Thursday, October 28, 2010

Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire (film)


Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 11/23/05 w/ Additional Edits.


When Chris Columbus left the franchise for the Harry Potter film adaptations after directing the first two of the film series. Many fans wondered who would replace Columbus as Warner Brothers chose Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron to helm the third film, Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban. When it was released in 2004, many critics praised the film for its visual style and opening doors for the young actors. Fans of the book though felt that Steve Kloves' script cut a lot of background information and sequences that didn't make it to the final film. When plans for the fourth film, Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire was in the works, rumors circulated that the film was going to be a two-part film but in the end, Kloves along with the involvement of Potter creator J.K. Rowling insisted that book should be adapted into one film. With acclaim British director Mike Newell going for a longer, ambitious approach, he was chosen to direct the fourth Harry Potter film.

Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire is a more multi-layered story where Harry has found himself put into a tournament for wizards where he suspects that it's an attempt to kill him. With rumors that Lord Voldemort returning, Harry leans towards his friends and the guidance of Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore only to compete in the tournament. With Mike Newell as the director and Steve Kloves returning as the screenwriter adapting J.K. Rowling's dark, transitional story.

Returning to the film franchise is Daniel Radcliffe in the title role along with fellow young actors Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Tom Felton, Bonnie Wright, Matthew Lewis, James & Oliver Phelps, Jamie Waylett, Joshua Herdman, along with new young actors in the series, Katie Leung, Clemence Posey, Robert Pattinson, and Stanislav Ianveski. In the adult actors returning to the fold are Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, Mark Williams, Gary Oldman, Warwick Davis, Jason Issacs, Shirley Henderson, Robbie Coltrane, David Bradley, Timothy Spall, Robert Hardy, and Michael Gambon as Dumbledore. Joining the series in adult roles are Brendan Gleeson, Miranda Richardson, Roger Lloyd-Pack, Jeff Rawle, Frances de la Tour, Predrag Bjelac, and Ralph Fiennes as Lord Voldemort.

It's a dark night in a little house that was once the home of a family called Riddle as a former caretaker named Frank Bryce (Eric Sykes) discovers that a light is in the house where he hears two voices inside. Frank goes in to discover that a man named Wormtail (Timothy Spall) and another man (David Tennant) is talking to an unknown figure. Accompanied by a snake, the unknown figure senses the presence of Bryce as he reveals himself to be the remaining soul of the darkest wizard known to the world as Lord Voldemort. Later that morning at the home of the Weasley family, Harry Potter has woken up to that image but thinking it could be a dream. Joining longtime friends Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) along with his twin siblings Fred and George (James & Oliver Phelps), youngest sibling Ginny (Bonnie Wright) and their father Arthur Weasley (Mark Williams).

The gang make their way to the Quidditch World Cup match through a portkey with Amos Diggory (Jeff Rawle) and his son Cedric (Roger Pattinson) that takes them from their home area to the Cup's site as they watch Ireland in a match against Bulgaria that included their young star seeker named Viktor Krum (Stanislav Ivaneski). After the match, all hell breaks loose when a group known as Death Eaters terrorize the Cup's campsite as Harry's fear of Voldemort's return might be true as he sees a mysterious man from his dream shooting the Dark Mark on the sky. The gang is sent to Hogwarts where they learn that an old wizard tournament against other schools, Beauxbatons from France and Durmstrang from Bulgaria are arriving to compete in the TriWizard tournament. With Hogwarts headmaster Dumbledore announcing the arrival of the schools, he introduces his students to the women of Beauxbatons led by their half-giant headmistress Madame Maxime (Frances de la Tour) and the men of Durmstrang that also features Krum and his headmaster, Igor Karkaroff (Predrac Bjelac).

