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Harry Potter Countdown: “Goblet of Fire” Review

Max’s Rating: 8.5/10
Player Affinity Composite Rating: 7.8/10
(4 ratings total)

“People die in this tournament,” Gary Oldman’s Sirius Black tells a reasonably freaked-out Harry Potter.

And I’m sold. When it came to overall content, characters, production design, effects and entertainment factor, “Goblet of Fire” only helped to meet if not raise the bar set down by “Prisoner of Azkaban,” a tough act to follow in any franchise. Mike Newell really established himself in his ability to build dark atmosphere from the opening scene to the closing credits and in a franchise that only gets darker as it goes, that’s a big step in the right direction.  

Now in his fourth year, Harry’s return to Hogwarts is preceded by dreams of Voldemort scheming new plans to kill him. Voldemort’s followers, the Death Eaters, are attacking wizarding events in the open, leaving his mark in their wake. Upon his return, the students learn that Hogwarts will be hosting the Triwizard Tournament, a legendary event designed to showcase the best and the brightest from the world’s top (three) schools for magic, all of whom are chosen by an object known as the Goblet of Fire. Only three names, one from each school, are meant to come from the Goblet but when the time comes for the students to be chosen, four names emerge: Harry Potter’s being the last. Unable to back out and unaware how his name came to be in the Goblet, Harry must survive the tournament in an effort to discover how his involvement in the tournament ties back to his connection with Voldemort.

In terms of set pieces, there is no mistaking that “Goblet of Fire” is be the biggest looking/sounding film in the series (to date, “Deathly Hallows” likely to challenge this). Each of the events of the tournament (involving dragons, mer-people and a massive, shifting hedge maze) are well done and grow increasingly dark in tone as “Fire” goes on, to a positive degree. In some sequences (notably towards the end of the tournament), there are influences of horror incorporated in the cinematography, only helping to bring an audience closer to the unfolding events.

It should be noted that “Goblet of Fire” definitely feels like two films in some respects. On the one hand, you have the fantastic Triwizard Tournament storyline, involving a sprawling cast that welcomes Alastor “Mad-Eye” Moody (Brendan Gleeson, perfectly cast) as the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher and on the other hand, you have Harry’s “discovery of girls” storyline. One of these storylines is sharp, engaging and sets a bar for the action sequences to come in the franchise. The other is slow, static and played more for laughs than any real character development. Can you guess which one? Where “Fire” really falters is it’s far too long focus on Harry’s hormonal awakening, leaving the sense of a giant speed bump in the middle of a story that was clipping right along. Still, when the hormone storyline (with it’s ridiculous “rock” concert scene) is finally out of the way, the tone picks right up where it left off, as if the middle section didn’t happen.

You cannot really talk about what worked for “Goblet of Fire” without talking about Ralph Fiennes bringing Voldemort to the screen fully for the first time. Part snark, part elitist and all ego, Voldemort (having worked his way across three prior films to get to this point) is almost a joy to watch as he toys with Harry, knowing he finally has him right where he wants him. Fiennes brings an odd yet effective combination of subtlety and boisterousness to the part which, for only having ten minutes to work with, leaves a lasting impression on not only the characters of the film, but the audience.

“Goblet of Fire” is definitely not the best the franchise has to offer in terms of complexity or characterization and I put blame on it for starting the dreaded “Harry and Ron discover girls” storylines that would plague the following two films. However, it might just be the best the series has had to offer so far in regards to big production design (it being the only “Potter” film to win a BAFTA for it’s design to date) and well-done action. The danger is present; the growing Radcliffe begins to own his part while bringing some range to Harry and the ensemble as a whole is not only expanded but given their respective rooms to grow, if only a little. It’s not the smartest in the series, but is definitely number one to earn the term “blockbuster film” amongst its colleagues.

Rating: 8.5/10

Player Affinity Composite Rating: 7.8/10 

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Directed By Mike Newell

Written By Steve Kloves (screenplay), J.K. Rowling (book)
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Gambon, Brendan Gleeson

Rating
7.8

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