Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire [retro review]

“Harry, you’ve fought dragons. If you can’t get a date, who can?”

The Scoop: 2005 PG-13, directed by Mike Newell, and starring Brendan Gleeson, Daniel Radcliffe and Michael Gambon.

Tagline: Dark and difficult times lie ahead.

Summary Capsule: Harry Potter takes on dragons, merpeople, villains, and GIRLS!!

Lissa’s Rating: Warning: fangirl at work! (Translation: Expect spoilers for anything Harry Potter related. I’m also assuming you’ve read the book, or at least seen the movie.)

Lissa’s Review: It was touch and go whether or not I’d see Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in the theaters. Not because I didn’t want to, mind you, but because I was not entirely convinced I wouldn’t go into labor before I had the chance. But six days before my due date I managed to see it, and the sight of dragons didn’t set off contractions. So now, when it’s T-minus three days, I’d better get this review written, because who knows what’s going to happen?

It may surprise you to learn that Goblet of Fire is my favorite Harry Potter book. True, it is completely lacking in one of my favorite characters (Remus Lupin) and quite scant on my other favorite adult (Sirius Black). However, I don’t just read the books for the Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs generation; the truth is I adore Harry and his buddies. (I am particularly a fan of Ron, which will be very relevant in the rest of the review.) Goblet of Fire was one of my favorite Harry adventures, and the dynamics between Harry, Ron, and Hermione were so much fun in that book that it jumped to my number one spot. Plus, there’s the whole graveyard scene. Once Harry and Cedric hit the graveyard, I wasn’t putting the book down, even if it was two in the morning.

As far as the movies go, I’ve been enjoying them, but I’ve never found them able to compare to the books. Granted, this is only fair, as the only movies I’ve ever found better than the books are the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I was okay with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, better with Chamber of Secrets, and fully enjoyed raving and ranting about Prisoner of Azkaban. But I was actually anticipating Goblet of Fire to be the best of the Harry Potter movies. I haven’t decided if it was the best (there are things I still like better about Prisoner of Azkaban), but it was almost exactly what I expected from the Harry Potter movie franchise for this movie, and that’s not at all a bad thing.

The thing about Goblet of Fire is that, while yes, it’s a freaking HUGE book, it has a plot that is incredibly adaptable to a movie. It was very easy to see where the main plot of the book was and where cuts would be made. It was obvious that the movie had to focus on the Triwizard Tournament and Voldemort’s resurrection (thus requiring the Quidditch World Cup to be included as well). So things like the Dursleys, the house elves, the Society for the Promotion of Elvish Welfare (S.P.E.W.), the whole plot with Hagrid being exposed as a half-giant (like you couldn’t guess from the movies anyway), Rita Skeeter as an Animagus, Ludo Bagman’s gambling… poof. All gone as if hit with a Banishing Charm. And yet, I didn’t mind.

The truth is that I expected cuts had to be made, and I agreed with almost all of them. I did miss Percy in this movie, but I admit that I have An Emotional Attachment to the Percy-plotline that is not at all Harry Potter related. I am particularly fond of the fact they cut the house elves. While I enjoy the S.P.E.W. plotline in the books, Dobby and Winky mildly annoy me on paper. And in Chamber of Secrets, Dobby drove me insaaaaaaaaane. Seriously, he just bugged me. So not having to deal with Dobby-times-two was good right there. (Plus, in Half-Blood Prince, J.K. Rowling appears to have forgotten that S.P.E.W. existed, so I question its importance anyway.) And having Neville give Harry the gillyweed… let’s just say I liked that better than the book version. The half-giant plotline was not a bad one to let go, either, as it’s short and we haven’t seen a lot of complications or consequences from that (except Grawp, and maybe this means that Grawp will be cut from Order of the Phoenix — YAY!), so I wasn’t sad there, either. Didn’t really miss Ludo Bagman — he was in the book as a red herring to keep you guessing who the Death Eaters really were. Rita Skeeter was amusing in print, but again, an easy cut to make. Even Sirius served more as exposition in the book than anything else. He was kept in enough to remind people he existed, but he didn’t have to do anything utterly crucial. All in all, most of the cuts were good ones. There were also some nice hints as to the Moody-Crouch switch, which I felt was a little fairer on the movie audience.

