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Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire ( )
Directed by Mike Newell
Written by J.K. Rowling (book), Steve Kloves (screenplay)
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Principal Cast
Daniel Radcliffe -- Harry Potter
Rupert Grint -- Ron Weasley
Emma Watson -- Hermione Granger
Michael Gambon -- Albus Dumbledore
Brendan Gleeson -- "Mad Eye" Moody
David Tennant -- Barty Crouch, Jr.
Frances de la Tour -- Madame Maxime
Miranda Richardson -- Rita Skeeter
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Website
J.K. Rowling Website
The Harry Potter Lexicon

One star - Chum Bucket
Two stars - Pickle Barrel
Three stars - Beer Stein
Four stars - Wine Bottle
Five stars - Holy Grail
Past Feature Reviews
A review by David Newbert

The Harry Potter films have gotten progressively darker as they've matured, and have become more willing to embrace such themes as sex and death. This is especially true of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, directed by Mike Newell, the first British director to helm the series. This is only fair and sensible, as the characters (and actors) are just entering their teenage years. American Chris Columbus did a perfectly serviceable job directing the first two entries as popular childrens' entertainments, while Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron fashioned the third and to date best installment as a darkly attractive "coming of age" story for pre-teens. It only makes sense that the fourth film should do some growing up. Goblet of Fire is an excellent tale of magic and teenagers, death and pain, love and loyalty, and for its shades of violence -- both physical and emotional -- it earns its PG-13 rating here in the States.

Goblet of Fire is set around the Triwizard Tournament, a wizard competition for students over the age of seventeen from three competing schools, including the hosting Hogwarts. The goblet chooses the finalist from each school, except this time there's a fourth competitor: Harry Potter, who's really too young to compete under the rules, but apparently the goblet is in charge of these matters, and not the headmasters. I'm really not sure what the point of the tournament is, if it isn't a chance for the kids to see their classmates take a great shot at getting killed. (It might be a nice break from the usual curriculum.) In any case, someone has entered Harry's name, and he's obligated to see it through.

The competition involves slaying dragons, rescuing students from the bottom of a lake, and finding one's way through an enormous, absolutely voracious maze, one big enough to cover the entirety of a mist-strewn valley. Writer Steve Kloves, who's written all of the Harry Potter adaptations, has paced the script around these major action sequences, and made additional room for scenes of more mundane adolescent challenges, such as asking girls out on dates, going to the big dance, and patching up spats between best friends. Add a prologue that features tragedy at the Quidditch World Cup, and the movie is all about games, rituals, and a kind of sportsmanship, metaphors for trying to find one's way through the ugly maze of the teenage years.

While Goblet of Fire has some truly terrific special effects (especially the CGI that creates the dragons), the most compelling parts of the film are those intimate moments that find the young wizards either just being kids, or awkwardly play-acting at being adults. In fact, there aren't enough of these moments, as some characters are short-changed by the spectacle, while others feel like confusing add-ons (there's a young girl that Harry has a crush on who does next to nothing in this story, but was written in so we'll know who she is in a future film). I understand that a little can go a long, long way in this respect. There's a horrible, beautiful moment when Harry and Ron, in order to spoil Hermione's perfect evening at the dance, become resentful and slyly suggest she's a tramp for trying to fit in with the cool kids. It's unfair and hurtful, and so authentically the kind of thing that teenagers do to one another that it jolts you out of the wizardry for a moment. When she lashes back, then breaks down and cries, your heart flies to her, and the film becomes Harry Potter and the Goblet of Angst. All members of the trio have moments like this.

Speaking of which, the three principles are better than ever. Daniel Radcliffe is quieter and more subdued this time, his Harry being unsure of his powers, but heroic in spite of himself. It's a performance of confidence. Rupert Grint's Ron Weasley is again a comic foil, but this time he's more integral to the story, and Grint has great comic timing. And I'm sure Emma Watson is going to take the world by storm someday. She was the real hero of Prisoner of Azkaban, and here she gets to inject honest emotion into scenes that could have easily been maudlin. With her poise and knowing smirk, I'd say she could become the British Selma Blair.

The major action is gripping and well-filmed, and I have to confess that the underwater trial was enough like my nightmares to have shaken me up a bit. Harry's own nightmares in Goblet of Fire are about Lord Voldemort, played here by an awesome Ralph Fiennes. Thanks to the wizards at ILM, he's born out of a flaming cauldron and clothed in floating scraps of darkness, but the power in the character comes from Fiennes himself. He looks like a hairless, diseased demon, demanding your attention as he stalks around the sets, taking up all the acting space in sight, hissing at Harry and some former compatriots, and getting off on the pain and suffering of others. It's a villainous performance that, I have no doubt, will compete in the imaginations of younger viewers with the likes of Darth Vader.

Everyone else settles into a more naturalistic and fluid style of acting, in keeping with Mike Newell's overall approach to directing. The camera angles are intimate and unobtrusive, and the photography has a pleasingly grey caste (it's England, after all), though there's plenty of color and pizzazz where it's needed. I suppose the intent was to bring the world of Hogwarts closer to the contemporary sensibilities of documentary filmmaking, something like what Spielberg did in this summer's War of the Worlds. While it comes perilously close to having the beauty of its production design washed out, this does feel like the first photo-real Harry Potter movie.

I prefer Prisoner of Azkaban for its lovely, unifying vision, its Roald Dahl-like nastiness, and its surprising poignancy, but Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is a terrific follow-up, and a good film in its own right. I just hope the next installment follows the characters a little more closely, without becoming Harry Potter and the Breakfast Club.

Copyright © 2005 David Newbert

David Newbert worked for public and university libraries for several years before joining the college book trade. He lives in New Mexico, where the aliens landed.

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