My series looking back at the “Harry Potter” films continues with Year 4, “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” (2005):
WHY IT’S GREAT
Directed by franchise first-timer Mike Newell and written by veteran Steve Kloves, “Goblet of Fire” deserves credit for encapsulating the confusing pain of adolescence. When Hermione says at film’s end that things will never be the same again, she’s referring to the return of Voldemort, but thematically, the statement could refer to the end of Harry, Ron and Hermione being blissfully free of hormonal troubles. When Voldemort returns and tries to kill Harry, it’s almost beside the point, as he’s already been taking crap from every side for two hours of movie time (or nine months, in real time). Not just a budding hero, Harry is an Everyteen here.
WHY IT’S NOT SO GREAT
Harry is turned down by Cho, because Cedric asked her first. Ron and Harry are feuding … for some reason. Hermione is rightfully mad at Ron for not asking her out fast enough, or with enough enthusiasm. But not to the point of justifying her return meanness. None of our lead trio can catch a break, and none of them can do the right thing. All of these things make “Goblet of Fire” an effective movie, but not a fun movie.
Newell and Kloves have constructed a cold movie, where many threads don’t get resolved. Don’t we deserve a scene where Hermione apologizes for overreacting and Ron apologizes for being rude? They need one cute little moment of reconciliation. And where’s the payoff of the supposed Harry-Hermione tryst played up by Rita Skeeter? And does Ginny still have a crush on Harry? I guess not.
It may sound like I’m saying the Yule Ball portion of the movie should’ve been beefed up at the expense of other things … and I guess I am. The Triwizard Tournament is broadly engaging, but the specific tasks don’t have a convincing sense of suspense. Mazes often don’t dramatically translate to film – see also “Alien 3” and “The Maze Runner.” And really, is Dumbledore going to let students be killed on Hogwarts grounds, for the sake of a game? Is he going to stand by and let children drown if the champions don’t save them in the allotted time? I don’t believe he would.
BEST YOUNG CHARACTER AND ACTOR
Harry (Daniel Radcliffe). Harry may not be quite so lovable anymore, with the way he ignores Parvati (or is it Padma?) Patil at the Yule Ball. But he’s the only character we can latch onto, and we’re with him as he receives a cold shoulder from his best friend and even Dumbledore, who is unaccountably angry at Harry for being selected as a Hogwarts champion. Professor Moody is Harry’s best ally, and even he turns out to be, ahem, more than meets the eye.
BEST ADULT CHARACTER AND ACTOR
Barty Crouch Jr. disguised as Professor Moody (Brendan Gleeson). Gleeson chews up scenery as a seemingly drunken Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher who fast-forwards the lesson plan to the three Unforgivable Curses (controlling, torturing and killing, in layman’s terms). As we’re never quite sure what to make of him, this scene-stealer’s arc provides all of the film’s intrigue and momentum.
BEST MOVIE MAGIC
The Quidditch World Cup. “Goblet of Fire” doesn’t show the actual Ireland-Bulgaria match, but it does beautifully portray the atmosphere around the huge yet secret sporting event at the film’s start. I especially like the way the stadium seating shoots straight up in the air, rather than being terraced, as per a Muggle sport. When Harry walks into the house-sized tent and says “I love magic,” he encapsulates the film’s first 20 minutes.
BEST COMEDIC BIT
When Moody turns Malfoy into a ferret and flings him around with his wand, it’s darkly satisfying in the same way as Hermione punching Malfoy in “Prisoner of Azkaban.” But it’s more fascinating here because it’s a (supposed) teacher torturing a student.
BEST DRAMATIC BIT
Despite the fact that I wanted much more out of the Yule Ball and its requisite dating game, this is still the highlight of the film. The scene of Ron and Harry sitting at a table and ignoring the Patil sisters while jealously mooning over Hermione and Cho is an utterly true moment. It illustrates how people can hurt you without trying, and how you can in turn hurt others without trying. I know it’s an unusual choice, but it grabs me more than the Harry-Voldemort showdown in the graveyard.
WHERE IT RANKS
That having been said, that graveyard showdown puts a period on “Goblet of Fire’s” central statement: This series isn’t friendly to small children anymore. If anyone tries to claim “Goblet of Fire” is a kids’ movie, then their definition must simply be “movies where kids are the main characters.” This is adult stuff, and that’s what makes it a substantial and challenging movie. However, “Goblet of Fire” needn’t have been quite so cold, and the dearth of fun puts it below “Prisoner of Azkaban” and “Chamber of Secrets” in my rankings.
Book review: “Goblet of Fire”
Next movie: “Order of the Phoenix”