The only cut I really think they’re going to regret making is towards the end, when they cut out the fight between Dumbledore and Fudge and eliminated some of the stuff about Snape being a reformed Death Eater. I don’t think you needed it to understand what was going on in Goblet of Fire, but I’ll bet the people working on Order of the Phoenix are saying, “You know, our lives would be so much easier if Kloves had included that!” But then, maybe not. I also thought that there were a few places where a sentence or two of explanation wouldn’t have gone amiss. For example, would it killed them to have told us the outcome of the Quidditch World Cup game? Or how about a little explanation of what Priori Incantum was, and that Harry and Voldemort have wands with the feathers from the same phoenix? It’s like in Prisoner of Azkaban, when they cut the reason that Sirius, Peter, and James were all Animagi. (Did you know that James was an Animagus?) It would have taken two sentences to explain, and it would have really heightened the emotional impact when you saw Harry’s Patronus. If they needed time to put some of these things in, they could have cut down the dragon chase scene. Seriously.

I do want to say that Cedric’s death at the end hit me almost as hard as it did in the books. Despite my love of the character to die in Order of the Phoenix, the other big death there and in Half-Blood Prince just don’t hit as hard. They were adults and those deaths were somewhat expected. They were both soldiers and completely aware of the risks they were taking. More than that, both adults that have died in subsequent books accepted the risks — they felt like they were dying for something worthwhile. Cedric, on the other hand, was a seventeen year old kid who was flat-out murdered. He didn’t get to die for principle and trying to do the right thing (although I suspect he would have)… and it totally caught me off guard when he was killed. I was glad that I felt the effects of that as strongly in the movie as I did when I read it — it really drove home just how truly evil Voldemort can be.

So, as an adaptation, I thought it was pretty good on the plot side of things.

Next thing. Characters. The kids are coming along pretty well as actors. Daniel Radcliffe does much better, and I see he’s finally learned how to cry. Emma Watson somewhat annoys me, because I think she plays Hermione too stridently. However, Hermione also often annoys me, so I’m not completely convinced that my problem is with Emma Watson. Steve Kloves did a little better in letting off the “Hermione is my goddess” campaign in this one, too. Rupert Grint does a great job with Ron, and Steve Kloves actually let go of his Ron-hate a little bit and let him be more than comic relief. (It really bugged me in Prisoner of Azkaban how badly Ron’s character suffered. While Ron is funny, he’s also incredibly loyal to both Harry and Hermione and he’s not at all a coward, even if he does show fear. He’s also, in many ways, on the same emotional and intellectual level as Harry, but in the movies he comes across as a buffoon.) However, I did have a bit of a problem with the insinuation that Ron knew about the dragons in the first task. In the book, Ron changes his tune entirely pretty much the minute he sees the dragons, and that’s part of the loyalty I was talking about. As soon as Ron realizes Harry was telling him the truth, he’s back on Harry’s side. The way the situation worked in the movie, with Ron knowing but not taking Harry back as a friend, undermined that aspect of Ron’s character. But I’m used to Steve Kloves abusing Ron, so frankly, Goblet of Fire was an improvement.

The other Champions weren’t too bad. I quite liked how Stanislav Ianevski played Viktor Krum, actually. He didn’t really say much, but hey, he didn’t say much in the books, either. Robert Pattinson as Cedric Diggory was as solid as you were going to get. I didn’t really care for Cedric’s fan group, because it made Cedric look a little more high-and-mighty than he was in the books, but come on, I have to complain about something. And complain I shall, when it comes to Fleur.

I don’t have a problem with Clémence Poésy. Actually, I thought she did a decent enough job with the little she was given to do, and the French accent spoken is a lot less annoying than the French accent written. (It really does help when they actually hire people of the nationality of the character being played.) I don’t even have a problem with the moviemakers right now, except I think they played up my basic issue. But J.K. Rowling… come on. I ranted about Half-Blood Prince being sexist in the way that every woman in it got her man via manipulation or groveling, but this is even worse. Honestly — did Fleur have to be dead last in every single task? I can completely understand that Harry and Cedric had to be tied for first. But couldn’t Fleur have beaten Krum in one of the other two tasks? This particularly bugs me because J.K. Rowling is a female author writing for a young teen market. Fleur didn’t have to win, but did she have to be utterly useless and be so based in sex appeal? For the record, Angelina would have wiped the floor with her, if she’d been chosen as the Hogwarts Champion. (Side note and advertisement — this issue is being debated on the Forum. For a much more in-depth analysis of both sides of the coin, go check it out.)

But that’s a problem with the book, too, and the moviemakers did have their hands tied.

