Teen Troubles for Harry & Friends
In my review of "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" I mentioned that I struggled with the darker tone which director Alfonso Cuarón delivered and I expected the next movie to be the same. Well "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" saw Mike Newell take on directors duties due to Cuarón still working on the third movie and the tone changed again. Newell brought back the sense of fun, magic and spectacle which for me had been lacking in the previous movie but he still managed to incorporate elements of darkness and it worked. Although having never read any of the "Harry Potter" books all I can presume is that "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" must have been a big book because even at over 150 minutes the movie feels disjointed, almost made for those who already know the story and can fill in the gaps.
As Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) prepare to return to Hogwarts for their fourth year they get to go to The Quidditch World Cup Final. But things don't turn out well when what appears to be Lord Voldemort's 'Death Eaters' torch the camping area and Voldemort's symbol appears up in the sky causing Harry to have that feeling of pain again. Having returned to Hogwarts the trio discover that the school will be hosting 'The Triwizard Tournament' between Hogwarts, Beauxbatons and Durmstrang. Whilst any student over 17 can put their name into the goblet of fire for selection everyone including Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) is shocked when after the goblet selects the three contestants from each school it also selects Harry Potter as a fourth, underage contestant to take on the deadly challenges alongside Viktor Krum (Stanislav Ianevski), Cedric Diggory (Robert Pattinson) and Fleur Delacour (Clémence Poésy).
So as already mentioned, I have never read any of the "Harry Potter" books but I get a sense that when it came to "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" it should have been split into two parts. I say this because whilst this fourth movie is over two and a half hours long it still feels surprisingly disjointed with what I presume are the major events making it on to the big screen but loosing some of the connective elements which help you make sense of things. As such the opening which not only features Harry having a nightmare but also The Quidditch World Cup Final feels separate to the main story of 'The Triwizard Tournament' and Lord Voldemort's ominous return. It also leads to some new characters to feel quite sketchy as they don't get enough build up to flesh them out. You still get a sense that Rowling's story is as good as the previous ones but the adaptation didn't work by trying to condense it all into one movie.
What is all curious is the change of tone because after director Alfonso Cuarón's dark vision to then have Mike Newell bringing back the fun, magic and spectacle feels like a step backwards, although for me a welcome one. I say welcome because "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" is full of that wonderful detail which grabs your eyes, from the spectacle of the students from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang arriving in the Great Hall to the oversized horn on the gramophone used in dance class where Ron has to dance with McGonagall. And on that subject this fourth movie manages to blend humour with some growing pains as Harry, Ron and Hermione are all growing up and in some cases growing their hair to look like they should be in the 70s.
So in truth "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" does end up a bit of a mixed bag of magic with disjointed storyline and that as mentioned leads to characters that sadly don't get the depth needed to make us intrigued or entertained by them. Having said that, alongside the solid performances from the regulars Brendan Gleeson brings a touch of Rooster Cogburn to his characterisation of Professor Moody which is fun as is Miranda Richardson as pushy reporter Rita Skeeter.
What this all boils down to is that even without having read the book I would say that it was too ambitious to condense it into one movie as "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" ends up disjointed. But thankfully director Mike Newell brings back the fun, magic and spectacle which was sadly missing from the previous movie.