Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Potter Week+ at One Movie Each Day rolls right into Thursday with this, fourth installment. I’m finding these reviews are far more self-referential than normal, so before reading this one you might want to have read the first, second, and third installments.
Today I take a look at the fourth film in the series, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. This installment is a major turning point in the overall saga, it begins with another year at Hogwarts and a fun magical contest, but it ends with death and the arrival, at last of the series’ big bad. As a film it’s also the point where we really begin to see some signs of strain in trying to adapt a 700+ page novel into less than three hours on the big screen. (This problem would only get worse as Rowling’s books continued to get longer and longer, but I’ll get to that when I get to that.)
‘Goblet sees another new director in Mike Newell, while screenwriter Steve Kloves makes his fourth and final contribution to the series. This time around the film has to cut away virtually everything that wasn’t immediate to the primary plotline, and even then it feels rushed at times. There’s no sign of the Dursleys, and not a single indication that anybody is going to class this year.
The film is practically an action movie… an action movie about fourteen year-olds. It’s important to keep this in mind, because our principal characters really do act like teenagers: The boys all have terrible haircuts. They’re whiney, impulsive, self-centered and have no idea how to act around the opposite sex. This is simultaneously one of the things that makes ‘Goblet somewhat hard to watch and, oddly, one of its strengths. Of course, most of these moments get blown by in a hurry to get to the next big action sequence.
This film also continues the series tradition of casting fantastic adult actors in supporting roles. Of particular note, ‘Goblet introduces the Brendan Gleeson who nearly steals the picture as “Mad-Eye” Moody, while David Tennant makes the most of his limited screen time as Barty Crouch, Jr. Of course, we also get the debut of Ralph Fiennes as He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named himself.
It’s Fiennes’ appearance as Voldemort in the film’s closing action sequence that really kicks the series into gear. There’s a single moment when it’s made crystal clear that everything prior has been nothing but so much prologue; specifically it’s when he casually orders minion Peter Pettigrew (Timothy Spall) to kill Cedric Diggory (Robert Pattinson, still years away from annoying everyone in another sprawling YA fantasy series that will not be getting a theme week here.) All of a sudden things get real, no more are we worried about who’s getting five points for Gryffindor, or who who’s getting detention. (Though, of course, while we know this, and our protagonists know this, as the rest of the world… well, I’ll get to that when I get to that.)
‘Goblet is in just about every way a transitional film. It represents the last dash of frivolity and the beginning of real consequences for our characters. It’s a film that features characters awkwardly transitioning into adulthood and the end of childhood innocence. It’s also a cracking action movie. It’s also the end of the series rotating directors, as David Yates will take over with part 5 and guide the series the rest of the way.
This a film that I could almost see being best enjoyed by someone who’s not familiar with the novel, because there’s enough here to form a coherent story, but so much great material was cut that readers will really start to notice it. (In contrast in the coming films it might be hard to understand what’s happening without having the background the books provide, but again, I’ll get to that when I get to that.) In any case, when I look at Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and consider it on its own merits, I’ve got to conclude that it’s well Worth Seeing.