Quint has seen HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE!!!
Published at: Nov. 13, 2005, 7:31 p.m. CST by staff
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with my opinion on the newest entry into the HARRY POTTER series, GOBLET OF FIRE.
This review comes from a big fan of the books. I've gone over it before, but the condensed version is I at first ignored J.K. Rowling's series, lumping it in with the Pokemon fad at the time. Then Warner Bros picked up the rights to do the films and were planning on using all the same actors and go from the beginning to the end of the whole series. I thought that was a rather fantastic idea for a series, but it wasn't until Steve Kloves was doing publicity for his Golden Globe nominated work on WONDER BOYS that I actually picked up the series.
I knew going into interview him that his big thing was writing this HARRY POTTER series for the movies, so I decide I'd read the first book. My little brother had both SORCERER'S STONE and CHAMBER OF SECRETS in paperback, so about 3 days before the phone interview was scheduled, I started reading the first book. When I started the interview, I was halfway through Book 3, PRISONER OF AZKABAN.
I got hooked, what can I say?
So, since then I've been a fan for the releases of ORDER OF THE PHOENIX and HALF-BLOOD PRINCE, gotten my books first day and read through them as fast as I could.
That wasn't terribly condensed. Sorry.
But that's how I entered the film. I was wary of Mike Newell, a director untested with big fantasy like this and one who I run hot and cold on in terms of his films (I love DONNIE BRASCO, but didn't really jump onto the bandwagon for FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL). I was wary of his recruitment of the SORCERER'S STONE and CHAMBER OF SECRETS effects team over the PRISONER OF AZKABAN effects team, who I firmly believe took the series on to a whole new level with their work on the third movie. Add on the fact that the GOBLET OF FIRE book is damn near Bible-sized, I just didn't know how they were going to crack it.
The film opens with gothic stonework and human skulls stacked one on top of the other. How's that for the opening of a family series? Before we get to Harry, we see a hidden Voldemort kill a muggle in a flash of dirty green light.
Any worry I had about the tone of the film shifting more along the lines of the first two films were pushed out of mind before Harry Potter appears on the screen. I wouldn't say this is a hardcore PG-13 film, pushing the limits of the rating, but it's certainly dark and along the lines of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, the good guys don't win by the end, just live to fight another day (at least some of them...)
Here's a good point to say that the review will contain some spoilers. I will make sure to mark the biggies with big Spoiler Warnings, but if you have wandered in here without knowledge of the book, you might want to stop reading now in case your eyes should catch something you don't want 'em to catch. Just know that as a Potter fan, I'm really damned happy with the movie with some minor, minor nitpicks.
Alright, now that that's been said, let's get back to it, shall we?
What's missing from the book is what SHOULD be missing from a film adaptation, in my opinion. Gone is Hermione's fight for the rights of the House Elves, gone is the majority of Rita Skeeter's libelous reporting (not all, but she pretty much disappears after the first Tri-Wizard Challenge). The movie centers on the Tri-Wizard Tournament, with each of the 3 challenges marking a turning point in each act of the film.
There is still a lot of character development, especially with Ron and Hermione, and the emergence of young love. Cho Chang (Katie Leung) is introduced and Harry's eyes glaze over, which is quite understandable when you see her in the movie. She's extremely cute, with an innocence about her... plus she has a hot accent which sounds somewhere between English and Scottish, believe it or not.
Every key member of the cast gets at least one moment to shine. Alan Rickman is such an inspired bit of casting for Snape. I can't wait for the film where Snape gets more than just a little nibble here or there. He's really only in a small portion of the movie, but the filmmakers must have recognized this problem early on and gave him a fantastic and silent scene with the kids while they're supposed to be working. Can't wait for HALF-BLOOD PRINCE to really see Rickman get his time in the limelight!
Hagrid's romance with the Beauxbaton's Giant Headmistress Madame Maxime has some time, with some really great character moments for Hagrid, proving he's still the heart of Hogwarts. And thank God! Fred and George Weasley actually are a big presence in the film! If Hagrid's the heart of Hogwarts, the twins are its sense of humor. No ghosties about, but I'm happy to get Fred and George constantly up to their tricks throughout the film. Although it would be nice to see Nearly Headless Nick again.
I was pleased to see how well they handled Cedric, the other Hogwarts champion. He's a great character in the book who never fell into that stereotypical popular handsome kid routine. He's a good guy and if his character was handled poorly or even just glossed over it really would have been a giant point of contention with me. However, Kloves, Newell and Robert Pattinson, the young actor who plays Cedric, nail it just right. He has many scenes that show his true self, his kind heart and his overall decency, but they are strategically peppered throughout the movie as to not beat the viewer over the head with just how swell of a guy he is.
Mad-Eye Moody... ah, Mad-Eye Moody. He's one of my favorite characters from the series and Brendan Gleeson fucking knocks him out of the park. He's larger than life, but not a cartoon. His Mad Eye itself is perfectly realized. Not what I expected (with it being strapped to his head and all), but I love it nonetheless.
But it's all about his character. Gleeson's performance is so note perfect I can't get over how happy I am with the character!
That leaves us Ralph Fiennes as the one and only Lord Voldemort. I don't know what I had in my mind for Voldemort, to tell you the truth. He was always just an evil presence, kind of a blurry undefined figure in my mind when reading, even though Rowling does describe him as a bit more than just a blurry, undefined figure. I know I wasn't a huge fan of the way he looked in SORCERER'S STONE, but then again the human/creature effects in the first movie were pretty weak.
