Review: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

My daughter and I went to see Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire this weekend. She loves the Potter movies, but wisely decided that she might actually be scared this time around so we went to a Saturday matinee. In short, we loved it.

Turning the Harry Potter book series into movies is a daunting task. Taking 800 some odd pages and making a movie, even a 2 hour and 40 minute movie, isn’t easy. Luckily Steve Kloves takes on the challenge, as he has with the last three movies. Wisely, he takes the ten or so biggest moments in the book and puts it up on the screen. What the audience gets is something very much like the last movie – a unique, impressive adaptation. Potter purists might be upset with some of the missing moments and plot changes, but the movie audience won’t mind one bit.

This time, we get much less of the day-to-day aspects of life at Hogwarts and straight into the action. Whether it’s the Quidditch World Cup, the Tri-Wizard Tournament, the Yule Ball or the climatic graveyard scene, all the main plot points are set up nicely and deviate from the book in all the right places. While the movie doesn’t stand on its own, most people coming to the film will have seen the previous three offerings in some way shape or form.

Director Mike Newell obviously has learned a thing or two from the earlier offerings, especially Prisoner of Azkaban, by keeping the magic a combination of fanciful and “normal.” The sweeping vistas from Azkaban return as well as the locations. His previous directorial efforts are diverse from Four Weddings and a Funeral to Donnie Brasco and he brings a nice sense of “British sensibility” to the whole affair. With Goblet, we see a more grown-up movie and not just the rapidly ageing leads.

I’ve heard rumblings that the kids are getting too old for their respective parts. This is patently ridiculous since the kids themselves are only a few years older than their cinematic counterparts. People forget that the kids are supposed to age. They also forget that the danger is also supposed to get darker and more challenging. With this movie, it’s not just the return of the ultimate evil, but the daunting task of asking a girl out to the big dance and then actually having to dance with her. Oh, teenage angst!

The movie centers on Harry and the Tri-Wizard Tournament to the detriment of just about every other character and story moment. Of course, the tasks the champions (and Harry who has mysteriously been added to the group) have to face make up some of the more visually interesting elements of the movie. Can you say dragons and mer-people?

Harry’s cohorts get their respective moments to shine. Rupert Grint as Ron gets to be pissed off at Harry and Emma Watson as Hermione gets to remind everyone that she’s a girl. Even minor characters like Nevill Longbottom get a moment in the sun. It’s wonderful that the British acting troup of teachers all reprise their roles even though Maggie Smith and Alan Rickman barely have five lines each. The gravitas that Harris brought to Dumbledore is missing, but Michael Gambon presents a more active Dumbledore, which will only enhance the next movie’s climactic battle.

The new cast members play their roles perfectly. Brendan Gleeson as Mad-eye Moody and Miranda Richardson as Rita Skeeter do amazing things with their screen time. Of course, Ralph Fiennes as Lord Voldemort playing the ultimate bad guy and brings a sense of menace that is a combination of Darth Vader and the Wicked Witch of the West. Snake-like and supremely confident, Fiennes as Voldemort leaves the audience wanting more. I can’t wait for the climax of the next film, knowing what I know about Order of the Phoenix.

Without giving too much away, the climax starts shockingly and ends in tears. While it felt a little too short for me, I was left thinking it resonated nicely and was a fitting end to something that was building since the beginning. I’ll have to watch it a couple more times to get the full lasting effect.

Dark times lay ahead for Harry and his friends. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the cinematic version of Order of the Phoenix. The only thing I know for sure is that it will be magical.