Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Review No. 411

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The Bottom Line: It’s worth watching, but it’s also pretty esoteric.

Directed by: Mike Newell
Screenplay by: Steve Kloves
Based on: “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter: Daniel Radcliffe
Ron Weasley: Rupert Grint
Hermione Granger: Emma Watson
Rubeus Hagrid: Robbie Coltrane
Albus Dumbledore: Michael Gambon
Severus Snape: Alan Rickman
Draco Malfoy: Tom Felton
Minerva McGonagall: Maggie Smith
Sirius Black: Gary Oldman
Lord Voldemort: Ralph Fiennes
Alastor Moody: Brendan Gleeson
Also Starring: David Tennant, Frances de la Tour, Jason Isaacs, Miranda Richardson, Robert Pattinson, Timothy Spall

Distributed by Warner Bros. on November 18, 2005. Produced in English by the United Kingdom and the United States. Runs 157 mins. Rated PG-13 by the MPAA for sequences of fantasy violence and frightening images.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was watched on February 4, 2013.

“It is the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness, nothing more.” –Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon)

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is like the word “floccinaucinihilipilification.” That word, which I will not dare waste any more time with, likely has an important placement in the dictionary. It’s 29 letters and several syllables long, so it’s likely the word itself, its own definition and derivatives require at least a page of more space in your standard dictionary. But this word (which ironically means the act of describing something utterly worthless) has placement in only the most bizarre of dialects. Similarly, Goblet is a significant installment to the Potter canon, but its placement among the rest of the fantasy genre is quite scarce.

Obviously I’m exaggerating quite a bit. I do enjoy Goblet of Fire for what it is, but I’ve read the book on which it is based two or three times. I can’t imagine anyone new to the series would understand anything going on. Maybe if he or she had heard talk from friends who had read it, and maybe if he or she had seen the series’ second installment (Chamber of Secrets). Who wants to leave a movie that spent two-and-a-half hours on “That’s why you should always read the book first”?

Moreover, the book was printed at 735 pages, nearly twice as long as its predecessor. The choice of sacrificing unnecessary subplots is admirable, but the novel has several potentially deep additives as well. This was all in the name of staying at a reasonable amount of time. Ultimately the film clocks in at 157 minutes, but if a true Potterhead were watching, would he or she have the slightest problem with a three-hour movie? I sure wouldn’t.

Once again, the series welcomes a new director, Mike Newell. I’ll confess this is the only of his films I’ve seen, but almost all of his other titles are recognizable. The man has been behind the camera for both charming romantic comedies (Four Weddings and a Funeral) and hardboiled crime flicks (Donnie Brasco). I’m sure that either Newell is a narcissist who had read J.K. Rowling’s source and knew he was perfect for the job, or whoever pinned him knows the series very well. Newell’s direction—save for the rushed opening sequences—is quite gleefully enamoring, with much humor, new caricatures, and a strange yet brilliant amalgamation between downbeat and upbeat moods.

Harry Potter is fourteen years old. It’s acceptable that he looks 17 (Radcliffe was 16 at the time, but the different hair “makes him look older”), only because is seen alongside three seventeen-year-olds for most of the film. This is the year of the “Triwizard Tournament.” Three students from three different wizarding schools are selected for three highly life-threatening and professional tasks. Somehow Harry has been selected as a fourth, but if he isn’t old enough, who could have possibly put his name in while posing as himself?

The tradition at Hogwarts, we are told, is that there is a dance called the “Yule Ball” to preface the tournament. This is a subplot that was touched on so much, but ironically, it would have been better off as another segment. I understand the series loves to have fun and pose a giddy nature, but during these sequences, the film depletes into a silly modeling infomercial. Yes, the scenes are delightfully humorous, but they’re also incredibly distracting. Director Newell touches on the theme of love all throughout the film. It’s what saved his life as a baby, and now it’s saving his life more than ever. I believe the ball scenes were a single chapter in Rowling’s novel; they amount to at least fifteen percent of this adaptation.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire isn’t a great film, but it’s definitely enjoyable. Special effects and performances are worth a quick, honorable mention, for those who haven’t figured that out already from previous films; when they combine, the climactic moments are absolutely stunning. If I’ve piqued your interest, but you haven’t read the book, however, please do so beforehand. It’s quite irritating that this time around, writer Steve Kloves didn’t show any knowledge of the esotericism, “never judge books by their movies.” It most certainly does not mean “Never think that a book’s going to be bad just because you couldn’t understand what happened during the adaptation; it was your fault in watching the movie beforehand.” For those in oh-so-desperate need of proof: after writing that sentence, I glanced up at my copy of Schindler’s List by Thomas Keneally. I have not read it yet, but the movie is a three-hour adaptation which I love enough to put in my all-time top ten.

B MINUS

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