Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with our most indepth review of HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE to date. I'm anxiously awaiting this one. It should be screening here in Austin in about 3 weeks. I want it tomorrow, but alas... I'll just have to wait it out. The below review is very detailed about what is in the movie vs. what is in the book, so steer clear if you haven't read the book! It's not super-super spoily, but you'll be happier if you walk into the movie not knowing some of these things. Enjoy the positive review!
I've been a fan for ages and all along I've been waiting patiently to be able to give a nice scoop. The time has finally come. Cause last night ... I saw "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire"! Here are my MANY thoughts (beware of spoilers!):
It was a somewhat private screening. We were about 20 people there. A lot of anticipation ... and then the lights went down and a snake appeared on screen. "Harry Potter 4.0" had arrived...!
Let me start by saying that when Harry Potter and Frodo Baggins entered the world of cinema some years back now, I was never in doubt as to which side I belonged to in the whole "versus" argument. "The Lord of the Rings" were (and are) to me cinematic masterpieces, and "Harry Potter 1+2" were well-done, entertaining, but in the end somewhat forgettable family films. Then "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" arrived. The first hour was good and visually stunning and dark, but the story was too fragmented, episodic and going in all directions. But when the movie ended, everything made sense. Everything we had just seen had been leading up to the climatic showdown without us even knowing it. Actually I regard the whole last hour of "Harry Potter 3" as a masterstroke of cinema, family film or not. And from there on, I was sold!
I have since then read all six books, so going into "Harry Potter 4" I knew that this would be my first Potter film with a pre-knowledge of the whole plot. I thought some of the excitement would be ruined, and I was somewhat right. It took me half an hour to stop thinking about how much they had shortened the whole beginning of the book. No matter how hard the readers of the books will try to forget what they know, they will not be able to see past how the first 150 pages of the book has been shortened down to 10-15 minutes of film. Well, they shortened part 3 in particular as well to make place for the long, expanded ending. As said, the best part of the third film was the time travelling 3rd act (which lasted an hour), and in the book the time twist doesn't go on for more than ten pages and doesn't include most of the ingenious details of the movie.
Part 3 decided to stick to the main plot and push everything else out the window. The same is the truth about part 4. And when you think about it there is nothing else you can do when you are adapting a book like this. So this is what is missing in the 4th film that fans of the book will complain about: There are no Dursleys and no Mrs. Weasley, as rumores have stated for months. The film starts with the same dream as in the book and then takes us straight to Mr. Weasley leading Harry, Hermione, Ron, Ginny, Fred and George to the Quidditch World Cup. There are no lectures at the school (except a single one to introduce us to the new Defense teacher, Mad-Eye Moody, and to the three unforgivable curses), so we have no idea what they actually learn in the fourth year at Hogwarts. There is no Quidditch (yes, they go the the World Cup, but we don't see any of the games). There is no Professor Trelawney or Sprout and no Dobby (and by that, no House-Elf Liberation Front). Rita Skeeter, Cho Chang, Draco Malfoy, Hagrid, Snape, McGonagall and Moaning Myrtle are in it for mere minutes all in all (and actually could have been excluded all together considering what they actually do in the film: nothing!). Sirius makes a very short apperance as a visual effect, so there is actually no Gary Oldman. Face it, fans: It's ALL about the Triwizard Tournament!
The three tasks of the tournament are superbly executed. The dragon that Harry battles is the best dragon ever put on film. It really doesn't look fake at all. And that goes for all of the special effects - if it isn't nominated for a visual effects Oscar, it will be a joke (considering that part 1 and 3 was!). The second task is done equally good but without the book's emphasis on what it is they have to get out of the lake (= the most important thing in each contestant's life). The third task is done in a beautifully constructed labyrinth, but it doesn't go on long enough. They don't meet any creatures like in the book, but what happened in the book between the four contestants inside the labyrinth still happens, yet it happens so quickly that we don't get time to fully feel and enjoy the fear, the confusion and the reality of what's really going and why. And what happens after that in the graveyard has also been shortened greatly, but it's done so faithful to the book and with all the needed lines and plot points that no one can complain.
About the three other contestants than Harry: Cedric is enough in the film for us to care about him. What might have been done better (if they had decided on a 3 hour film in stead of a 2h40m one) is Fleur and Viktor. Fleur and Viktor together have less than 10 lines in the film in total (and that is not an overstatement). There is not a mention of the word Veela in the film. Fleur has maybe 3 lines all in all, and that is the truth. Viktor has about 5, which is needed since he goes to the Yule ball with Hermione. But the emphasis is still on Harry, Hermione and Ron, so all other students suffer. Cedric is the only other student in the movie with more than five lines. Which is sad since Fleur, Viktor, Cho, Draco and a couple of the other kids are well-defined characters in the book.
As to the regular final plot twist ("who of all the characters is really a bad guy?"), it is not as big a revelation as in the earlier films or books, because it doesn't really tell us anything else than someone isn't who they seem to be. So it doesn't really matter, it's simply an extra treat. And it's not a bad one - just not an exciting one this time. But that doesn't really matter either, when you see the film as a seperate entity as I succeeded in after the first thirty minutes of thinking too much about what had been left out of the opening.
