Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Burns Slow but Steady

I’ll be totally honest. I’m not a Harry Potter fan. I haven’t read any of the books, and my only exposure to this wildly popular universe are the movies based on the stories by J.K Rowling. I saw the first movie, skipped the second one, and liked the third. Fantasy has never been my genre of choice, and the Harry Potter books/movies are no different. This series has millions of fans, however, who virtually guarantee success at the box office. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is indeed critic-proof, but is it any good?

It’s the fourth year at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and his pals Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) are all becoming teenagers and have to deal with learning about the magic of puberty as well as the regular kind. The big event this year is the Tri-Wizard Tournament, in which champions from three schools of magic (Hogwarts included, of course) face very dangerous challenges in order to claim a flaming trophy and eternal glory. Will Harry be involved in the tournament? Is the sky blue?

Anyone who has seen the previous films or read the books will be in familiar territory here. There are the usual quirky characters and fantastic creatures, and the “magic tech” that Rowling peppers her stories with. The tournament offers some nice action set-pieces (I especially liked the dragon challenge) complete with tough obstacles for our hero to overcome. The main characters are also growing up so we get young love and the “Hogwarts prom” scene. While well done as usual, all of this feels somewhat mundane until the final act, when things get a lot darker and much more interesting. I wish there would have been more of this menacing tone throughout, but no matter. Maybe The Order of the Phoenix will provide that.

The core cast returns, as well as an interesting guest or two. Radcliffe, Watson and Grint have made these roles their own over the past three films, and continue that trend here. My only complaint is that the character of Ron Weasley is really starting to get on my nerves. He’s a whiny, pouty sad sack that has never been more annoying. I don’t blame Grint for this, as he is just doing his job (and very well, I might add), but watching his character is a grating experience.

All the adult British actors are wonderful as always. Alan Rickman (who I’ve been a fan of ever since Die Hard) reprises his role as the sinister Severus Snape, and he is a ton of fun to watch. I just wish he had more screen time. Brendan Gleeson (Kingdom of Heaven) also enjoys “eyeballing” the scenery as the crusty ex-dark wizard hunter Alastor ‘Mad-Eye’ Moody. Another excellent turn is Ralph Fiennes (The Constant Gardner) who hides under a ton of makeup, but successfully portrays a very pivotal role in this story.

Many fans will probably give the same old “they left out a lot of things in the book” whine that I see on the news every time a popular book is made into a movie. I am really sick of this. A film should never be a carbon-copy of what is published on the printed page, but take on a life of it’s own. Certain things that work in books don’t work on film and vice versa. Talented people are brought in to trim the fat and create a script that’s filmable. That’s why it’s called an adaptation, not a literal translation. Nothing up on the screen will ever match what you pictured in your mind anyway, so please do us all a favor--let it go!

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is a perfectly serviceable entry in the series. I didn’t like it as much as Prisoner of Azkaban, but it should please fans of the book and fantasy alike. I just hope that Weasley kid grows a backbone.