With an age restriction performed for the cup, everyone wants to get in while Harry just wants to sit back and watch the tournament as spectator. Leading the tournament cup is Internationals relations minister of the Ministry of Magic, Barty Crouch (Roger Lloyd-Pack) while Dumbledore has chosen his old friend Alastor "Mad-Eye" Moody (Brendan Gleeson) as his new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher where he teaches the children about the Unforgivable Curses including the dreaded Killing Curse where only Harry was the survivor of that curse.  On the night, the Goblet of Fire was to select its champions, Krum, Cedric Diggory, and Beauxbatons' Fleur Delacour (Clemence Poesey) are selected as the respective champions of the school. Then the Goblet spits out a fourth name where Harry's name is revealed.

Dumbledore is upset that Harry's name was spat out of the Goblet as he had no choice but to compete as a fourth champion. Harry's house leader Professor McGonagall (Maggie Smith) is concerned but Crouch says that Potter has no choice while Dumbledore feels that Harry has to compete. For Harry, it gives him a sense of unwanted fame while leading to a rift with Ron. With only Hermione to talk to, the only other correspondence he has left is his fugitive godfather Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) who he talks to on the fire as Sirius warns him that Karkaroff is a former Death Eater not to be trusted. Making matters worse is reporter Rita Skeeter (Miranda Richardson) wanting to have Harry become a press figure with her own special quill notes. Even Harry's rival Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) along with cronies Crabbe (Jamie Waylett) and Goyle (Joshua Herdman) are taunting him as Draco makes a bet with his father Lucius (Jason Issacs) on how long he'll survive.

Moody begins to help Harry with the idea of what to do for the first task as Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) reveals that it's dragons. Harry succeeds while reconciling his issues with Ron though the second of three tasks proves to be difficult. Even more troubling is the upcoming Yule Ball where Harry's classmate Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis) seems to be anticipating while Harry and Ron are having trouble dealing with girls. Harry tries to ask fifth-year Cho Chang (Katie Leung) to the ball but she already has a date as does Hermione. Harry finally gets the nerve to as he asks Parvati Patil (Shefali Chowdhury) to accompany him to the Yule ball with Ron to be with her twin sister Padma (Afshan Azad). Ron's emotional troubles worsen when he sees that Hermione is being accompanied by none other than Viktor Krum while Neville's partner is Ginny.

After Cedric gives him a clue about the golden egg from the first task, as a thanks for mentioning the dragons. Harry finds his clue with help from ghost Moaning Myrtle (Shirley Henderson) and more help from Neville as he succeeds in the second task. Things unfortunately, begin to trouble Harry as he later finds a body as he goes to Dumbledore who seems to be having problems with Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge (Robert Hardy) about the body. Harry learns about Karkaroff and the names of Death Eaters including Barty Crouch's son whom Harry had recognized from his dream. After talking with Dumbledore, he runs into Professor Snape (Alan Rickman) who has been suspicious on who has been stealing from his closet. With the third task going underway, Harry who knows he's been put in the tournament as an attempt to kill him realizes what is really going on as he sees first-hand death, and the resurrection of Lord Voldemort.

While the film has a lot of the basic plot points that was from the book, for any of the Harry Potter purists, it's pretty clear on not what got cut but what was cut in transition to the next part of the series. This was something that the producers, Mike Newell, and screenwriter Steve Kloves understood since the film's running time is around two-and-a-half hours. Fans of the book will indeed be disappointed in what doesn't make it to the film like Harry leaving the Dursley home which is the funniest moment of the book since it reveals the Weasley twins' mastery of magic jokes which becomes a subplot into their future roles as joke makers. That doesn't make it as does the character Ludo Bagman, a former Quidditch player turned magic sports minister who the Weasley twins try to blackmail and the story surrounding the house elves which involves Barty Crouch doesn't make the final cut including some of Skeeter's writing that serves as a basis for the fifth book.