As I said: This film is about the Triwizard Tournament. And of course: The return of Voldemort. Yes, we do get a little bit of Ron and Harry arguing and becoming friends again afterwards, and yes, another argument at the ball further plays on the very unavoidable fact that Hermione and Ron will get together in book/film 7. A lot of small hints to the future films are mentioned, especially by all of the before-mentioned supporting roles that could have been left out but are only in it because they will be needed later... But all in all, it is about the tournament and Voldemort's return. And about that very return: Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort... If you agreed that "Star Wars III" should be rated PG-13, then you will agree even more with Harry Potter's rating after having seen it. If a young child sees Voldemort as he is done in this picture, be prepared for nightmares to follow. I won't spoil how he looks, but it is horrific. And I for one couldn't be happier! You really get the sense that this is the meanest, nastiest, ugliest and most dangerous man/wizard/creation on the face of the Harry Potter earth. Bravo!
This leads me to the very tone of the picture. If you thought "Part 3" was dark, you haven't seen nothing yet! This is perhaps the darkest "family film" ever made. This is a family horror film! The new director (Mike Newell) and screenwriter in the series could have easily shyed away from the meaner tone that Alfonso CuarÃ³n set up in the last installation. But they go further - and then some. This is even more stunning, haunting, scary, gloomy, suspenseful and ominous than the last film, and all the more engaging for it. The studio could have stopped them from making a film so dark that all the small children fans of the books couldn't watch it, but they stuck with a vision and should get a round of applause for that. It really isn't a film for small kids and they really shouldn't be allowed to see it. They can watch "Jurassic Park" in stead. That at least has a happy ending. This certainly does not - and I won't spoil it if you don't know what happens in the graveyard and what the aftermath is. But it is certainly too much for children to cope with.
If I have sounded negative, I underline here that I am not. I just tried to tell you what was missing from the book and what was actually in the film (and a few things that I am sad couldn't be done better, especially concerning Fleur, Viktor and Cho). Would I have liked a four hour film that covered more of the novel? Yes! But for an almost three hour long movie they couldn't have adapted the material better. They haven't taken as strong liberties as in part 3, but they made part 4 even deeper and scarier than the book suggested. And I'm with them all the way! The direction, writing, the new music by Patrick Doyle, the very roller coaster ride into part adventure, part comedy, and (mostly) part nightmare is fantastic! The acting is (for the most part) also getting better. Daniel Radcliffe is still no Haley Joel Osment, but he is believable. His crying scene in this one was at least better than the one in part 3 (and more needed in this film at the point when it comes, all though it does come a little out of the blue). Rupert Grint is still a hell of a lot of fun as Ron, although he doesn't really get to do more here than in the last film, where he had to sit out on the whole time travelling. Again they have souped up Emma Watson's role as Hermione. She seems more and more like a leading character than Ron's supporting, and in the book they are equally big. But they/we need a heroine, and Hermione is what we get (and mixed signals come with that - one could easily think, from how she worries, hugs and cares for Harry, that she has some romantic feelings for him, which is a false lead). And here is the suprising let-down: After her commanding the screen in part 3, it is a real shock that she is the only one of all the students on screen this time that really seems to be "acting". It all seems very forced, over-studied and over-felt, and that's a shame, since she really was the well-deserved star of the last film. Hopefully she gets better next time - she just isn't good enough in part 4. Too bad.
But all in all, there is no question: This is the best Harry Potter film so far. Part 1 was sweet, but took 1½ hour to get to the plot about the Sorcerer's/Philosopher's Stone. Part 2 was darker and more concerned with the plot, but not really a much better film. Part 3 became even more darker and took some time holding its story together, but in the end became a cinematic, haunting winner. Part 4 has become as dark as black and is (thanks to the best and most exciting of all the Harry Potter books) a thrill ride from start to finish. If you thought part 3 was the weakest, you probably will not be very much happier with this, cause it is basically made in the same vain, but still with a much stronger and important story. Do you feel the same way as I do about the first three, there is a good chance you will enjoy the fourth as much as I did. If you look at the stories in book 5 or 6, they won't be able to make as good a couple of movies as "The Goblet of Fire" is. So catch it while you can - this really has to be seen on the big screen in all its un-sunny glory. This is an even more cinematic experience than part 3. Don't cheat your self...!
I really want to call it "the family film of the year", but, as stated before, this is really not a family film. Don't bring the small ones - the images and horrors are that strong! Bring your parents in stead - whatever their age. Cause this is an adult picture. And if it wasn't deamed unworthy just for being "a Harry Potter film", it could easily have become a dark horse for a Best Picture nomination for some of the many awards shows coming soon. That's the curse of being a fourth film in a "children's series". But it's their loss - and yours, if you don't see it!
I could go on and on, but I will stop now. Yes, it could have been better had it been longer. But as long as it is what it is, it is a damn good movie! And probably the best Harry Potter film we're gonna get until part 7 (if J.K. Rowling can deliver a knockout of a swan song).