I’ve been looking forward to reviewing this one for a number of reasons. All of which I’ll get into in the actual body of the review. Not going to spunk all my good stuff on the rubbishy little preamble am I? I’d like to think I belong to a higher calibre of writer than that. Although having childishly used the word “spunk” in supposedly analytical film review and then repeating said word in this very sentence, you may want to debate that.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)
In preparation for this review, I’ve been addicted to looking up how people have ranked the Potters. It’s fascinating stuff. Goblet of Fire is usually down the bottom end of the scale, kickin’ it with Deathly Hallows Part 1 and Chamber of Secrets. Whilst this is obviously all kinds of wrong (as exemplified by my 4 star Chamber review) I do think after Azkaban, the films start blurring into one until the final two. Whilst rewatching Goblet, I was expecting bits that never materialised, only to realise that they belong to other films. To clear it up, Goblet of Fire is the one about the big Triwizard Tournament and has got that fella from Twilight in it.
“The Goblet of Fire! Anyone wishing to submit themselves to the tournament need only write their name upon a piece of parchment and throw it in the flame before this hour on Thursday night. Do not do so lightly! If chosen, there’s no turning back. As from this moment, The Triwizard Tournament has begun!”
Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) returns to Hogwarts for his fourth year to find the school is playing host to a big, traditional competitive event known as the Triwizard Tournament. A representative from Hogwarts must compete against one from the French Beauxbatons Academy and one from the Nordic Durmstrang Institute to win the cup and glory for their school. However, after the three competitors’ names are spat out of the Goblet of Fire, a fourth piece of paper is expelled from the magical goblet with Potter’s name on it, which comes as a shock to everyone, including Harry since he didn’t enter. Rules are rules though – and Harry is forced to take part in the dangerous tournament and its three deadly challenges.I really like the plot and ideas in Goblet, it’s just the execution that I have a problem with. I’m a sucker for violent arena sports/tournaments, hence why I have soft spots for films like Rollerball (not the shitty remake), The Running Man, Gladiator and more recently, Tron: Legacy and The Hunger Games. There’s just something about big, bloodthirsty events that cranks my enjoyment motor. The three events are well done, it’s just the plodding fucking inbetween-y bits that bug me.
Anyway- actors. The next person through the ever-revolving door of Defence Against the Dark Arts teachers is Alastor “Mad-Eye” Moody (Brendan Gleeson) a grizzled, unhinged Auror who has spent years hunting dark wizards and sending them to Azkaban. He’s joined by a surprising number of new faces with Roger Lloyd-Pack showing up as Ministry of Magic higher-up Bartemius Crouch, David Tennant as Barty Crouch Jr.,Robert Pattinson hunking it up as the other Hogwarts champion Cedric Diggory, Katie Leung as Potter love interest Cho Chang and of course, Ralph Fiennes as big bad Lord Voldemort. Of the new additions, it’s Gleeson and Fiennes that make the biggest impact. I love Mad-Eye Moody. I think Fiennes does a great job as Voldemort too. He’s damn creepy. Of the main kids, I’m happy to report that D-Radders is improving film by film. He’s still not good, but he’s getting close to passable. Rupert Grint gets the chance to act all sullen, but occasionally revisits the comedy sidekick schtick I hated in Chamber of Secrets. Emma Watson is really good in this. Check out the scene after the Yule Ball where she shouts at Ron and then cries on some steps apparently exclusively populated by upset girls. In a series first, I felt for her and was cursing Ron’s name with her. Damn that oblivious Weasley! Handily, Goblet of Fire outlines my problem with Michael Gambon’s Dumbledore. In this film he just comes across as mean. He’s always yelling and seems to be feared by the students, rather than respected and admired. There’s a bit just after Potter’s name comes out of the Goblet where he grabs Harry with both fists and slams him up against some trophies. This definitely ain’t the kindly old Dumbledore I pictured in my head when reading the books. It’s certainly not the eccentric weirdo that Richard Harris portrayed him as either. It’s not Gambon’s fault, really. He’s a fine actor and has been unquestionably brilliant in other things. I just keep thinking that getting Dumbledore right was one of the massive missed opportunities of the series.
