Mark Reviews Movies


3 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Mike Newell

Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Michael Gambon, Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, Brendan Gleeson, Robbie Coltrane, Miranda Richardson, Timothy Spall, David Tennant, Ralph Fiennes

MPAA Rating: PG-13  (for sequences of fantasy violence and frightening images)

Running Time: 2:37

Release Date: 11/18/05

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Review by Mark Dujsik

So we come to the turning point. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire finds our hero growing up even more and facing the horrors of adolescence and confronting his arch-nemesis directly for the first time. The film series itself is starting to come of age, as well, as the books screenwriter Steven Kloves must adapt become longer. Instead of the immensely faithful nature of the earlier movies, Kloves is now forced to pick and choose narrative strings and polish them into a reasonable length. The last film Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban suffered from a sense of slightly disjointed storytelling as a result, but with Goblet of Fire, Kloves has successfully streamlined the 734-page novel into a concise adaptation which focuses on the driving dynamic of the story but still feels coherent. Director Mike Newell correspondingly approaches the material with an immediate pacing. The Harry Potter films are no longer overly loyal recreations but creations unto themselves. Admittedly, the best of the series thus far has been the second of those overly loyal recreations, so perhaps something may have been lost. Either way, this installment shows promise in sustaining more cinematic adaptations.

Harry Potter's (Daniel Radcliffe) fourth year at Hogwarts begins with some frivolity, as he and his friends Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) attend the Quidditch World Cup. Hardly has the game ended when a group of hooded figures appear and burn down the mass of tents outside the stadium. Harry falls behind and watches as one of them sends an ominous image—a skull with a snake protruding from its mouth—into the sky. He learns these figures are Death Eaters, people loyal to Lord Voldemort, and the sign is that of the Dark Lord. Young Master Potter has been having dreams about Voldemort, and it seems forces beyond anyone's immediate sight are working to bring him back. Upon arriving at Hogwarts, Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) announces that the school has been selected to hold the illustrious TriWizard Tournament and that students from two other schools will be spending the year at Hogwarts. Deciding who will participate in the tournament is left to the titular goblet, which spits out the customary three contestants and a surprising fourth who did not and could not put his name in the running: Harry Potter.

How did Harry's name get into the goblet? What do his dreams mean? And who is he going to ask to the Yule Ball? Kloves and Newell leave much of the mystery element, so prevalent in the earlier installments, to the side and instead concentrate on the tournament and the heroes' pangs of puberty. For everyone beyond the contestants in the tournament, this seems to be a breeze of a year, as classes seem to have mysteriously stopped, but for Harry, Cedric Diggory (Robert Pattison), Fleur Delacour (Clémence Posésy), and Viktor Krum (Stanislav Ianevski), this year will be the hardest yet. The tournament is divided into three rounds. The first is a battle with a dragon, and under Newell's hand, it's a spectacular, if illogical (why does Harry stay near the castle when the egg he needs to capture is back in the stadium?), action setpiece. The next pits the contestants against the mer-people in the lake who have taken something of value from each of them. The final challenge is a murky, foggy hedge maze, full of dangerous vegetation and containing one champion under the influence of an Unforgivable Curse.

This sequence immediately leads into the darkest, most unsettling, and ultimately most satisfying conclusion of any of the series' entries, as the Dark Lord himself makes his first official appearance in the form of an unrecognizably twisted and sinister Ralph Fiennes (the PG-13 rating is more than likely the result of this scene alone). Thankfully, spread throughout the gloom and doom are scenes solidifying our heroes as more than observers to the fantastical events around them. For the first time, there is actual conflict between them beyond name-calling and hurt feelings. Ron gets upset with Harry for, what he sees as, trying to take the limelight, and their friendship is strained to the point that Hermione must act as the go-between for their conversations. The tension between Ron and Hermione also picks up, as Hermione accepts Viktor's invitation to the dance, and Ron's jealousy subsequently ruins the evening for her. While their characters grow, so do the actors, and as stiff as they sometimes are, it's impossible now to imagine any other people playing this trio. Of the three, this time around Rupert Grint stands out, leaving behind his perpetually terrified countenance. His query about why girls "always travel in packs" is perhaps the film's best line.

Some things from the novel, of course, have been sacrificed and others have been reduced to throwaway information (be sure to listen very closely during the courtroom scene, or you'll miss the identity of a Death Eater in Hogwarts and why Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis) is so distressed by watching the torture curse), and while some of it is missed, the film still feels more complete than the last entry. With Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the series is still finding its footing, but it is doing so with confidence.

Copyright © 2005 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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