Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Review

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire marked the point in her seven-book series (heptalogy?) when the scale of J.K. Rowling’s novels expanded markedly. Or, if you’re cynical, marked the point when she became too big to edit. Would her millions of child fans have the attention span to read a 630-page novel, almost as long as the first three put together? Of course they had, and they had no problems with the even longer Order of the Phoenix or the not-much-shorter Half-Blood Prince either. But as the film adaptations came out, first annually, now in an eighteen-month turnaround, we all wondered how long this fourth film would be? There was talk of two parts (a la Kill Bill) but in the end it’s much the same length as the others, even if those 157 minutes include thirteen of end credits.



Steve Kloves, who has adapted all the Potters so far, has had to be ruthless with his source material here. No chance of fitting everything in this time: the first hundred pages or so, dealing with the Quidditch World Cup, are dispensed with in ten minutes. Many of the characters find their screentime sharply reduced, and some (the Dursleys, the Weasley family apart from Ron and Ginny) are missing completely. Kloves and director Mike Newell concentrate on the Triwizard Championship, a series of tasks performed by a representative of Hogwarts, the posh French girls’ school of Beauxbatons, the German Durmstrang school…and surprise fourth contender Harry Potter. Meanwhile, a dose of adolescent hormones has hit Harry and his classmates. Ron has turned into a surly teenager given to saying “Bloody hell” and other family-friendly expressions. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) fancies Cho Chang (Katie Leung), girlfriend of handsome Triwizard contender Cedric Diggory (Robert Pattinson), while Hermione (Emma Watson) is annoyed that neither Harry or Ron have invited her to the Yule Ball, so she falls into the arms of Durmstrang’s Victor Krum (Stanislav Ianevski). And giant Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) finds love with Beauxbatons headmistress Olympe Maxime (Frances de la Tour), who’s even bigger than he is.

But if you thought The Prisoner of Azkaban was moving in a darker direction – and I know parents who thought the Dementors were scary enough to push at the boundaries of a PG rating – be warned that this is darker skill. If the creepy beginning (involving a very large snake) isn’t fair warning, be aware that the ending, where Harry meets dark lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) is likely to be petrifying for the very young. That’s not to say that a good scare would necessarily do any harm, but if you do have young children wanting to see this, do bear in mind that the BBFC have given this a 12A certificate (the three earlier films were all PGs) for a reason.



Mike Newell, taking over from Chris Columbus and Alfonso Cuarón, is a fine choice to direct this fourth film in the series. He has made some excellent films in his time, though he tends to be more self-effacing than Cuarón was. But his pacing is assured and he gets better performances out of his young stars than his predecessors did. The older actors give assured performances, with Michael Gambon coming to his own in the role of Dumbledore. Of the newcomers, Fiennes and Brendan Gleeson (as Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher “Mad Eye” Moody) are fine, though Miranda Richardson has less to do as nosy journalist Rita Skeeter. Thanks to Roger Pratt’s camerawork and Stuart Craig’s production design, the film looks sumptuous.

When I saw this, a packed cinema seemed to be thoroughly enjoying it. Roll on the fifth film, Order of the Phoenix in May 2007, which should coincide with the publication of the seventh and final novel.

Overall

8

out of 10

Last updated: 19/04/2018 07:08:26

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