And here’s the fourth film of the saga, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005), with the first British director behind the camera after the American Chris Columbus in the first and second film and the Mexican Alfonso Cuarón with his prisoner of Azkaban. This time it’s up to Mike Newell to direct the close-knit team Radcliffe – Watson – Grint in this new adventure, an adventure that makes yet another turn towards more “adult” themes and darker tones. Well, Harry and his companions are now 14 years old, entering full adolescence, and add to that the usual menace of Lord Voldemort about to return to get the typical adolescent age problems. What happens in this fourth chapter, then?
It starts at full speed already with the Weasley family and friends going to the quidditch world cup. There are some fantastic scenes with camping tents turning out to be luxurious palaces and a giant stadium to host the games. But the party doesn’t last long because it’s interrupted by the dreaded death eaters, the followers of Voldemort, who terrorize the poor spectators of the tournament (too bad that these scenes are extremely short!). And then, as always, here we are at the Hogwarts school of wizardry and witchcraft, where so many things happen one after the other… Reading the book (see its review on Blattzirkus) allows the reader to digest them all, but I have the impression that watching the film is not such a pleasant experience. I guess that what I want to say is the following: I think that I appreciate the film more because I’ve read the book before due to the fact that the every scene is so full of details that Newell couldn’t possibly explain them all. By having read the book, I know the secondary (and sometimes not so secondary) stories behind them and I’m able to gain more from the viewing experience.
Here’s what happens (and I’ll try to be brief):
- There’s the inevitable new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, the imposing Alastor “Mad-Eye” Moody (played by Brendan Gleeson), an experienced auror (a member of an elite body fighting against followers of the dark arts).
- The TriWizard Tournament is held at Hogwarts with two invited schools, Durmstrang and Beauxbatons. The French champion is Fleur Delacour (Clémence Poésy) supervised by the giant professor Olympe Maxime (Frances De la Tour) are there as a laughing stock (after all the English and the French have been rivals for centuries). The students of Igor Karkaroff (ex-death eater, as it’s be discovered soon, played by Predrag Bjelac) all look very strong including of course their champion Viktor Krum (Stanislav Ianevski). Inevitably, Harry finds himself stuck in this tournament, complete with dragons to fight, prisoners to save in the lake, and mazes to get out of!
- The hormones begin to do their duty and the tournament’s ball is an opportunity for our heroes to have their first love affairs, with Hermione conquering Krum and Ron and Harry who can’t find the courage to talk with, respectively, Hermione and the beautiful Cho (Katie Leung). The latter ends up dancing with the Hogwarts champion Cedric Diggory (Robert Pattinson who would then become famous with the Twilight saga). And what about Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis) with Ginny Weasley (Bonnie Wright)?
As it’s easy to understand, there’s so much to talk about: this movie greatly expands the Harry Potter universe with new characters, places, traditions, and spells (above all, the three unfogivable ones)! Mike Newell did a good job, well supported by the usual screenwriter Steve Kloves, who has written all the scripts of the series so far and has shown that he can always extract the most “cinematographic” content from the books by J.K. Rowling. However, in this case this highlights a glaring plot hole which in the book is a bit hidden by the thousand events that develop simultaneously at the same time. In the film, it becomes crystal clear, though. Let me enter spoiler territory in the next paragraph…
Why does Barty Crouch Jr. (David Tennant) does everything he can to help Harry win the tournament so that he can be the first to touch the cup / portkey that sends him to Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) and his most loyal followers? Harry trusts Moody, actually he really likes him as he treats badly the hated Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton), so at any time the professor could have sent the young wizard to the cemetery where Voldemort is waiting for him to complete his ritual. But no, the death eater waits for the end of the school year, and the tournament, for… no reason at all. This offers the possibility of a truly spectacular finale, with the sad fate of Cedric Diggory, the return of Lord Voldemort (with the fundamental role played by the slimy Peter Pettigrew, still played by Timothy Spall), and Dumbledore’s beautiful final speech, so I don’t want to complain too much. But it seems clear to me that in the logic of the film this makes little sense!
To conclude, the film is good, even if maybe in the hands of a director like Cuarón it could have been better, as Newell simply did an honest job. For me this is the beginning of the decline of the Harry Potter film saga, which, after a good start and a quality peak with the third film, begins to pay the difficulty of bringing increasingly longer books to the big screen, as well as the decision to save some money on directors, composers and locations (computer graphics also gradually becomes more and more intrusive). Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is still an entertaining film, it develops well the (few) themes it picked from the book (mainly adolescence with the first incomprehensions between our heroes, jealousies and their first love stories), and it has an great finale, so it’s certainly worth seeing! Ciao!