Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 2 hours 37 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Sequences of Fantasy Violence and Frightening Images
Directed by: Mike Newell
Written by: Steve Kloves
(based on the novel HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE by J.K. Rowling)
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Robbie Coltrane, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Gambon, Brendan Gleeson, Jason Isaacs, Gary Oldman, Miranda Richardson, Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, Timothy Spall, Stanislav Ianevski, Robert Pattinson, Clemence Poesy & David Tennant
After directing the best HARRY POTTER film, Alfonso Cuaron decided to step down and let someone else take the reins for GOBLET OF FIRE. The fourth HARRY POTTER novel easily stands out as my favorite book in the series and promised to be a spectacular film to the point where pages seem like they were written with a big-screen adaptation in mind. The plot is also just as exciting as PRISONER OF AZKABAN, while offering its own nifty plot twists as well. However, this fourth film is a bit of a mess. GOBLET OF FIRE was directed by Mike Newell (who also brought us PRINCE OF PERSIA and MONA LISA SMILE, which aren’t exactly credits that scream for a high-profile fantasy-adventure). GOBLET OF FIRE is entertaining enough to be a decent watch, but the smell of a missed opportunity remains.
After a trip to the Quidditch World Cup ends in magical terrorism, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) finds that his fourth year at Hogwarts provides excitement in the form of the famous Triwizard Tournament. This deadly competition will pit three different champions from three different schools against each other for the Triwizard Cup…but this year there are four champions. Powerful magic has been performed and Harry has somehow wound up in the Triwizard Tournament. Facing three dangerous challenges, Harry will find himself tested in ways he never imagined. All the while, dark forces are at work.
Let me get the main positive quality out of the way. GOBLET OF FIRE is entertaining in a spectacle-driven way. It’s hard to make dragons and deadly challenges into a boring watch. The challenge sequences are well-executed with lots of grand special effects, excitement, and high stakes. Lives are literally on the line, so Harry and the other champions are forced to muster incredible courage…in the face of a huge audience and media coverage. Scenes outside of the challenges range from watchable to great. However, uneven pacing, annoying jokes, and unnecessary plot details frequently stall GOBLET’s momentum.
GOBLET’s pacing has two speeds: too fast and too slow. Within the first 15 minutes, it seems like we’ve been given the Quidditch World Cup (which is more of a fun prologue) and three different introductions for the Triwizard Tournament. The film shows us the two other schools arriving through magical means, then has the two other schools walk into the grand hall with style, and then has Dumbledore explain details about the tournament. It makes you wonder if these three introductions could have been combined and allowed for more natural interactions between Harry, Ron and Hermione in the beginning.
Besides rushing through plot details without giving the viewer enough time to care, GOBLET constantly gets bogged down in unnecessary details. Did we really need to see Moaning Myrtle in a scene that borders on becoming a PG-13 sex comedy? What about the long section dedicated to a drawn-out dance that provides a whole lot of teenage angst? It’s true that both of these things were in the source material, but the script should have found a way to make them interesting as opposed to sucking the excitement out of the proceedings. Groundskeeper Filch also strangely becomes an often-seen source of silly comic relief, which is downright awkward in this installment…and much better utilized in ORDER OF THE PHOENIX.
Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson all put in quality performances, though they don’t come off nearly as strong as they were in PRISONER OF AZKABAN. Alan Rickman’s Snape gets numerous highlights as he reveals a few clues about dark dealings and delivers great humor. Gary Oldman gets a quick blink-and-you-missed-it scene, while Maggie Smith steals a couple of moments during the film’s otherwise annoying dance section. Michael Gambon remains a strong Dumbledore and Robbie Coltrane’s Hagrid only receives a couple of memorable scenes.
GOBLET delivers more characters into the wide world of HARRY POTTER. These include: three Triwizard champions, a cartoony Death Eater (follower of Voldemort), an eccentric new professor, and the long-awaited dark lord. As Harry’s competitors, Clemence Poesy, Stanislav Ianevski, and Robert Pattinson (three years before he became sparkly vampire Edward Cullen) all have distinct screen presences in their own ways. Brendan Gleeson is the best part of the entire film as crazy new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor Mad-Eye Moody and receives huge laughs. Though he’s regulated to one sequence, Ralph Fiennes more than delivers as Voldemort. Fiennes has played memorable bad guys before, but Voldemort is one of those special villains for the ages. Meanwhile, David Tennant is embarrassingly over-the-top as a briefly glimpsed Death Eater.
HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE is a mixed bag. On one hand, it has solid spectacle, a handful of great scenes and two fantastic performances. On the other hand, the film frequently falls victim to uneven pacing, unnecessary extra details, forced teenage angst and one downright terrible performance. What’s even more disappointing is that GOBLET OF FIRE is one of the best books in the series and was perfect for a big-screen adaptation loaded with special effects. The pros keep the film from becoming all-out mediocre or bad, while the cons keep it from being great. When held up to the other seven HARRY POTTER films, GOBLET OF FIRE sticks out as the weakest in the series.