The other kids amused me to no end. I’ve always loved Neville, but Matthew Lewis obviously had a lot of fun with the part, and it came across great. (And as mentioned, I highly approve of having Neville give Harry the gillyweed, and I actually wish that’s what had been done in the book.) The twins stole every scene they were in, despite one of them (don’t ask me which one) being completely saddled with a Farrah Fawcett hairdo. However, someone needs to tell Steve Kloves that not all twins speak in unison. Seamus was a typical teenaged boy, but what happened to Dean Thomas? He was completely missing. Draco, Crabbe, and Goyle were bit parts this time around, but while I think Tom Felton especially does a great job with his role, I wasn’t sad to see that, given that Draco is kind of a one note character until the sixth book. Katie Leung as Cho was adorable, and I loved her accent.

What really got me about the kids though was that they were completely teenagers this movie. Part of that is that J.K. Rowling does excel at writing teenagers (especially the more ludicrous side of teenaged romance), but part of it was there was a wonderful opportunity to showcase typical teenaged behavior: the Yule Ball. Could any of us watch dancing lessons where the girls were excited and the boys seemed like they’d rather clean out that Owlery without laughing? Or Harry and Ron attempting to ask out girls, and both of them botching it? Or Hermione getting all swoony over Viktor Krum at the Ball? Or (best of all, I thought), Harry and Ron studiedly ignoring Padma and Parvati as they glared at the girls they wished they were really with? (And the twins’ responses?) The teenaged romance in Goblet of Fire has always cracked me up, but it was even better on screen. I realize it probably wasn’t a huge acting stretch for these kids to act like teenagers, but hey — it was still great.

I was pleased with the adults, overall, as well. I thought Brian Gleeson did an excellent job as Mad-Eye Moody, especially as he got into the role. His first lesson was wonderfully creepy. And speaking of wonderfully creepy, getting Ralph Fiennes for the otherwise Evil-Overlording-for-Dummies Voldemort (at least, until Book 6) was a stroke of genius. (But really, did you need to actually see the movie to know Ralph Fiennes would do a phenomenal job with the role?) I thought the other teachers were good as well, but nothing new there. It was kind of nice to see them actually be teachers, if that makes any sense. The only disappointment I had was in Dumbledore himself shouting at Harry. I think the shouting was meant to convey the vulnerability and panic that Dumbledore must have felt when Harry’s name came out of the Goblet of Fire, but it just came off as Dumbledore being really, really ticked. But I did tear up during his speech after Cedric’s death, even if I think Steve Kloves should have lifted that word for word because it was some of J.K. Rowling’s best. writing. ever.

I realize I’ve been raving so far, and it might almost seem like I thought the movie was pretty close to perfect. That’s not true. At all. My biggest problem with Goblet of Fire (and I know I’m not the only one) was the editing. Choppy, choppy, choppy, especially at the beginning of the movie. I felt like the only reason I knew exactly what was going on was because I know the book so well. The scenes switched so abruptly, and not always in the right spot… it was the visual equivalent of exposition, really. The whole movie sort of jumps from event to event, and I agree with those who say that it really made any concept of time passing kind of… well, what time passage? There were spots where the editing was well done (the whole Pensieve sequence, and how they combined the two trials into one comes to mind), but that almost makes the beginning and the end more frustrating.

Overall, the movie was literally exactly what I expected. I was not expecting sheer brilliance, or something I found to be absolutely perfect — I’ve seen three Potter movies already, and while I like them, I don’t find them to be paragons of cinema. But it was a strong effort, and it might beat out Prisoner of Azkaban for my favorite Potter movie. (Hard to say, since the things I liked and disliked in each movie were different.) But definitely well worth seeing!

Kyle’s Rating: I am beautiful, in every single way. Words can’t bring me down!

Kyle’s Review: It would foolish to even consider that any review I produce could be more informative or fascinating than the massive opinion piece above. Not only is Lissa’s review astonishingly good and well-reasoned, but also considering that I haven’t read a single Harry Potter and have only seen the last two of four Potter films, I’m hopelessly outclassed to begin with. Yikes!

So I’m just going to stick with plain old honesty. Fast and to the point.

I liked Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I think it was weaker than the third film (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) much in the way, well, I was going to say Goblet of Fire was to Prisoner of Azkaban as Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi was to Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. But I really like Empire and Jedi quite a bit, and am glad I own them in various VHS and DVD forms. I like Azkaban but passed up the opportunity to buy it for super-cheap at a Black Friday sale (even though I’ll turn it on if I notice it’s on cable while I’m flipping), but I don’t care to see Goblet of Fire again. And actually it was a crap analogy anyway, since my main point was to say how the more recent installment was perceived to be of lesser quality than the previous one in both instances, but I only agreed with the Empire/Jedi argument slightly and have protective feelings about Return of the Jedi. Grrrr!

