Frances de la Tour
Difficult times lie ahead for teenage wizard Harry Potter as he and his friends Ronand Hermione begin their fourth year at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft andWizardry. Recurring nightmares of arch-nemesis Voldemort’sreturn have left Harry’s trademark scar hurting more than usual; and as thetrio attends the Quidditch World Cup in late summer, the Death Eaters,sworn servants of Lord Voldemort, resurface to raise hell (no pun intended),igniting the skies with the Dark Mark, an ominous sign that the Dark Lordmight be planning a most unwelcome return.
Harry longs to return to the safe confines of Hogwarts, where ProfessorDumbledore can protect him. But things are going to be alittle different this year. Dumbledore announces that the school will hostthe prestigious Triwizard Tournament, the wizarding community’s version ofthe Olympics. Despite being underage, Harry is mysteriously chosen by theenchanted Goblet of Fire to represent Hogwarts alongside popular classmateCedric Diggory, much to everyone’s chagrin.
As if the challenge of the Triwizard Tournament, a muckraking journalistwriting fabricated stories abouthim, his studies and, oh yes, the impending return of Voldemort aren’tenough to distract him, Harry must also deal with another serious challenge:- finding a date for the Yule Ball.
Director Mike Newell (Four Weddings and aFuneral) and returning series screenwriter Steve Kloves are more than upto the task of turning JK Rowling’s massive 734-page opusinto a single motion picture (the idea of splitting Goblet into twofilms was briefly considered) that is both workable and faithful to itssource material. Approximately 160 pages of the book’s opening, includingHarry’s annual bout with the Dursleys, have been removed (the WorldQuidditch Match opens the movie, albeit briefly), subplots such as Hermoinefreeing the House Elves (No Dobby? Oh…darn) have also been given the boot,while events such as the falling out between Harry and Ron and the antics ofthe journalist Rita Skeeter have been slimmed down a great bit.
The omissions and trimmings will no doubt raise the ire of some fans.But Newell, Kloves andcompany make the changes work well. Alfonso Cuaron did agreat job examining the beginnings of adolescent anger and awkwardness inHarry and his friends with his 2004 entry, The Prisoner of Azkaban, butNewell manages to delve deeper into the characters, giving the series awelcome change of pace and newfound level of maturity. Much like Rowling’snovel, The Goblet of Fire has an emotional reality that makes for somefine moments of drama throughout, especially in its heartfelt concludingscenes.
This is not to say that the Harry Potter series has gone theBergman route. There are still plenty of sequences of wonder, laughs andexcitement to be had: the tasks of the Tournament are three examples ofgenuinely exciting set pieces, elevated by superb visual effects, RogerPratt’s cinematography and Patrick Doyle’s solid music score.
Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint continue to improve as actors, growing morecomfortable in their roles while adding more dimension and nuance to theircharacters with each passing film. Michael Gambon, Maggie Smith, RobbieColtrane, Timothy Spall and Alan Rickman, each receiving reduced screen timehere, offer typically solid support.
Among the new additions to the cast, Brendan Gleeson is great as thisyear’s Defense of the Dark Arts teacher, “Mad Eye” Moody, while RalphFiennes makes for a downright scary Voldemort, whose resurrection andsubsequent scenes are a big part of why this entry in the family-friendlyseries is one that should not be viewed by younger fans. Miranda Richardsonmakes do with the severely condensed presence of gossip columnistSkeeter.
Dark times may lie ahead for the world’s most famous boy wizard, but ifThe Prisoner of Azkaban and The Goblet of Fire are any indication,the film franchise’s days are getting brighter and brighter.