Ahoy, squirts! Quint here on the eve of the new Harry Potter book getting released the good folks at Warner Bros decided to test screen the movie. We've gotten a few reports that go all over the map in terms of reaction to the film, but now we have our first regular, Capone, King of Chicago, weighing in with his opinion... Details below... Voldemort! Rita Seeker! Ron's adam's apple! It's all below! Did he like it? Well... give it a read and find out, ya' lazy bum!
Hey, all. Capone in Chicago here, a couple days out from a four-months-early test screening of HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE. Let me say for the record that I’m the last person who should be reviewing this wonderful film. I’ve never read a Harry Potter book, and I’ve seen all of the other films one time each. I liked or loved them all to varying degrees, make no mistake. I particularly enjoyed THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN film for its darker and more mature qualities. Things only get darker and more grown up with GOBLET OF FIRE, and thank whatever supernatural beings you believe in for that.
A tiny bit of preamble: The screening I went to was the first showing of this film to any audience on the planet (they did two on Saturday; I was at the first). For some reason, Warners loves doing these way-early screenings of Harry Potter movies in Chicago. I was blissfully unaware when they pulled this a year or so ago for AZKABAN; I would not be so easily given the slip this time around. This version of GOBLET OF FIRE isn’t even close to done. It runs about two-and-a-half hours (about the same length as the other films, if memory serves), and huge chunks of special-effects sequences aren’t done...not even close. Everything from the entire opening Quidditch World Cup (which is all just pre-viz at this stage) to backgrounds. There were some scene where you could actually see the overhead lights of the sound stage. Needless to say, I won’t be discussing the CGI in this review, but the glimpses we got were breathtaking. My biggest disappointment in terms of effects is a sequence involving the birth of Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes). Fiennes certainly looked creepy enough but with various colored dots on his face, clearly the filmmakers had something truly nasty in store for his looks. There were maybe two quick shots where the effects on Voldemort’s face looked done (his missing nose was my first clue), and these moments made little children in the theatre scream. But I’m getting ahead of myself, and there are some fundamentals to cover.
Guess what, kiddies? Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) has arm hair. Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) has an pronounced adam’s apple (no matter how hard he tries to hide it by wrapping that annoying scarf around his neck). And it might be illegal in some states to say what’s going on with Hermione’s anatomy, but let’s just say she’s filling out an evening gown a little nicer than last year. Alright fine, I’ll just say it. Emma Watson turned into a bona fide babe. What I wasn’t aware of going into GOBLET OF FIRE (aside from the entire plot) was that this is the coming-of-age part of the equation. The student make jokes and comments that makes it perfectly that they know the difference between girls and boys. Director Mike Newell (FOUR WEDDING AND A FUNERAL; DONNIE BRASCO) seems to emphasize the raging hormones that seem to cloud many of the interactions between the wizards in training. In addition, there’s bizarre sequence in a glorified jacuzzi with Harry and Moaning Myrtle (Shirley Henderson) that may provide you with some additional reasons why Myrtle is moaning. She is clearly attempting to check out his goods under the water.
Even with virtually none of the effects finished, the big Quidditch match is very exciting. I have a feeling the completed film will feature a much longer version of the game. Also barely realized but still thrilling are the TriWizard Tournament challenges, in particular the sequence that pits Harry against an angry dragon. There was the occasional glimpse of the finished dragon, and those moments gave me great hope for the finished product. The second challenge, set in a dark lake, was difficult for me to figure out exactly. There are all types of dangerous undersea creatures, but without the final effects, it was just too difficult to figure out who was attacking whom.
I’m guessing even with all effects rendered to their fullest, the real strength and excitement about GOBLET OF FIRE are the characters, particularly the new ones. Leading the pack is Brendan Gleeson’s Prof. “Mad-Eye” Moody. Boy, does Gleeson nail this one. I have no idea if his characterization of Mad-Eye is similar to that of the book, but for the first time in watching any of the films, I’m tempted to read the books just to find out more about Moody. He’s such a refreshingly wicked change from the other straight-laced teachers at Hogwarts that you can’t help but like him. Also on hand is Miranda Richardson’s snoopy reporter Rita Skeeter, a character whose time in this story is apparently chopped down considerably from the book. Richardson is still quite good as the most annoying person in any earthly realm. Finally, we have Fiennes Voldemort, who I’m tempted not to even talk about until I see how he’s really going to look. Even as a more normal looking person, Voldemort still sports pointy teeth, grey skin, and a nasty persona. This is the first time in any of these films I actually feared for Harry’s life.
All of our old favorites are still around, and most of them get at least one great scene to really shine. I feel a great deal of comfort when I catch site of Alan Rickman casting glances as Prof. Snape. Maggie Smith still shines as Prof. McGonagall. The only school regular that kind of gets shafted in terms of screen time is Robbie Coltrane’s Hagrid; I wouldn’t have minded more of him. The biggest surprise in GOBLET OF FIRE is Michael Gambon’s Dumbledore, who really gets to spread his wings much more than in any of the other films. He’s a key figure for Harry in uncovering the mystery of a recurring nightmare he’s having, and I loved their scenes together. Also on hand (sort of) is Sirius Black, played by Gary Oldman in the last film. I say it like this because Sirius is seen in “disguise,” and I couldn’t actually swear that it’s Oldman’s voice you hear as Sirius. IMDB.com says it is, so I’ll take their word for it.
As sinister and gloomy as the main GOBLET OF FIRE tale is, what I found myself drawn to were the trials and tribulations of the kids entering adolescence. Harry and Ron finally realize that they may have lingering feelings for Hermione. Harry has his first hint of a crush on someone outside of their immediate group of friends. Hermione practically has an affair with one of Harry’s competitors in the tournament. But director Newell manages these personal dramas with maturity, without making them seem like an episode of “Saved by the Bell.”
I think I’m going to end my thoughts there because so much of what I felt while watching this movie was a variation of “That is so cool; can’t wait to see it finished.” This is the best one, folks. There’s really no two ways about it. The acting is so much better than the perfectly acting third film, and the story and emotions add such a layer to this already explosive series. I think I may hold off on reading any of the books until all of the films are completed. I like going in pure like this. If a person who has no connection to this universe likes these films, they’ve got to be doing something right.