However, the fact that Goblet of Fire sparked a Star Wars comparison in me is significant, I think. That’s quality for you!

I was about to talk about the performances (good) and how the change in directors really was apparent and so on, but I don’t want to now. Let me just jump to the two most important things I took out of Goblet.

1. Harry Potter is not a hero at all, really.

Dumbledore kind of hits the audience over the head on this score when he says something like “I don’t have time for heroes” which in light of his obvious care for Harry speaks volumes. Maybe it’s the editing out of classroom scenes and studying montages, but I’m struck by how un-heroic Harry truly is. He isn’t motivated regarding magic, if he didn’t get help from friends and acquaintances he’d never do anything slightly magical, and he doesn’t care a spit for his infamy or the spotlight. Other than Dumbledore’s late remark this streak in Harry (at least in the two films I’ve seen; maybe it’s more refined in the books) is a subtle detail. I like it a lot; it’s quite refreshing!

2. David Tennant will be an excellent Doctor in the new Doctor Who series.

When David Tennant showed up on-screen, I was like “omigod that’s the new Doctor!” At that point (the day before Thanksgiving) I had yet to see him as the Doctor, or in anything, for that matter. Since, I received my Region 2 DVD Tardis box set of the 2005 Doctor Who series (thanks, hacked DVD player!) and checked out the regeneration scene when Tennant has about 20 seconds to make an impression as the 10th Doctor (er, spoiler!). So when he was immediately memorable and charming, I was flabbergasted. Fantastic! British stuff is AWESOME.

So, I mean, by now you’ve seen Goblet of Fire twice if you were going to see it at all. Am I right? I can’t imagine you’re on the fence at this point. Read Lissa’s review: it’s long but very worth it. And give Doctor Who a chance! It certainly inspired quite a bit in Harry Potter (Doctor Who having been around since 1963) and it’s being released here in the States in February. And I enjoy the Harry-as-reluctant-hero-if-that thread. Keep it up!

Justin’s Rating: Justinicus! Mutantki! Criticulous!

Justin’s Review: For all the words that have been, and will be said about this movie, pretty much all I’m concerned about is with what I call the Stainglass Mermaid.  She appears in just one short scene in Goblet of Fire, a cute pixie on a window endlessly combing her hair, and for the life of me, I honestly can’t see why any of the male students at Hogwarts would be anywhere else than in this room, 24/7.  I can forgive a lot of flubs in this flick for this addition alone, which goes to show how weak and typically male I am.  So what.

In his fourth traumatic year at Hogwarts — the wizarding school with the unappealing name of a possible disease — Harry Potter finds himself alienated by his best friend, unable to ask a pretty girl out to a dance, entered into a deadly contest between three schools, and the target of a soon-to-be-resurrected Lord Voldy.  At least he’s getting his money’s worth.

Mike Newell, the third director for this series, is leaps and half-bounds ahead of Chris Columbus, but a few faltering steps behind Alfonso Cuarón.  I think Prisoner of Azkaban will remain the series’ standard for quite some time to come; Cuarón made a fun, smooth and exciting entry in what had previously been a tedious slog through magic™ and child acting.  Newell, in contrast, desperately wants to make this a rougher, darker movie, but mishandles one too many important things for it to be deemed “great”.  It’s like a perfect movie Swiss cheesed with gaping holes — some big, some tiny — that requires some forgiveness on the part of the viewer to fully enjoy.

It’s a difficult thing to put an exact finger on where Newell slips.  I think he deserves a lot of credit for gorgeous settings and visuals — the best of the series so far.  Plenty of small moments (Harry accidentally drooling his drink when a girl looks his way) and bigger ones (a professor turning Malfoy into a bouncing ferret as punishment) work spectacularly and memorably.  The newest Defense Against The Dark Arts teacher, Mad Eye Moody, is a treat to watch for each and every second the movie awards him screen time.  But for every one of those, there’s another moment which falls flat.

It’s almost as if the movie has a short attention span, and can only give full focus on whatever’s most interesting at the time.  Many of the characters are given rich scenes, only to be practically forgotten about or left in the background thereafter (Ron and Hermione were practically AWOL for the last third).  Harry stands around like a mute fish for the most part, a warm body ready for whatever heroic action needs to be undertaken.  Many events are either built up grandly only to have it fall and go -splat- (such as the introduction to the Quidditch World Cup, which gets you all excited until you suddenly discover that they abruptly cut away to after the game without letting you see any of the game itself), or not properly built up enough in advance (such as the final Triwizard Tournament Task, a hedge maze that isn’t revealed until after the event begins).  It’s odd, too, that this magical world now seems to have so very little magic in it anymore.  And Newell certainly needs a lesson in how to do scene transitions; the movie occasionally lurches from one thing to another without any real feel for a passage of time or a developing story.

