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Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is a 2005 fantasy film directed by Mike Newell and based on the novel of the same name by J. K. Rowling. It is the fourth instalment in the Harry Potter film series, written by Steve Kloves and produced by David Heyman. The story follows Harry Potter's fourth year at Hogwarts as he is chosen by the Goblet of Fire to compete in the Triwizard Tournament, a highly dangerous competition. The film stars Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter, alongside Rupert Grint and Emma Watson as Harry's best friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. It is the sequel to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and is followed by Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Filming began in early 2004 and the scenes of Hogwarts took place at the Leavesden Film Studios. Five days after its release, the film had grossed over US$102 million at the North American box office, which is the third highest first-weekend tally for a Harry Potter film behind Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 and Part 2.
Turns out they did: Book four is also where Rowling went from Big Hit to Mega Worldwide Sensation, and the Harry Potter series became a cultural touchstone. (This is also about the time that ultra-right wing groups started denouncing the series as demonic.)
And so, everything that is past is prologue: The first three films now feel like nothing more than window dressing for this one, a rich movie with expert plotting, clever humor, and a sophistication lacking in the earlier pictures. At the same time, it's fine for (older) kids, who'll root for Harry and Co. through his many scrapes in this edition.
Goblet of Fire finds Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) back for his fourth year at Hogwarts Academy. Things are getting heavier for the lad: He's having vivid dreams about Lord Voldemort being revived in the flesh. On top of that, the school is hosting the legendary Tri-Wizard Tournament, in which three aspiring magicians will compete to win a fancy blue cup (plus bragging rights), which brings two foreign schools -- one a collection of brutish Russian guys, another a group of breathless French fairy queens -- into Hogwarts for the term. While the tournament is meant for older kids, naturally the undersized Potter will find his way into the mix. On top of that, Harry's got some raging hormones, which has him swooning for fellow student Cho (Katie Leung), while Ron (Rupert Grint) tries in vain to suppress his budding love for Hermione (Emma Watson). This comes to a head of sorts during a formal dance, one of the film's most memorable scenes. And all the while, Voldemort inches closer to Harry.
Overall, the story is obviously and dramatically pared down from the book. Even I, a non-reader, could tell that there were huge gaps in the plot. Strangely, it doesn't really matter. All but the bare essentials have been stripped away, and even though it tops 2 1/2 hours, Goblet is a lean, mean, storytelling machine. There's rarely a dull moment (a stark contrast to some of the overblown earlier installments in the series), and it's amazingly easy to follow the serpentine plot. Partly this is because we've had three movies to get up to speed on the myriad characters of Potter, and even though Goblet introduces a good number of new faces, keeping track of them is a snap. The downside of this is that, aside from a little romance for the main three characters, there's not much time to develop our heroes further. But really, it isn't needed. They're fleshy enough as it is, and the film does give them a bit more structure to set up #5.
Speculation has been rampant about how director Mike Newell -- of Four Weddings and a Funeral fame -- would work out as the helmer of an action-oriented kid flick. Turns out, he's better than those who came before him. Not only does Newell have a good handle over the film's action showpieces, he knows how to deal with awkward romances and growing pains of the teen years. Maybe it's because he's the first British director to try his hand at this very British series?
Speaking of the action: The special effects in this installment are hands-down better than ever. There's probably not a single scene in Goblet of Fire that isn't manipulated with CGI in some way -- but you'll never notice. The effects are so good and so seamless that you seriously can't tell the difference (reality-wise) between Radcliffe and the giant, fire-breathing dragon staring him down.
And speaking of dragons: The film is scary, more so than the other three. As a case in point, the woman sitting in front of me, with two kids aged about six to eight, had to leave the theater after the first two minutes because the little ones were so frightened.
Altogether the film is just about right for what a Harry Potter movie ought to be. The story is consistently interesting but not too confusing, the dialogue is spot-on, and the film blends action and quiet moments perfectly. (Frankly, the film should win an Oscar for editing.)
But overall Goblet of Fire has succeeded in doing one big thing that the first three movies completely failed at: For the first time, I'm actually looking forward to the next in the series.
The two-disc DVD set includes a second disc full of behind the scenes materials, additional scenes (the Hogwarts school song!), interviews, and tons more.
A little magic ought to fix that arm right up, no?