Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) / Fantasy-Adventure
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for violence and scary images
Running Time: 157 min.
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Michael Gambon, Brendan Gleeson, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, Miranda Richardson, Robert Pattinson, Ralph Fiennes, Tom Felton, Jason Isaacs, Katie Leung, Warwick Davis, Gary Oldman
Director: Mike Newell
Screenplay: Steven Kloves (based on the book by J.K. Rowling)
It's becoming almost perfunctory; every time they release a new Harry Potter movie, the rabid fans clamor that it is the best Harry Potter ever, and what a great masterwork it is. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is no masterwork, but at least it sticks to plot more so than any previous outing. While some of the book's fans may whine incessantly at how director Mike Newell (Mona Lisa Smile, Pushing Tin) didn't squeeze every aspect of the 700+ page book into the confines of the 2 1/2 hour movie, as someone that has never read a single word of the J.K. Rowling literary series, all I can say is, "Thanks, Mike!" Finally, we have a (somewhat) cohesive plot that actually moves forward, with an honest-to-goodness build-up, climax and epilogue. At last, no more slowing the movie to a crawl with completely tangential scenes of cloying cuteness. While this may not capture the essence of Rowling's work fully, there is finally a reason to rejoice, because Rowling's books are so verbose from here on out, directors have no choice but to gut out the excess and stick to fundamentals.
That's not to say that it is perfect. By this point of the series, the films are becoming bogged down by the very large number of characters and side stories introduced in the first three films (and books), so keeping tabs on just who is thinking what about whom can prove an arduous task for those not intimately knowledgeable about every aspect of the series. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire may be easier to follow in its plot than previous entries, but it is still a convoluted story crammed to the max with special effects smorgasbords in place of where character development and plot segues should properly be.
The plot, at least from what I could make out, involves Harry Potter (Radcliffe) entering into the TriWizard Tournament, despite being too young for the match, and not volunteering to enter it himself. Still, the Goblet of Fire has produced his name, so he becomes one of four contestants from three wizardry schools vying for the prize. The games themselves are quite dangerous, and only the most advanced of the students are usually allowed to participate. Harry seems woefully outmatched, as he hasn't learned nearly enough of the proper powerful spells to succeed, but his hand is forced, so onward he goes through the perils. Meanwhile, ominous signs point to Voldemort's imminent arrival.
I'm going to go out on a limb here, and state that I will probably never really enjoy a Harry Potter film outright, as the series had lost my interest somewhere before the end of the first film. It's not that I've given up complete hope, as I honestly do try to follow the story, and actually want to care about these characters, as I have seen them onscreen about as much as any character of any other series of films by this point. However, the makers of all four of the Harry Potter films haven't exactly given me much to work with. These characters are drawn shallow, while most of the plotting gets shelved for prolonged periods during each film, making way for the special effects and silly scenes of young tomfoolery to take center stage intermittently. Goblet of Fire does do this to some extent, especially during a dance sequence where soap opera elements creep in to satisfy the fans that actually have been dying to see these characters get involved with one another. However, of all four of the Harry Potter films, it is the least excessive in this regard, and as long as there appears to be an ultimate goal in mind during each scene, it actually does manage to work.
I probably won't be spoiling the film for anyone by stating that Voldemort does make an appearance late in the film, portrayed eerily by Ralph Fiennes (Maid in Manhattan, Red Dragon). Unfortunately, one thing that Newell didn't do as well as he might is to get us properly psyched for his showdown with Harry, feeling almost like an afterthought, rather than the story's true climax. Of course, all four films have been carrying the load of the mystery of what happened to Harry's parents, who they were and why they've done whatever they've done, so it's to be expected that this back-story would continue. I still don't care anything about it, though.
I wouldn't call Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire a good movie, although it is practically must-see for the millions of fans of the books. Those that have seen the first three films will probably watch this just because they've already invested quite a bit of time to this franchise, and it's just so hard to back out now once you've gotten this far, even if it isn't exactly stirring or intellectually stimulating. While the aforementioned baggage and confusing mythos are beginning to necessitate reading the books to truly understand just what is going on during any given scene, I'm not going to succumb to the impulse. My rationale is as it always has been with book adaptations: if you have to read the book in order to understand a movie, then it isn't really that good of an adaptation then, is it?
-- Follows Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Followed by Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II.
©2005 Vince Leo