Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) Review

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Filmmakers must face the choice between what is right and what is easy

Wow, once again I neglected to review a Harry Potter movie for a considerable amount of time since the last one written about. Although to be honest, I pretty much intended to hold off the Goblet of Fire review till I had finished the rest of the lot. Why, you ask? Because after watching it again under a more critical eye, my opinion and final verdict has been extremely difficult to pinpoint. Honestly, this may very well be the hardest review I’ve ever had the opportunity to write in my entire experience with writing on this site. While I have essentially convinced myself that Order of the Phoenix has surpassed Goblet as my favorite Potter movie, I’m still conflicted between nostalgic instinct and honest criticism. Well, here it goes.

Plot Synopsis: For a while, Harry Potter has been having visions of the dark lord Voldemort conversing with his loyal followers, the Death Eaters. Then, during the Quidditch World Cup, the Death Eaters attack the camps of fans during the night and burn everything down, but not before leaving behind the symbol of the dark mark in the sky, signaling that Voldemort is rising to power once again. When Harry and his friends return to Hogwarts, they learn that the school is hosting the Tri-Wizard Tournament this year, in which three schools each choose one of their seventh year students to complete in a series of challenges that will test their skills in magic. The other two schools joining Hogwarts are Beauxbatons and Durmstrang, a French all girls school and Bulgarian school respectively. Each school’s representing student is chosen by placing the votes in the Tri-Wizard Cup, which will randomly choose and spit out the names of each champion. At the announcement ceremony, Cedric Diggory is revealed to be the Hogwarts champion, Fleur Delacour is Beauxbatons’, and Victor Krum is Durmstrang’s. But for an unknown reason, the cup spits out another, fourth name, which happens to be Harry. Despite being only a fourth year student, Harry is bound to the tournament rules and must participate in the mysterious challenges.


Like the first two Harry Potter movies, Goblet of Fire occasionally struggles between being its own depiction of the novel and being too reverent to the novel it is based on. But unlike them, Goblet doesn’t have the issue of being too long, but rather not being long enough. This is more noticeable during the first act than the others, particularly when it came to the Quidditch World Cup scenes. The pacing felt very uneven in these parts, like the scenes were there for fan service, but not to flow in a smooth fashion. Also, Cedric Diggory, an important character during the final scenes in the movie, gets the short end of the stick in terms of character development and the ending could have had much more punch had he been more fleshed out. It is kind of a shame really, since Edward Pattinson seems to be putting forth much more effort here than in the dull Twilight movies. That said; the ending still works based on the strength of its performances and direction, just not as much as it could have.

But if it sounds like I’m not very enthusiastic about Goblet of Fire, then I’m sorry to confuse you because this chapter contains some of the best material of the entire series. Replacing Azkaban director Alfonso Cauron is Mike Newell, who finds a middle ground between Cauron’s dark visuals and Chris Columbus’ more straightforward style. Rather than relying on swooping shots and odd angles, Newell instead creates an atmosphere that is beautiful in its epic scope and grandiosity. The bombast befits the story, since it expands the world in ways that go beyond Hogwarts and even England as a whole. The first three Harry Potter movies, although they were large-scale blockbusters, seem quaint in comparison to Goblet’s massive set pieces, grand special effects, and pounding sound design. Equally larger-than-life is the music score by Patrick Doyle, who replaces the legendary John Williams. Doyle’s contributions don’t quite match the beauty of Williams’, but what he lacks in finesse he makes up for with thunderous sound and fury.


I’m not going to waste my time by talking about Radcliffe, Grint, and Watson this time since it has become predictable for me to say that they have become more natural with their characters since the last entry. The supporting cast is once again incomparable, which includes Brendan Gleeson, Michael Gambon, and the aforementioned Pattinson. Gambon further establishes his Dumbledore as one that isn’t like the kind, grandfather-like figure that Richard Harris portrayed. Here, Gambon shows real fear and concern for Harry’s safety during this adventure, rather than simple guidance and advice. Gleeson steps in as Mad-Eye Moody, yet another in the line of Defense-Against-the-Dark-Arts teacher replacements. Moody is a true character, one with his own brand of unique ticks and quirks brought vividly to life by Gleeson, who seems to be having a blast. But the real treasure in the crowd is Ralph Fiennes, who happens to play Voldemort, the Dark Lord himself. Under the snake-like makeup, Fiennes completely transforms into someone who is less a man and more of a monster who has been overcome by his inhumanity and malevolence to the point of no return. Voldemort is the embodiment of pure evil, perhaps even more so than Darth Vader, and his mere ten minutes of screen time is just an appetizer of things to come.

When thinking about its place within the context of the whole Harry Potter series, Goblet of Fire presents a turning point in the overall storyline. While Prisoner of Azkaban was the primer that showed that the series would go to darker places, Goblet is the start of events that will eventually lead up to the explosive climax promised in The Deathly Hallows. Until then, let’s just be happy that the series has made it this far with nary a slip-up.


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