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Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire (2005)
Director: Mike Newell

review by Jonathan McCalmont

The Goblet Of Fire is the fourth Harry Potter film and, given the continuing success of the books and the phenomenal opening weekend the film had in the US, it's very unlikely to be the last. The film starts with Harry and friends visiting the Quidditch world cup until it is disastrously interrupted by the return of Voldemort's followers, the ridiculously named Deatheaters. After Harry survives the attack he returns to Hogwarts where he unexpectedly finds himself entered as a champion in the Tri-Wizards Cup, a competition between three schools. Of course, Harry's presence in the cup is part of a wider plot and the film ends as the plot is laid out and Voldemort returns to full power.

The first thing that you notice about this film is the colour scheme. The previous film (Prisoner Of Azkaban) used a silvery filter which served to make the world of Harry Potter seem cold and harsh and unforgiving, giving the film a tone that was decidedly less cosy than the earlier Potter films. As a result the film garnered more critical praise and is still largely seen as the best of the bunch. The Goblet Of Fire throttles back on the darkness because the book is not all about the central plot. As well as the traditional and increasingly formulaic mystery that drives the plot forward there is also an attempt to develop the characters and bring them into their teens. This takes two forms. Firstly, there is the fact that everyone thinks Harry cheated in order to get into the competition and secondly there is the ball. Both of these interludes prove to be tiresome.

The alienation of Harry is utterly ridiculous and astonishingly poorly written. We have a scene where Ron's brothers try to cheat and put their name in the goblet, thereby circumventing an age-limitation spell. This is supposedly funny. Then Harry's name appears and not only does everyone decide to hate him for managing to get into the competition but they hate him for cheating, even though a number of other students tried to get into the competition by cheating as well. This is weak and artificial but it is made worse by the fact that once Harry starts doing well in the competition, the whole school decides they like him again. This seems fickle and stupidly hypocritical and the fact that it affects not only the whole school but even Ron and Hermione is just poor, and serves to suggest that Rowling simply can't do drama.

The much-publicised ball is also weakly written and predictable. Ron and Harry struggle with teenaged awkwardness and eventually manage to get dates but Hermione lands a date with Krom, the world-cup hero and tri-wizard champion who happens to be at least 17, making that particular pairing both creepy and potentially illegal. Ron and Harry's awkwardness is utterly predictable and unoriginal. The ball itself serves only to advance the romantic tensions between Ron and Hermione but it is incredibly poorly handled meaning that the ball sequence serves no purpose to the plot other than being a pretext for a few weak laughs and some poorly written drama.

Moving away from the drama, the film isn't too bad. The central plot is strong and the big set pieces are well designed and thought out. The fight against the dragon, in particular shows off some gorgeous CGI, and it more than makes up for the slightly disappointing final challenge where people are chillingly attacked by hedges (ahem). The Quidditch World Cup is also disappointing, looking more like a Superbowl than a proper World Cup (and why would the Weasleys support the Republic of Ireland? Surely not because they've got red hair), and the attack of the Deatheaters proves utterly underwhelming partly because they look like Bonfire Night guys with their silly masks and pointy hats.

The overwhelming impression left by this film is of missed opportunities. Newell is a supremely competent director responsible for the likes of Donnie Brasco and Four Weddings And A Funeral; he is also seen as something of an actor's director. However, while the action sequences prove to be rather hit and miss where this film really falls down is on the dramatic scenes. The tensions within the Harry-Ron-Hermione group caused by the Tri-Wizard cup just don't come across clearly or entertainingly in either the Yule Ball scenes or the other sections surrounding the Tri-Wizards cup. Newell also bumbles the return of Voldemort by downplaying the arrival of the Deatheaters and allowing the appearance of the Dark Lord himself to resemble the bog-standard camp ranting of any old film baddie. During one of the film's six endings one of the characters comments that now that Voldemort is back, nothing will be the same again. Frankly from the direction, you could have fooled me. Where is the feeling of dread? Where is the fear? Where is the foreboding? Despite having some good ideas and some nice dramatic twists and turns, this film systematically fails to deliver and whimpers where it should roar.

As a result this film is just, well... dull. It feels sloppy and overlong at two and a half hours. I left the cinema thinking that if 45 minutes were cut from the runtime the film would likely be much the better for it. As someone who is not a huge fan of the series or the books (this is the first Potter I've seen in the cinema), I felt a sizeable chunk of the goodwill generated by Azkaban evaporate. This is still a better film than the first two of the series but it doesn't come close to scaling the heights of the third film.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

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