Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)
★★★★ / ★★★★
I’m going to kill you, Harry Potter. I’m going to destroy you. After tonight, no one will ever again question my power. After tonight if they speak of you, they’ll only speak of how you begged for death. And how I being a merciful Lord… obliged.
“Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” may not be the most focused narratively nor is it the most ingenious when it comes to presentation of storytelling, especially coming at the heels of Alfonso Cuarón’s visual phantasmagoria that is “Prisoner of Azkaban,” but a point can be made it is a standout in the series nonetheless. It is the awkward middle child: Out of sheer willingness to be embrace everything at once—excitement, danger, personal drama, and fun are shoulder-to-shoulder in the same scene quite often—it manages to hit enough high notes to create solid entertainment. There is plenty to tackle in this installment, the second longest “Potter” novel by J.K. Rowling, but director Mike Newell ensures we look forward to the next development up until the body of Voldermort (Ralph Fiennes) is restored.
The first act is a breath of fresh air because it breaks the wizarding world wide open. What better way to do so than to have Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and his friends attend a massive sport event, the 422nd Quidditch World Cup. We learn there are schools outside of Hogwarts. This is important, but at the same time it comes across as a footnote because we learn, too, that Voldermort’s followers called the Death Eaters are the move, desperate to turn things back to the way they were thirteen years ago. In prior films, stirrings of trouble are alluded to or mentioned outright by worried-looking adults, particularly Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) and an official from the Ministry of Magic (Robert Hardy). But this is the first entry that really hones in on the evil that is The Dark Lord and his minions, how their mission of hate lives in the very fiber of their being.
The fun aspect of the picture comes in the form of the Triwizard Tournament, Hogwarts serving as host for the Beauxbatons Academy of Magic, led by Madame Olympe Maxime (Frances de la Tour), a giant who wins the affections of our lovable half-giant Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane), and the Durmstrang Institute for Magical Leaning, led by Igor Karkaroff (Predrag Bjelac), a former Death Eater. According to tournament rules, one student from each school will be chosen by the Goblet of Fire to compete in a series of increasingly dangerous tasks. Word has it that a few students who participated in the past have perished. Gambling young lives for a taste of glory.
Fleur Delacour (Clémence Poésy) is chosen to represent Beauxbatons, Viktor Krum (Stanislav Yanevski) for Durmstrang, and Cedric Diggory (Robert Pattinson) for Hogwarts. I wished the screenplay by Steve Kloves had spent some time with each champion. No need for extensive dialogue. By showing us their mettle in the field, it would have given us a chance to understand why they were chosen instead of simply accepting them because the script demands it.
The perfect opportunity would have been the first task where they are required to deal with fully grown dragons. Instead, we are stuck with Harry inside the tent—he is the fourth champion chosen by the Goblet (surprise, surprise)—as he waits for his turn to prove himself worthy, not a dirty cheat like most of his classmates have assumed. (Due to the nature of the tournament and rumors of Voldemort’s ascension, those under seventeen years of age are not allowed to submit their names for consideration. Harry is fourteen.)
And then there is the Yule Ball. In a series of laugh-of-loud situations, from Ron (Rupert Grint) lamenting over the ridiculous dress robe that his mother sent over (laces, ostentatious collars and all) to the stresses and various humiliations boys undergo to ask girls who may or may no longer be available for a silly event, never has the Potter universe been so grounded and relatable. I loved that in these scenes, no one is using magic. The teens are left to their own devices. Insecurity becomes a part of their ensemble. There are even genuinely sad but human moments like when Ron, who is obviously jealous, decides to make Hermione (Emma Watson) feel guilty for having a good time at the ball with a date who is someone worthy of writing home about. Sometimes friendships can be unfair. But it’s all part of the package.
As expected, the adult performers shine. I guffawed at Miranda Richardson’s Rita Skeeter, reporter for The Daily Prophet, how her scandalous line of questioning creates paths for non-stories to become full-fledged gossip. Brendan Gleeson’s Alastor “Mad-Eye” Moody, the new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, is formidable. His classroom scene involving the three Unforgivable Curses—Cruciatus Curse, Imperius Curse, Killing Curse—is first-class due to the nature of how these curses are demonstrated. And then there is David Tennant as Barty Crouch Junior, so snake-like in his movement and being that his tongue flicks between lines of dialogue. Ingeniously, the tongue works as foreshadowing, too.
Out of the eight “Harry Potter” films, “Goblet of Fire” is the most accessible. It is neither too light nor too dark, neither inconsequential nor too heavy on mythology. It shows a strong affection for teenagers despite their sudden hormonal fluctuations. And it marks the first time when best friends Harry, Ron, and Hermione find themselves not being on the greatest terms. They may consider themselves as a team, but they are also individuals. Had this human drama been amplified then delved into further, this film could have been the definitive Potter experience.