Monday, December 12, 2005

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire


The return of evil Lord Voldemort is imminent as HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE begins. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) has a vision of Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) preparing for his return. The dark master’s followers, known as Death Eaters, terrorize the Quidditch World Cup. Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is under tight security as Harry, Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione (Emma Watson) return for their fourth year. The heightened safety measures are due in part to Hogwarts hosting the Triwizard Tournament, a perilous year-long competition that tests the best students from all schools of magic. Although the Triwizard Tournament is restricted to students at least seventeen-years-old, Harry’s name is mysteriously included among those selected for the challenge.

The third and fourth Harry Potter films are under the command of well-regarded directors, and the differences they make are striking. THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN, the third film, is the most artfully directed in the series, and THE GOBLET OF FIRE is the most thrilling. With the Triwizard Tournament as the centerpiece, director Mike Newell fashions an action film for children that may be without any reasonable challengers. The competition scenes are very exciting, putting Harry nose to snout with an angry dragon, deep underwater in search of something he treasures, and overwhelmed in an ominous maze. He also engages in a long-awaited confrontation with Voldemort, a frightening capper to a film full of scares.

THE GOBLET OF FIRE is darker than the previous films, but it’s nicely offset by a mischievous streak of humor that’s been largely missing in the others. Newell has made the funniest film in the series and the most British, aspects that ring true to the tone of the books. Screenwriter Steve Kloves excises many subplots to keep GOBLET OF FIRE moving swiftly. The relationships among the three main characters take a back seat to action, but Newell hints at the adolescent urges starting to surface.

HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE keeps the series on the right track. With the third and fourth films, devoted fans of J.K. Rowling's novels couldn't ask for better adaptations. Those visiting her world of magicians and muggles solely through the movies might now understand what all the fuss has been about.

Grade: B+

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