Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)
Release Date: November 18th, 2005 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Mike Newell Actors: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Michael Gambon, Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane, Alan Rickman, Robert Pattinson, Katie Leung, Clemence Poesy, Brendan Gleeson, Gary Oldman, Ralph Fiennes
he adventurous witchcraft and visual wizardry are at full steam for this fourth installment in the Harry Potter franchise. But for the first time, the story feels noticeably episodic, particularly with the necessity for viewing the previous films; it’s essential for comprehension of all the old elements revisited and the new ones that complement existing components. The top-notch special effects, fast-paced Quidditch, awkward adolescent romance, riveting trials, and rousing fantasy all return with relish, alongside more serious themes and scarier villains to match the lead characters’ steady maturation (landing the first PG-13 rating for the series). As the plot develops, it alternates between feeling like the principal storyline of a new series is just beginning and the last part of a juvenile quadrilogy is winding down.
Under the care of director Mike Newell, this fourth part opens, unexpectedly, without Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) ruing the summer with his adopted family. Lively competition rears its head (along with more appropriately silly names) when the girls of rival school Beauxbatons and the young men of Durmstrang are invited to participate with Hogwarts in a legendary Triwizard tournament that will test all the students’ skills in intelligence, endurance, and magic. As the tribulations turn from dangerous to deadly, the dark lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) plots his inevitable return with an army of Death Eater minions. Meanwhile, a new Defense Against the Dark Arts (a routinely cursed position) teacher arrives (Brendan Gleeson as Professor Alastor “Madeye” Moody), and the students prepare for a little well-mannered frivolity during a Christmas Eve dance.
Absurdly obnoxious song-and-dance entrances by the battling institutions set the mood for the balmy but fitting jealousy and romance that overtake a large portion of drama between the aspiring witches and wizards. Harry’s inclusion in the treacherous tournament attracts jealousy by Ron Weasley, a fight for an image to live up to (especially when trying to nab a date for the ball), and colossal creatures to combat in the event itself. It may be a purely fantasy-oriented film, but throwing in some of the typical coming-of-age qualities (including a rock band for the dance) instills the idea that the smattering of young adult heroes is indeed human. So to keep things grounded in fiction, the selected students must grapple with dragons, mermaids, and other mythological monstrosities; it seems one of author Rowling’s goals was to include every creature ever devised in ancient folkloristics.
“Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” at last reveals Voldemort, the frequently whispered-about, ultimate antagonist, much like Emperor Palpatine’s appearance in “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.” During Voldemort’s climactic confrontation, he even wields comparative electricity-bolt powers. Here, the brief fight foreshadows future duels that must stall off the epic, terminal showdown, which can only take place at the very end of the final movie. From here on out, the smaller, interruptive battles between good and evil are merely devices to toy with the audience, like Voldemort’s trifles with Harry. Though the translation from several-hundred-page novels to two-hour feature films is chiefly entertaining and only marginally over-condensed, it’s increasingly evident that seven books and as many as eight theatrical adaptations fuel the need for too much filler subplots or nonessential side characters to effectively tell a single, albeit convoluted, story.
– Mike Massie