We’re at the fourth installment of the Harry Potter films now and as is the rule in all storytelling sagas made by people who once saw Empire Strikes Back the middle part is the dark part. Goblet Of Fire is this series’ Empire Strikes Back. It’s the point where the Snitch hits the fan and the Voldemort’s evil plans start to truly come into being. Hopefully that’s not spoiling too much. If you don’t want to be spoiled though read with caution! I have a gripe with this film that will require major spoilers for the ending. I’ll save that paragraph until as late as possible though. If you aren’t scared of spoilers then click the jump to read on.
Lets jump right into The Goblet Of Fire’s opening scenes shall we? I’m mildly impressed here. In my review for Prisoner Of Azkaban I bemoaned the formulaic openings for each of the films. the first 3 all go Harry at home being miserable, magical transport, here come the Weasleys, more magical transport and welcome to Hogwarts! it was tiring on me. It’s a good job that last film was quite different for the rest of it’s duration or I would really have gotten bored. Goblet of fire starts off on a much better footing. We see a brief sequence, revealed to be a possible dream where we see Peter Pettigrew (The random plot device from the last film I hated) and a mystery man discussing evil plans apparently with an unseen Voldemort. Harry wakes up from this nightmare with the sweats. You’d think he’d be used to this stuff by now. Harry is staying at the Weasleys now and along with Hermione and the rest of the Weasleys (barring Julie Walters’ Molly) head off to a novelty magical form of transportation that takes them to… The Quidditch World Cup! Well that threw me for a loop. I was expecting trains. A load of dark dudes known as the Death Eaters attack the spectators camp area at which point Harry get’s knock out. Upon waking he spots a mystery man wander amongst the chaos and, before getting into more danger, he is rescued by his friends and various other wizards. There’s a brief scene on that Hogwarts express train and then we’re back at school.
This is a much better opening to the film than in the previous entries. There’s mystery, no retreading of material, spectacle in the form of the Quidditch World Cup and some stuff getting blown up. That’s the sort of opening to an adventure film that get’s the audience, specifically those that aren’t huge fans, interested in the plot. It wastes little time, gives you enough info to keep you up to speed and features the elements that make up the Harry Potter world. Magic, spectacle and evil doers.
Upon arriving at Hogwarts we learn there is to be a dangerous wizarding tournament involving the top three wizard schools which is to be hosted by Hogwarts. I guess a change of location would have been going too far. Because of the dangers involved in this Tri-Wizard tournament only students over the age of 18 are allowed to enter. Somehow though Harry’s name is pulled from the titular Goblet Of Fire and he is entered into the tournament against his will. Apparently because the rules must be followed. I don’t get why they couldn’t just not let him enter. They pretty much say that magic is the reason he has to enter. Apparently you can’t disagree with the Goblet Of Fire. Dumbledore even goes and says that they should let Harry compete to see what happens. When has that ever been the right idea in any film?
So Harry competes against 3 other young wizards in this Tri-wizard tournament… Yep, there’s 4 wizards in the 3 wizard tournament. Why Harry couldn’t have been the sole Hogwarts entry I don’t understand. I mean I do based on how the story plays out but it’s so pointless that it’s just a case of Rowling wanting to kill a character but not having the balls to make it someone important. I’ll get back to that later though.
As the tournament progresses dragons are battled, children are seemingly kidnapped and potentially drowned and mazes are navigated. That middle one is a troubling stage in the tournament for me. In it the four competitors are told they have to rescue something important to them from under the mermaid inhabited Black Lake. That important thing is their friends. Each wizard is allowed to rescue one. Now i guess they have a spell on them to stop them drowning but the term “rescue” is used too often to make me think they were actually safe. A big deal is made about how dangerous this event is for the wizards competing so why endanger the lives of innocent students? When one of the competitors is forced to quit a big deal is made of Harry going the extra mile to rescue her sister. She even seems relieved as though her sister would have died down there. Pretty messed up in my opinion.
