Saturday, June 18, 2011

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - A Spell That Needs Work


Following the release of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in 2004, an adaptation of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the fourth book in the series, was released the following year in 2005 directed by Mike Newell. Naturally there was plenty of hype surrounding this installment, which would continue to increase as the series moved forward. Having liked it when I was younger, I wondered what I would think of it upon viewing it again years later. While it still manages to hold up well, Goblet of Fire is also where the series truly starts to take a turn for a more darker atmosphere.

After having a bad dream involving a man being slain by Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) joins the Weasleys to watch the Quidditch World Cup, to which they travel by Portkey, an object infused with the magical ability to transport someone to a specific location. After the World Cup's conclusion, Death Eaters (wizards supporting Voldemort) attack the tents of those who were camping there, ending with a lone Death Eater creating a symbol in the sky representing the Dark Lord himself that implies his return. Soon after this event, it is announced at Hogwarts that the school has been chosen to host the Tri-Wizard Tournament, where a wizard from each of three schools is selected via the Goblet of Fire to compete for eternal glory. After the Goblet selects three champions, everyone is surprised when Harry's name is selected as a fourth contestant despite him not having put his name in it to begin with. However, he has no choice but to compete, putting his friendship with Ron (Rupert Grint) in jeopardy and causing a dissonance between the latter and Hermione (Emma Watson).

The plot of this movie has a little more going on than in the last, though it gets a little confusing. It's not entirely understood exactly how the Goblet of Fire works, since it isn't explained very well why Harry is forced to participate in the Tri-Wizard Tournament. Though it's said to have a magical contract of sorts, I couldn't help but feel that he could just easily quit if he didn't want to compete. It also seemed odd that the way in which Voldemort returns hinged entirely on Harry being the first one to reach the Tri-Wizard Cup in the last challenge, which probably wouldn't work very well if someone else had touched it before he did.

As expected there are some changes made between the two sources, one of which being that the Quidditch World Cup is never actually seen in the movie, rather it cuts to the aftermath shortly after it begins. Another change involved the Tournament itself, specifically within the maze. In the book there is a Sphinx that Harry runs into that forces him to solve a riddle. Other changes were made, but anything different about the movie overall actually works in it's favor in order to increase the tension and drama of the story.

The acting is as solid as ever and it's clear that the now-older actors of the younger characters have gotten experienced over time. The tension between the main characters is made more believeable in that the experience the actors have makes it feel natural rather than forced. The Weasley brothers Fred and George (James and Oliver Phelps) are the main source of comic relief here and it's rather fun to see how their personalities bounce off each other.

The effects of this movie are greatly improved over the last one and really help bring the events of the Tournament to life, particularly during the second challenge. It was amazing to see how well they pulled off realistic-looking mermaids as well as the methods the contestants use to breathe underwater. The dragon that Harry deals with in the first challenge is always spectacular to look at, especially if one is a dragon enthusiast. Aside from these moments, the effects hold up well, in fact a little better than previous films in the series.

A notable part of this movie is the point at which the Harry Potter franchise officially becomes dark, which is when the other Tri-Wizard champion of Gryffindor, Cedric Diggory (Robert Pattinson, better known as Edward Cullen in the Twilight films), is killed by Lord Voldemort. To further drive the point home, Harry is devastated when they get back to the end of the maze challenge, Cedric's dead body bringing a wave of shock amongst the crowd. Another thing I should bring up is that throughout the film when I saw the Death Eaters, I couldn't help but think of the Ku Klux Klan because of the pointy hats and their leader being the "Grand Wizard." This is something minor however, and should not be dwelled upon.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire may be flawed, but it's still an enjoyable movie. The characters go through many hardships and it's nice to see them resolve by the end. Harry's inclusion in the Tri-Wizard Tournament feels somewhat forced despite whatever explanation is given, but it's amazing to see what he does in order to survive each challenge and how he pulls through in the end. I would still recommend this to fans of the series, even if it doesn't have the same atmosphere as the ones before it.

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