Tomorrow at midnight, we’ll have one more film to add to the pantheon of Potter, but right now we’re still doubling back to take another look at all the fun and exciting films that have led up to this week’s Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Today’s journey puts us at 2005′s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, directed by Mike Newell and now completely severed from Chris Columbus, who served as producer on Alfonso Cuaron’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (which we looked at yesterday).
I’ve always enjoyed Goblet of Fire, but it does have its problems, and I know a Potter fan or two who isn’t the biggest fan. As a film, though, its central story is one that’s lends itself very well to standing on its own two feet. All in all, it’s a good little movie and a wholly worthy entry in the Potter franchise.
After some Death Eaters show up at the Quidditch World Cup, the school year at Hogwarts starts up, and Hogwarts plays host to two other wizarding schools for the Triwizard Tournament–a legendary magical event in which three students are chosen to compete in three different challenges–and to the winner goes “eternal glory.” No student under the age of seventeen is allowed to enter, which excludes Harry and his pals who are now in their fourth year at Hogwarts. To enter, students place their names in the titular Goblet of Fire, which will choose one student from each school to compete.
When the moment of truth comes, the names that erupt from the Goblet are Cedric Diggory (from Hogwarts), Fleur Delacour (from Beauxbatons), and Viktor Krum (from Durmstrang)…and Harry Potter, which comes as news to him as well as everyone else. Harry knows he didn’t put his name in the cup, but not many people seem to believe him. What with all the big-timey heroics he’s always getting himself into, why not throw some eternal glory on top of it all, right? Harry is unable to back out and must be allowed to compete, as the Goblet is a “binding magical contract” that must not be unbroken. Harry, not knowing who put his name in the cup, competes in all three of the death-defying challenges while at the same time dealing with angry friends and his crush on fellow student Cho Chang, who he asks to the Yule Ball a little too late–she’s already going with Cedric! Burn!
In the final challenge, the competitors endure a trek through a dangerous labyrinth to locate the Triwizard Cup. The first one to touch it will claim victory. Harry and Cedric make it to the cup at the same time and decide to grab it together, but after doing so unexpectedly find themselves transported to a graveyard where they meet up with that snivelling son of a bitch Peter Pettigrew, who is carrying the tiny, nearly lifeless Lord Voldemort. Voldemort orders Pettigrew to “kill the spare” and he immediately throws the Avada Cadavra curse at Cedric, killing him instantly. Pettigrew then takes Harry captive and draws blood from him, which he mixes together with other ingredients (including his own severed hand!), reviving Voldemort to his full snake-man self–the Dark Lord returns! Voldemort monologues for a bit to an assembeled gang of Death Eaters before he and Harry duel.
Harry recieves assistance from spirits (or shadows of spirits, at least) who have died by Voldemorts wand, including his own parents and Cedric Diggory, whose body Harry takes back with him to Hogwarts when he manages an escape. He returns, bringing the news that Lord Voldemort has returned.
The Meat and Potatoes:
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is the second-longest movie, but with merit as it’s got a whole lot of story to tell. Still, it’s very briskly paced and constantly exciting. I’ve heard some refer to it as episodic, but upon revisiting it I simply don’t agree. This movie has a lot that it needs to get done and it does so very well–it is the first to introduce us to active Death Eaters as well as other interesting little Potter trinkets like portkeys and the like.
It also hits us with many new characters–like Mad-Eye Moody, a curmudgeonly old hard-ass who’s seen a lot of shit in his day and has a magical replacement eye and a peg-leg to show for it. Brendan Gleeson (so wonderful in everything and likewise in this) plays him to absolute perfection. Although he’s technically not himself for the duration of the film, he nevertheless embodies the character expertly.
On the flipside of that, this one does make quite the berserk hardass out of Dumbledore. Many Potter fans absolutely deplore the moment after Harry’s name has been shot out of the Goblet of Fire in which Dumbledore loses his cool a bit. He can be witnessed practically yelling at Harry, asking–demanding to know–if he put his name in the Goblet. And yeah, it’s pretty uncharacteristic for the guy and more than a little jarring, especially if you remember the sweet twinkle of kindness and wisdom in the eyes Richard Harris’s Dumbledore. It’s simply not how the character is portrayed in the books–or any of the other films, really. On that end, this film definitely loses its way a bit.
Goblet of Fire is easily the most action-packed of the films with its three big mean challenges to be tackled–including the aforementioned dark-and-creepy labyrinth (where Viktor Krum gets bewitched and goes viciously insane) as well as an underwater adventure and a battle against a quite angry dragon. Mike Newell maintains the dark greyed-over color scheme established by Alfonso Cuaron in Prisoner of Azkaban (which is certainly a good thing). The cinematography in this film, though, is far more simplistic and therefore less impressive than its predecessor–it looks dark but it never really embraces that tone. If that makes sense. This one, however, was the first to recieve a PG-13 rating, and it pretty much seemed like that was going to be the way of it for the rest of the franchise. It only gets darker from here, right? Apparently not, as Half-Blood Prince has a PG–hopefully nothing is lost that ought not be.
I never saw Goblet at the theater, which I regret–seeing as it’s the biggest, loudest, and most action-centric of the stories. I imagine that it really would’ve been something.
I did, however, see the film as soon as it was made available to me on DVD. I worked in a video store back when this came out and, because of its long length, made a point to play this one on the store’s TVs over and over again to kill time. As a result, I have almost all of the dialogue and music committed to memory. Whenever I see it all put together with the visuals, though, it’s like watching a cool new take on an old classic.
At the end of the day, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is one hell of a solid film. Director Mike Newell does a masterful job of balancing vital exposition with its own flow, making a movie that fits well into the continuing Potter-verse while also making a strong, fun, and rousing standalone adventure.
Why You’ve Gotta See It:
At the end of the film, Ralph Fiennes shows up for the first time as Lord Voldemort, and it really is a sequence to behold. The Potter franchise gets as grim and unflinching as it has yet, and the look of Voldemort and of the Death Eaters is extremely creepy and awe-inspiring. I’m trying to find a fancy way to say that it’s just really damn cool, but I’m not getting much, so I’ll just leave you with that: It’s really damn cool!