While Steve Kloves deserves credit for putting a bit more back story and focus on what the main story of The Goblet of Fire is about. What is really upsetting in terms of what leads up to the next book involves the politics that becomes the basis of Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix which comes in the end of The Goblet of Fire. While Kloves only adds a touch of Dumbledore's political and personal disagreements with Fudge, it only puzzles the audience in what happens next on how the political tone of the fifth book is to be told from the aftermath of The Goblet of Fire. Another problem with the script was that even though the film is 150 minutes, it's done a bit too fast to the point that it doesn't leave enough time for audiences to get a breather or to be absorbed into one scene. This is something that needs to be improved on the fifth book, while audiences doesn't seem to care if that film will have a running time of nearly 3 hours.

While the script is only good at best, director Mike Newell does deserve some credit into bringing a lot of the feeling of growing up and the atmosphere of schools into the film. Newell makes up for the film's script with his excellent approach to directing, especially with the young actors who are given more room to breathe and time to grow. Even in some of the film's dramatic sequences and comedic moments, especially the battle scene between Harry and Lord Voldemort that brings chills to the audience. With some great camera movement and attention to the strict nature of British schools, Newell retains a bit of Alfonso Cuaron's richness from the Prisoner of Azkaban while giving the film a lot of excitement from many of the film's TriWizard task scenes. While Newell falters from the script and its pacing, he does manage to create a very satisfying feature for the Goblet of Fire which definitely makes up for his lackluster work in 2003's Mona Lisa Smile.

Cinematographer Roger Pratt returns from the Chamber of Secrets to retain the grayish look that POA cinematographer Michael Seresin gave the film while bringing some great lighting sequences, especially the dark, grimy look of Harry's battle with Lord Voldemort. Visual effects supervisor also does great work on the special effects, especially with the dragons and the merpeople in the second task. Production designer Stuart Craig brings more of the film's British feel of the schools to the film while his work in designing the Quidditch World Cup stadium and Yule Ball scenes are spectacular. The costumes by Jany Termine help with the looseness that Cuaron got in POA while it's in the Yule Ball where the clothes reveal the personality of the characters, especially with the beautiful dresses for many of the young female actresses. While the film's pacing doesn't work on some areas, editor Mick Audsley does succeed in some great cutting sequences in the film's scenes with the tasks and a lot of the action work including Moody's wandering eye.

While John Williams' main theme for the Harry Potter is still there, new composer Patrick Doyle brings a wonderful score to many of the film's dramatic moments, especially in the action sequences and most of all, the Yule Ball scene. Another added touch to the music in that Yule Ball scene comes from the fictional band the Weird Sisters who are played by Pulp singer Jarvis Cocker and Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood and Phil Selway. The songs that are played for the film by the Weird Sisters totally rocks.

Finally, we have the film's large ensemble cast that features some great, memorable small performances from Eric Sykes, David Tennant, Warwick Davis as Professor Flitwick (whose memorable scene was crowd surfing for the Weird Sisters performance), Mark Williams, Robert Hardy, Jeff Rawle, David Bradley, Joshua Herdman, Jamie Waylett, and Tom Felton as the always cool Draco Malfoy. Jason Issacs also has a couple of memorable moments including a scene at the Quidditch World Cup and at Lord Voldemort's resurrection. While Alan Rickman and Maggie Smith don't have a lot to do, they make their appearances memorable with Smith having a funny scene teaching Ron to dance and Rickman whose presence only confirms his suspicions. Shirley Henderson also has a great scene as Moaning Myrtle that is funny but also creepy some ways since it constitute everything from things that people can get arrested for. Timothy Spall is also great as the creepy and traitorous Wormtail in a key scene for Voldemort's resurrection.

Roger-Lloyd Pack is excellent as the paranoid but grounded Barty Crouch who has a great scene with Harry about his ability to put effort into his tasks while disappointingly, Gary Oldman only appears in one scene through CGI while he does a good job in that one scene including one voice-over in the film. If there was anyone to play Rita Skeeter, only Miranda Richardson can do and she plays the role perfectly with her slithery yet funny performance as the corruptive reporter as she steals a scene or two. Brendan Gleeson is also great in his role as Mad-Eye Moody in a performance that is funny while being a very supportive man for Harry in helping with his tasks. Predrag Bjelac is excellent as the suspicious Karkaroff as his Frances de la Tour as Madame Maxime whose best scenes involve her growing romance with Hagrid where Robbie Coltrane brings a lot of great humor in those scenes.

