definitely believed him. Emma Watson proves she’s no longer a little girl in the Yule Ball scene, but she still doesn’t nail the human side of Hermione. Too much of the character is exaggerated, which makes the performance feel a little robotic.

The biggest newcomer to the cast is Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort. He’s not as frightening as one might think the most evil wizard of all-time would be. He looks the part (the actor is unrecognizable, really), but it’s an imperfect performance. Brendan Gleeson gets a number of laughs as Mad-Eye Moody, a new professor at Hogwarts, but he’s not as memorable as David Thewlis was in Prisoner of Azkaban. Miranda Richardson has a brief but juicy role as a muckraking journalist out for the ultimate scoop.

After this film, the series takes an unmistakable turn. It’s easy to write this one off as a transitional film, but it’s better than that. The action scenes are terrific, and the acting is very solid. The film could have used some trimming (and some that was trimmed probably should have been included), but for the series’ first attempt at condensing a 700-plus page novel, I’d say it’s definitely a success.

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