Another scene that’s a little messed up is the Yule Ball. Sounds a little too much like Uwe Boll that. What’s disturbing though is that the two male competitors not called Harry, both of which are 18, pick 14 year old dates to take with them. There’s even mention that the girls (Hermione and Cho Chang) are dating the boys afterward. Surely that’s a statutory rape waiting to happen? I know the wizarding world has it’s own rules but I’d like to think they have similar views on the age of consent. The Yule Ball does lead to a rare scene of genuine character development and nearly good acting as Ron and Hermione’s feelings for each other almost surface in the midst of an argument they share. Oddly that seems to get forgotten later but considering these stories take place over a year I suppose having the characters move on is kind of acceptable. Really should have led somewhere though.
Obviously the tournament is one massive trap for Harry and the real mystery is brought to a dark conclusion. The film in general is a fair bit darker and more mature than the previous entries. It’s also the first in the series to gain a 12 certificate, possible due to brief injury detail. I doubt it’s because Ron tells Harry to piss off. The visual tone of the movie is very Gothic too. Director Mike Newell plays up to the architecture of Hogwarts school often shot against cloudy skies. In fact I’m pretty sure there’s not a blue sky in the film. The palette of the film is pretty much gray on brown with a little more gray. Makes a change from the blue on green tones of the previous 3 films. It does lend to the impending doom well.
Special effects are finally in the upper tier here as they should be on a film that cost $150 million to make. The highest budget in the series so far. Newell seems to be a director more in touch with the action the film requires and for the first time in the series the action doesn’t fall flat despite the gray tones. Considering he hadn’t directed a full blown action film before this that’s quite an achievement. It also helps that more time is spent making sure the characters have desires and are more than just archetypes. Action will generally fall flat if you don’t give a rats arse about the characters involved. Which brings me to my spoiler heavy rant paragraph…
Cedric Diggory is the most useless character ever shoe horned into a film since Jar Jar Binks. He exists merely for JK Rowling to kill him at the end in the hopes of some extra forced drama in a sequence that didn’t need it. At the end of the film Voldemort is resurrected and Peter Pettigrew, the feckin’ rat man, using a killing curse to kill Cedric. So Voldemort doesn’t kill him, which would have been pointless because we’ve established he’s evil, instead Timothy Spall does. It adds nothing to the drama and this is made worse by how the character is handled throughout the film. He has the vacuous charisma of a box of nothing, and whilst a box of nothing is good if you’re a nihilist, it’s not helpful if you’re meant to be the most charming man in the school. The girls swoon over him and according to the books he’s meant to basically be a quite, less famous Harry Potter type. Future sparkling vampire girly-man Robert Pattinson is the one tasked with portraying him and my god does he suck the life out of every scene he is in. It’s telling that he has barely any lines and the ones he does have are barely full sentences. He get’s to say a little more towards the end but the lines are delivered with no commitment or conviction. The point is by the time he is killed and all the characters, including Harry, Cho and he suddenly just arrived father are crying their eyes out like he was the most important person they had ever encountered you as a viewer will feel nothing. There’s no attempt over the course of the film to make him likable, to make you care or to give you a reason to think his presence is important at all. He’s Poochy. He’s a character forced into a series that never needed it and his departure means nothing.
Rant over… Overall the film is the best in the series so far. With the exception of Pattinson performances are stronger throughout. Radcliffe especially has finally learned how to emote like a human. The cast is helped out by the always brilliant Brendan Gleeson who takes the role of this years defense against the dark arts teacher. A position I’m amazed they ever bother filling seeing as everyone who takes it seems to have some sort of issues. David Tennant also has a role but it’s one that seems to be there for future use. He is key to the plot but his screen time is fairly low. I did get a chuckle when, after having spotted Tennants character, Harry is asked “Who?”, I was expecting the reply to be “The Doctor.” Moaning Myrtle makes an appearance helping harry out while he’s in the bath, a scene made more disturbing when you realise her actress is 45. The film is a lot more confident and well strung together than the previous entries. The action is stronger and the character are likewise. Also it leaves you knowing that now the real adventure kicks in as the return of Voldemort to the physical world is the starting point for everything that will follow.