I always thought Tim Roth would make a great Voldemort and I always imagined him more human. Ralph Fiennes is a great actor and absolutely perfect in the role, bringing a sort of theatrical menace to Voldemort, who in the film is much more creature than humanoid, but thankfully they didn't make him half-CGI (or if they did, they did a helluva job). There is some augmentation to Voldemort's face, but I could still see Fiennes beneath the ivory white make-up and forked tongue.
The effects are well done and never felt plastic or rubber-man-ish to me (except for Voldemort's "birth" which looked CGI blob-y to me). The Dragon work is pretty damn impressive. It doesn't really look photoreal, but they really gave the beast a personality and a viscousness that totally sold it on me.
I didn't think the film is 100% spot on, though. I don't have any major complaints, but I do have a nitpick or two.
My main nitpick has to do with Mad-Eye Moody's secret. Those fans of the books know what it is and if you read any further and don't know, then you will know, too. That's not advised...
For the first 2/3rds of the movie they drop some amazingly subtle hints that just made me smile to beat the devil. I love seeing sleight of hand and every time the audience chuckled at Mad-Eye taking a slug from his flask and shaking off the effects, I was giddy. Such a great way to hide the sucker-punch later and all the better to sell the big reveal.
However, around the end of the second act they drop all the subtly and, in my opinion, give away the twist that they had so well been setting up before. It's like building an immaculate foundation for a perfect house, getting the bones of the structure right and then just haphazardly throwing on mismatched paneling, doors that don't fit into their frames and only half-completing the roof.
It might not be as big of a giveaway as I made it out to be, but they certainly lost the finesse of the earlier scenes. It's more about the timing than anything else. Before, you got a clue here, a clue there, Moaning Myrtle mentioning spotting some Polyjuice potion and asking Harry if he had been up to his old tricks again, etc.
But when Moody sees Barty Crouch Sr., he approaches him and in his same gruffness as before give him a little hell about what he did to his son. This is great in and of itself, but Crouch sees this weird tongue flickering thing that tunes him into Moody's secret. Again, that's not the giveaway... but so shortly after that there are a series of scenes where we see Barty Crouch Jr. in Dumbledore's Pensieve doing that same flickering tongue thing and about 2 or 3 mentions of Polyjuice this and Polyjuice that right afterwards. They stopped cleverly dropping clues and just dumped the rest all at once.
Like I said, it's just a nitpick. Nothing that ruined the movie, but it stuck out to me when watching.
The score was a non-entity for me. I never really noticed it except during the big Dragon chase and the opening Warner Bros logo. For good or ill. It's played dark, which I like, but a lot of the awe of the first few movies was missing and I think a lot of that had to do with the absence of a strong score. However, that also means we don't have an intrusive music track getting in the way.
I also found that Emma Watson's performance in the movie was a bit over the top. After her extremely natural performance in AZKABAN, I was actually a little shocked at how over the top she was throughout the whole movie, her eyebrows dramatically rising and falling with every little thing she said.
She's not bad, don't get me wrong. She's still Hermione, but of the three leads she's the only one I felt took a step back instead of forward from the last movie. To be fair, her work in this movie is much more high strung than the previous films. And I thought she nailed the scene where, in tears, she tells Ron off for not asking her to the Yule Ball, yet being a dick about her going with Krum.
Daniel Radcliffe is... well, he is Harry Potter. He's attached to the role and the role to him. I wish him well in his post Potter career, but no matter what he does, short of curing cancer, he will always be Harry Potter. I love that about these films, personally.
Rupert Grint comes damn close to stealing the movie, though. Grint, like Radcliffe with Potter, IS Ron Weasley. His character is more fun to play, I'm sure, but of the group Grint seems the most natural with the character. I'd be shocked if Grint isn't exactly like Ron in real life, he embodies the character that much.
I'm starting to really like this idea of a new director with each film. So far it has worked wonders. Having watched the first 3 Potter films recently back to back, I've noticed that Chris Columbus did a pretty spectacular job of realizing the world of Harry Potter, setting up a great visual look to the films and selecting an incredible cast. Some of the effects are wonky in the first movie, but he got right what was essential to get right.
CHAMBER OF SECRETS' big fault was that it felt like more of the same. Alfonso Cuaron brought a freshness to the series that did wonders for me and now Mike Newell brings a completely different style to the table and made something different, but still recognizable. They've been able to keep a visual consistency with 3 different directors now, but at the same time showing it to us in a different way. I'm starting to really dig that.
Right now I couldn't really say if I prefer GOBLET OF FIRE to PRISONER OF AZKABAN, which is my favorite Potter movie. If I end up picking one over the other, it'd be more because of a preference of a book/story than of the individual movie. It's in the same league as AZKABAN for me and depending on how repeat viewings go I might place it ahead of AZKABAN.
If Warner Bros sticks to their guns and makes all 7 films this could be a history-setter of a series. I don't care how much money the three leads want. You give it to them. They are your characters and by now the audience has a deep emotional investment with them.
That's what I say, anyway.
I was sent the GOBLET OF FIRE video game for consideration for my Holiday Shopping Guide (thanks to those who have sent in suggestions!), so I'm gonna code this up, throw it up on the site and play a little bit before I collapse for the night. If I dig it, you'll see it pop up around Thanksgiving time in my Holiday Shopping Guide .
Thanks for sticking with me through this monster of a review. Now go enjoy the movie! But show up early because this one's gonna make an assload of money this weekend.