Not being as rabid of a Harry Potter fan as some, I enjoy being able to digest the books and the movie without much expectation (particularly between each other).  The books — at least before this whole phenom got entirely out of control — always felt smaller and more intimate to me than the movies.  Even in the darkest of the novels, there are still plenty of lighter, more enjoyable chapters that kept me from slipping into a full-fledged depression.  I think it’s interesting that Goblet of Fire has so little joy in it.  It’s a movie filmed in dark, blue-and-grey tones with occasional splashes of color thrown in.  It certainly has lighter moments, but not a lot of fun transpires in the lives of the characters.  With so much focus on the larger story, the smaller glimpses of developing relationships (and no, I’m not really talking about the mushy made-for-fanfic fumbled romance) are left behind.  After all of Harry’s connection with his parents through his newly-found godfather Sirius Black, Black is pretty much absent here.  Harry’s friends are particularly unhelpful in Harry’s challenges, Dumbledore is less and less like the ancient, wizened teacher I’d expect with every over-emotional outburst, and when tragedy befalls a certain character, it’s a shame my thought has to be, “I wish the movie spent a little more time on them so that I’d actually care.”

Yes, look at Justin, Mr. Negativity.  I apologize.  It’s not a bad movie, but a good one with “potential” and “learning disabilities”.  I know the filmmakers had to make several agonizing decisions over what to cut, to change and to focus on, and they had to know they weren’t going to please everyone with everything.  But they should’ve at least consulted me.  That’s all I’m saying.

I shall use your heads to propel myself onto the table, and there I shall dance!

Intermission

  • Warner Brothers went totally Disney and eliminated any mother characters from the movie? (Mrs. Weasley, Mrs. Malfoy, and Mrs. Diggory were all missing, as was the whole Barty Crouch, Jr./Mrs. Crouch switch.)
  • The Death Eaters couldn’t think of a uniform design, so they ripped one off the Ku Klux Klan? (I mean, come on guys. We get the parallel already. We really didn’t need the pointed hoods. But I’ll admit the masks were pretty creepy.)
  • The Weasley twins so need to get together with Merry and Pippin. Then again, for all our sanity, maybe not.
  • Rita Skeeter’s photographer actually has on a press pass.
  • Did it ever stop raining that year?
  • Despite dance lessons, Harry still can’t dance. Which I thought was too funny and perfect.
  • Incidentally, in the books, both Durmstrang and Beauxbatons are co-ed, and Beauxbatons, at least, fields a co-ed group at the Tournament.
  • Rather entertaining that the Weird Sisters ended up being, erm, men.
  • Steve Kloves totally believes that Harry and Hermione should be in love, even if J.K. Rowling has other plans?
  • Moaning Myrtle really should watch out for restraining orders.
  • Barty Crouch and the tongue: I think he thinks he’s part snake or something. (Apparently, however, someone noticed that the two actors didn’t flick the tongue the same. Gleeson flicked left, Tennant flicked right. I didn’t notice this myself though.)
Groovy Quotes

Dumbledore: Dark and difficult times lie ahead, Harry. Soon we must all face the choice between what is right… and what is easy.

Harry Potter: I’m not ready for this.
Sirius Black: You don’t have a choice. You’re the boy who lived.

 Mad-Eye Moody: People have died in this tournament.

Minerva McGonagall: Now, Mr. Weasley, put your right hand on my waist.
Ron Weasley: Where?

Rita Skeeter: Everyone loves a rebel, Harry.

Minerva McGonagall: Professor Moody! What are you doing?
Mad-Eye Moody: Teaching.
Minerva McGonagall: Is – is that a student?
Mad-Eye Moody: Technically it’s a ferret

Ron Weasley: You’re a girl.
Hermione Granger: Oh, well spotted.

Ron: Harry, you’ve fought dragons. If you can’t get a date, who can?!

Neville: Oh no! I’ve killed Harry Potter!

If you liked this film, try:
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  • Spider-Man
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4 Comments

  1. He’s also, in many ways, on the same emotional and intellectual level as Harry, but in the movies he comes across as a buffoon.

    Truth be told, Ron often comes across as a bufoon in the books as well.

    Rather entertaining that the Weird Sisters ended up being, erm, men.

    In that respect no different from Bare Naked Ladies.

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