- Vancouver, British Columbia - The fourth installment in the Harry Potter film franchise saw the face of another new director, Mike Newell, who was best known for his films Donnie Brasco, Four Weddings and a Funeral, and Mona Lisa Smile. Not the most logical choice if I had to go by the sample of work, but he was a veteran film maker and must have given the studio and J.K. Rowling a satisfying treatment to land the job and take over where Alfonso Cuarón left off with Harry Potter's bar raised surprisingly high.
Harry and his friends are once again at Hogwarts, for their fourth year of studies, but this time they have longer hair. Life with Harry is never as simple as his schooling so somehow he gets picked to participate in a deadly magical competition called the Triwizard Tournament. He did not enter his name, nor should he have been able to as only seventh year students were eligible to compete. He gets coaching from the new defense against the dark arts teacher, Alastor “Mad-Eye” Moody. Oh, and Harry has been having some crazy dreams involving some freaky baby Voldemort. It's messed up.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is one of the films in the series that seems to have a lot of fans divided. Fans of the books heavily criticize it for missing large portions of Rowling's giant sized novel. The film was over two and half hours long so I'm not sure what they were hoping for, but I had no trouble following the story and didn't feel like there were crucial scenes missing. Perhaps Newell and writer Steve Kloves knew that rushing through the entire book was a doomed venture so they chose to focus on particulars of the story. And yes, I am aware that the movie skipped out of the early scene where they watch the Quidditch World Cup, but I'm extremely glad that it wasn't in the movie. I just don't want to watch any more Quidditch.
This film might be the most visually striking film of the series, either superior or on par with The Prisoner of Azkaban. Again, it isn't so much about the unusual visual elements of the world that look great, but rather that it is a good looking piece of cinema that captures the beauty in both the real and the imaginary.
As per usual, there are some more great actors joining the growing ensemble of the franchise. Doctor Who fans will be pleased to see a small part filled in by David Tennant. His crazy villainous role is small, but memorable. There is also the beautiful Clémence Poésy, as one of the Triwizard tournament contestants, Fleur Delacour. I like her as an actress as I enjoyed her performance in In Bruges, and I feel that her character was underused. Apparently in the book she was a much stronger character and played a heavier role, and this is one of those cases where I can see a bit of weakness in the adaptation. It's also worth noting that Robert Pattinson plays the Hogwarts representative in the tournament, Cedric Diggory. This was one of his big breakthrough roles before the Twilight movie series both ignited his career and smothered it at the same time. It's roles like this that we need to remember while his Edward role gives him the consistent paycheques, he is actually a fine actor as he portrays Diggory as a strong, but likable hero.
Brendan Gleeson is the most notable and prominent addition as he takes the role of “Mad-Eye” Moody. Out of the defense against the dark arts teachers, he is the one that leaves me wondering the most. Of course, this is the intention. With the others you could see past their disguise easily enough for the most part, but with this one, the mystery surrounding Moody is very well hidden and integral to the story.
The three main actors are progressing well, but I feel a need to comment on Emma Watson's performance in this film. Hermione is become a very emotionally involving character as the feelings between her and Ron progress and become less unspoken. There are some scenes where she steals the show. It's not that the boys aren't up to her level, there was just an opportunity for her skills to shine and she stood up to the challenge.
While the plot seems to focus on the Triwizard tournament and Harry's endeavor to survive, there is a whole other story going on in the meantime. In this way, the movie very much succeeds. We're very much invested in Harry's safety, as such we aren't bored by the challenges he must face, but the background mystery is present enough that we see that it's not a shallow plot, but rather one that unravels in time and keeps the audience interested. The climax of the film is also one of the biggest turning points in the series so far. I should not say too much more than that.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was an instant success at the box office. It more than made up for the relatively disappointing numbers of The Prisoner of Azkaban. At this point, it became a safe bet that Harry Potter fans were into the movies for the long haul and would come out no matter the talent behind the camera. I believe the series was better off for it. Mike Newell's vision of the Potter world was quite different than the last two directors' versions. That's when the series became exciting for me. As they came out before I was only mildly interested, but after seeing this one, I saw a lot of value in passing the torch onto different directors. This film had a very unique voice as Newell would leave the Potter franchise after this film. While he would be missed, I was excited to see where the series would go, both story wise and stylistically.
Rating: 4/5 Sour Grapes