Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire bounds into the arena with an exhilarating plotline bolstered by even more exhilarating special effects. The film, although lacking in other areas, is no less than thrilling.
Director Mike Newell had a difficult task adapting J.K.Rowlings 700+ page book into a film that an audience can sit through without needing a stretch and perhaps a meal. He packs all the key plot points in, making a movie that runs at a breathtaking pace, so much that at the end the audience needs a cool down lap around the theatre. There is never more than a moment of downtime between battles and hair-raising tasks for the newly adolescent Potter to face, whether he is out-flying fire-breathing dragons or asking a girl (Yikes! Girls!) to the Yuletide Ball.
This film makes a turn from the more carefree childhood of Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and his friends into a world of "dark and difficult times" where we will soon "have to make a choice between what is right and what is easy." These foreboding words of Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) epitomize the uncertainty and danger set up by the film. Eerily, these words resonate not only with growing up, but also with our own uncertain world. It seems in this film that Mike Newell is ready to move on leaving behind the characters of the past and carving a new way for Harry's darker future.
However, this whirlwind action comes at the expense of some of the more enjoyable parts of the book and of previous films. In squeezing all the important plot points in, the subtly and beauty of the characters and their relationships is lost. This film reads more like a comic strip: choppy and informative without the development and detail that fans have grown not only to love but also to expect. The professors also take a back seat in the film, making only enough appearances to remind us that they are somewhere in the midst of Harry's trials and tribulations, but nowhere close. The few moments of character development amidst the storm of action are rushed and are far too brief. Like the rest of the film, they are more informative than enriching.
The lack of interaction with the professors is especially unfortunate because these characters give some of the best performances (Alan Rickman as Snape and Maggie Smith as McGonagall), and we are left wanting more. Brendan Gleeson as Mad-Eye Moody stands out with plenty of screen time, all of which is full of wonderful nuance and detail. On the other side of things, Gambon's Dumbledore is again disappointing, lacking the warmth and kindness essential for the character.
Radcliffe as Harry does a fine if not inspiring job as a troubled boy growing into himself, and Emma Thompson as Hermione is a bit on the melodramatic side, crying and sighing her way through the film. Rupert Grint as Ron redeems the trio, giving an endearing and worthy performance as the awkward adolescent with the even more awkward dress robes sent by his mother for the ball. A very exciting development, Ralph Fiennes makes a terrifyingly perfect Voldemort, right down to the slither of his snake-like tongue.
The special effects are what make the film, seen in the first frame, with an enormous snake slithering its way across the screen. The Quidditch World Cup is a joy to watch, from the players to the apparently tiny tappestried tent that is actually large enough to fit two families. Harry proclaims on seeing the tent, "I love magic," and the audience cannot help but think the same thing, seeing the film's uniuqe form of cinematic magic unfold every minute on the screen. It is a movie for those who already know the intricacies of the series, and don't mind an outline of this chapter in Harry's life. The film is well worth seeing, especially if you are in the mood for a thriller. It is an experience in itself to watch it, and even if it cannot do justice to Rowling's rich and decadent book, it is fun to see her creations so wonderfully realized on the screen.
Archived article by Becky Wolozin
Sun Staff Writer