'Goblet' continues long line of Potter successes
Published: Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Updated: Saturday, June 16, 2012 01:06
If the number of people who go to see the movies dressed as wizards is any indication, J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter" series is becoming nearly as entrenched in the American psyche as "Star Wars".
"Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" is the fourth and most recent installment of the Harry Potter series, and should give devoted fans plenty of reasons to don pointy hats before seeing the movie. Directed by Mike Newell, "Goblet of Fire" joins 14-year-old Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) as he begins his fourth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Amidst the excitement of a new year, his mysterious scar has recently begun aching, and he has become tormented by cryptic visions.
In addition to being reunited with his best friends Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint), his class is introduced to another Defense Against the Dark Arts professor; the appropriately-named Mad-Eye Moody (Brendan Gleeson). In typical Potter fashion, no school year would be complete without some sort of deadly threat, and his fourth year proves to be no different.
Despite the fact that he is three years too young, Potter is chosen, along with schoolmate Cedric Diggory, to represent Hogwarts in the prestigious Tri-Wizard Tournament, which pits three budding wizards in a contest to complete three magical tasks. The student who does so most skillfully is awarded a thousand-galleons as well as the esteem of the entire wizard community.
On top of his schoolwork and the dangerous, potentially lethal tasks that await him in the tournament, Harry is suspected by many of cheating in order to enter the tournament at such a young age. Believing Harry to be a cheater, many of his fellow students, even Ron, turn against him. With all of the hubbub surrounding the Tri-Wizard, no one realizes that the nefarious Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), the most feared wizard in the world, is secretly waiting for his return to power, which depends on Harry winning.
With legions of fans and already three films to its credit, Rowling's "Harry Potter" series has a lot going for it, which leaves expectations high for "Goblet of Fire." Thankfully, Newell does not disappoint, doing an admirable job that should please fans and newcomers alike.
One of the first things that viewers will notice is the look of the film, which is crystal clear with the high budget that one would expect. Throughout the film Newell makes use of excellent CGI work that blends seamlessly with the live action that really brings Rowling's magical world of Medieval arches, towering spires, and fearsome gargoyles to vivid life. Scenes containing a stained glass window seemingly weeps and blue flames whipping out of the title's chalice are particularly effective, making full use of the effects available to create powerful imagery. Action-packed scenes of Potter battling a dragon are also spectacular.
In his adaptation of "Goblet of Fire," Newell proves to not only be concerned with visual effects, but also a master storyteller as well. He does an excellent job keeping the pace moving, and the film seems much shorter than it really is. Newell also shows skill in his ability to balance relatively grave subject matter, like a competition that could cause the death of the children competing, with more comedic moments that effectively temper the seriousness.
Another noteworthy characteristic of the movie is the balance that Newell strikes between the fantastic world of wizards and magic and the perhaps more frightening world that many of the characters are entering: adolescence. Scenes like the one in which Ron is forced to dance with the headmistress in front of the entire class perfectly illustrate the embarrassment of this period of their lives, as well as the theme of feeling unable to control one's own destiny. The fact that such real situations are juxtaposed with other items of such childlike innocence really make "Goblet of Fire" more than just a run of the mill fantasy movie.
"Goblet of Fire" is also effective due to the strong cast. Radcliffe continues his excellent job as Potter, moving on to his awkward adolescence in which he faces the unknown, not to mention having to shoulder the burden of completing a task he didn't ask for. It is somewhat humorous that he seems to face the dangers of the tournament with more resolve than the Yule Ball, and the boy that battles dragons is afraid to ask a girl to the dance.
Watson is also great as Hermione, always sympathetic and remaining a true friend. She seems to be the only peer concerned when most of Potter's friends turn against him, but she maintains enough sass to make the character interesting and believable. Grint's portrayal of the redheaded Ron also belies his age, as he displays an incredible comic timing that eludes many actors three times his age. Of special note is that none of the child actors (and there are a lot) suffer the common pratfalls that plague young thespians. There is no overacting, despite the less-than-realistic plot, and the script allows them to be intelligent, rather than just annoying.
One of the few additions to the cast was that of Mad-Eye Moody. Gleeson is terrific as the grizzled, more-than-slightly demented new professor whose first lesson is showing his pupils the effects of the Unforgivable Curses firsthand. Although he may seem somewhat over-the-top (but isn't that the point?), one eye rotating madly while constantly taking swigs of some unknown spirit, he proves to be ultimately helpful to Potter's cause.
Perhaps the movie's greatest accomplishment is that it can be enjoyed by pretty much anyone, and doesn't require that you have read the books or even that you've seen the other movies. Add to that the fact that there are several nice adult touches - like when the giant, Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane), tries to get a little too frisky with his date at the Yule Ball - and you've got cinematic gold.
All in all, "Goblet of Fire" was very entertaining and should be enjoyable for pretty much everyone, even those not wearing pointy hats.