Two performances that will be expanded in the next book from Bonnie Wright as Ginny Weasley and Matthew Lewis as Neville Longbottom are wonderfully handled since Wright has more to do while Lewis gets to have a lot more screen time as they savor every moment, especially Lewis. Katie Leung brings a great presence to her role as Cho Chang while Clemence Poesy is beautiful in her role as Fleur Delacour. Stanislav Ivaneski is excellent as the tough-looking Krum who proves that he has a soft side to himself while more impressive is Roger Pattinson as Cedric Diggory. Pattinson (in pre-Twilight mode) brings a lot of great moments as Cedric who reveals to be a popular student with a heart of gold and plays fair while having some great scenes with Daniel Radcliffe. Oliver and James Phelps as the Weasley twins bring out the film's most funniest moments whenever it's them placing bets or making fun of everyone else as they often steal every moment they have in the film.

Rupert Grint gives his best performance to date as Ron Weasley by channeling his frustrated angst into his role as just being a best friend while overcoming his unknown feelings for Hermione. Often being the comic relief, Grint brings a lot more drama to his role and he manages to bring out a fine, superb supporting performance. Emma Watson remains one of the best young actors in the series as the always intelligent but now worrisome Hermione as she is more maternal in her role while proving to be a very beautiful young woman in that Yule Ball scene. The film's most questionable performance that will really trouble fans is Michael Gambon as Dumbledore. To sum it up in one word, it would be uneven since Gambon reveals the trouble of Dumbledore who no longer feels powerful while trying to remain eccentric. It's not the writing that's problematic but it's really Gambon's approach that doesn't work since he's supposed to be a bit more restrained, especially in the scene where he confronts Harry about the Goblet. Hopefully, Gambon could try and restrain himself next time since his character is more in the background from his weariness.

Daniel Radcliffe continues to improving in his role as Harry Potter by bringing the anguish and trouble in dealing with his celebrity. Radcliffe also brings a lot of the same insecurities that people do feel in not just growing up, especially about girls, but also in his role as the young wizard who defeated Lord Voldemort. Radcliffe not only makes the role his own but one that keeps on getting better though let's hope he can restrain himself for the next film since his character will be unlikable by then. Finally, we come to the film's best performance. Move over Darth Vader, you're arrival is only weak in comparison to the this man. That great performance goes to probably the only man to play Lord Voldemort, Ralph Fiennes.

Fiennes arrival as the Dark Lord fulfills every anticipated moment once he appears on the screen and no one is as scary or as vile as that character. For those who remember Vincent D'Onofrio's character in D.J. Caruso's film The Salton Sea will definitely get an idea on what Lord Voldemort looks like but it's not just the look that is extremely scary but Fiennes brings a presence that is just chilling. There's a coldness and rage in his role while being very psychotic in the way he deals with Harry and the Death Eaters. This is truly a great performances from the wonderful Ralph Fiennes who is definitely on a winning streak since his recent, great performance in Fernando Meirelles' The Constant Gardener just a few months ago. Let's just hope Fiennes continues to play Lord Voldemort for the rest of the series since he captures that role perfectly.

While Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire isn't perfect and will be upsetting to Harry Potter fans, as a film it works thanks to Mike Newell, his collaborators and his cast. While it's very unclear on how The Order of the Phoenix director David Yates will do for the film with a new writer and a summer 2007 release date. Newell does provide the groundwork for the series' transition from a children's fantasy story to a more teenage drama of angst and conformity. Still, the best thing to do is read the books while for fans of the movies, The Goblet of Fire doesn't disappoint only that it leads to more questions in the end. Yet, if it wasn't for Ralph Fiennes' presence, the movie would only be sub-par but thanks to him, he gives the series a lot of excitement.



(C) thevoid99 2010

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