Goblet of Fire sets out its stall early on, forgoing the usual Potter in his bedroom/Dursley shenanigans stuff for a cold-blooded murder instead. It’s a stark, bleak opening that sets the tone wonderfully. Fast forward and Harry et al are attending the Quidditch World Cup final. It’s fantastic to see how the wizarding world approaches professional Quidditch and the effects and ideas here are fantastic. It’s a shame we don’t get to see any of the actual match though. The film awkwardly cuts from Fudge sending out the opening flare to the gang returning to their tent. I understand why we didn’t see any of the game, but it would have been nice. The raid on the World Cup is awesome too, with Voldemort’s masked followers, the Death Eaters, laying siege to the camp, torching tents and general chaos causing acting as a great introduction to a series important faction.
The one thing the film should be applauded for is the subtle way it starts ageing up our protagonists. They’re almost teenagers now and as such, are more focused on potential romances than we’ve seen before. Harry starts fancying Ravenclaw Cho Chang, for instance. The longing looks and stilted little interactions are realistic and actually pretty sweet. It’s not just Harry who starts feeling urges, either. Seems like everyone’s at it. The culmination of this being the Yule Ball, a traditional Triwizard dance where having a date is paramount. We see Harry and Ron struggle to find suitable partners. Quoth Potter on the subject of asking girls out: “Why do they have to travel in packs? And how are you supposed to get one on their own to ask them?”. Preach, brother. The Yule Ball is a well-done celebration of budding love and awkwardness. The one thing I hate about it though is the appearance of wizard band The Weird Sisters (played by frontman Jarvis Cocker and several members of Radiohead). They do a song called “Do The Hippogriff” which frankly sucks. I think it’s the terrible lyrics reeling through various mythical monsters that appear in Potter’s world that ruins it for me. It’s a very minor bit, but it takes me right out of the film every time.
The highlights of the film are almost certainly the Triwizard trials which show fantastic invention and are properly exciting. Harry’s face-off with a particularly vicious species of dragon known as the Hungarian Horntail is brilliantly played and is one of my favourite bits of the entire series. The underwater trail with the merpeople is well handled too. It’s difficult to make underwater sequences interesting in films, but Goblet pulls it off. Every time I watch the film, the same question pops into my head. Isn’t Harry a little embarrassed that he has to rescue Ron, whereas the other lads are rescuing their dates? I bet there were a few malicious whispers around school when that particular task was over. The spooky-as-fuck final trial is also a highlight, where Harry is ultimately tricked into a confrontation with Voldemort and poor old Cedric is murdered. This is the series’ first foray into likable characters dying and it’s effective. I know Cedric’s a bit of a boring, clean-cut dreamboat, but that’s sort of the point. He’s an unwitting rival of Harry’s in both the tournament and for the affections of Cho. He certainly doesn’t deserve the callous, offhand shove from the mortal coil he receives. When Harry finally escapes Voldemort, sobbing and clinging on to Cedric’s body, the triumphant music followed by the slow realisation that something has gone terribly wrong is heartbreaking. It’s a brave, sombre ending that is only very slightly ruined by D-Rad’s acting.
“Harry! I’d almost forgotten you were here, standing on the bones of my father. I’d introduce you, but rumour has it you’re almost as famous as me these days.”
Goblet of Fire has a massive problem with pacing. There are big, exciting sequences and some nice, enjoyable character moments,but they’re not stitched together well enough. It becomes plodding and for the first time in the series, boring. It’s a shame because there are so many individual elements that work. I’ll give it an average three stars due to the Ben pandering detailed above (violent arena competition, Pattinson dying) but I can imagine that there will be a lot of people harsher on it than I. Hey- did somebody ORDER a PHOENIX?
P.S. In regards to my ongoing Quidditch watch there is no Quidditch in this film. Not even at the motherflippin’ World Cup Final. Go figure.