Archive Review: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)

As a huge fan of the intelligence and beauty that Alfonso Cuarón brought to the third Harry Potter film based on J.K Rowling’s fantasy book series, I was saddened to hear that he backed out of the fourth, “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” because of the quick year-and-a-half turnaround. Though director Mike Newell — the series’ first British director — is no slouch, he doesn’t fully capitalize on the potential of “Goblet of Fire” being such a departure from the previous novels and full of new characters.

The book is cut down immensely, but it works. “Goblet of Fire” moves quickly but stays engaging and has plenty to offer in terms of action and special effects. Potter scribe Steve Kloves does his best work whittling the script down without compromising the key and most memorable parts of the story.

In this installment, the much older mop-headed Harry Potter (Radcliffe, now on pubescent decline) is unwittingly selected as the fourth competitor in the Tri-Wizard tournament, a once-in-a-lifetime competition combining Hogwarts with two other magic schools: the boys of Durmstrang and the girls of Beauxbatons. New faces include Brendan Gleeson as MadEye Moody, the new teacher that aids Harry in figuring out tournament clues, Miranda Richardson as nosy reporter Rita Skeeter, “Doctor Who” star David Tennant as a follower of evil Lord Voldemort and Voldemort himself, finally appearing, fittingly played by Ralph Fiennes.

An unfortunate side-effect of the condensed script is a slight sacrifice of character. The only actor who gets to take a notable step forward is Emma Watson as Hermione, who gets to play some of the more emotional scenes in the film, in fact she plays a role in just about every one of them. Newell stated this film was intended to shed the kids’ goody two-shoes appearance and show them as more mischievous teenagers. While everyone else acts nasty, however, Hermione — other than a few lines where she acts like a mother to Harry and Ron (Grint) is the exception. Watson’s facial expressions — where a smile sometimes slips in the face of danger or sadness — is surprisingly candid.

We honestly get little growth elsewhere in this film. Even Harry, who despite great acts of kindness in the story that put others ahead of his own would-be gains, doesn’t appear to choose the actions so much as just do them because it’s in the script. Newell could have been of more use here.

Newell also seems to strip just a bit of the magic of seeing so much change to the Harry Potter world that this story brings. He keeps the more realistic street clothes element Cuarón emphasized, especially with the Tri-Wizard competitors wearing the equivalent of Nike for wizards, but every new element that “Goblet of Fire” introduces is sort of done so abruptly. We aren’t teased with it or slowly shown its wonder — quite likely due to a perceived lack of time.

When we finally see the young adults from the other schools appear in the Great Hall, they do this campy show that hardly captures our imaginations. Even the awe of the Quidditch World Cup is cut short. Apparently we’re to believe that a giant CG stadium with flashing lights happening very quickly is enough to scratch the itch of our imaginations. I would have gladly sat through another 10- 15 minutes for a bit more out of all these elements (most of which are in the first half hour).

“Goblet of Fire” is quick, entertaining fantasy — a great adaption of a very lengthy book that is one of the series’ most fun and adventurous. I don’t quite understand the PG-13 rating, though there are certainly scarier elements as these books only get darker and darker. It simply would have been nice to see the maturity and intelligence that Cuarón brought to the series continued or pushed further.

3.5/5 Stars

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)
Directed by Mike Newell
Written by Steve Kloves, J.K. Rowling
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Brendan Gleeson, Ralph Fiennes


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