Brandon has never read a single Harry Potter book or seen any of the films. Believe it. But what sort of pop culture fan would he be if he didn’t immerse himself in the films that so many love? Join him as he gets his owl, heads to Hogwarts and sees what all the fuss is about.
Previously: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
I was on a high after Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. How could any HP film top the masterpiece that Alfonso Cuarón gave us? Nothing could rival the magical, exciting, spirited joyride that was the third film in this series, right? Well, yeah. While Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is no Azkaban, it is quite an accomplishment. The film ratchets up the tension, the stakes and the darkness and suggests that things are going to get much, much harder our young hero. For a Harry Potter newbie like me, this is all very promising.
Things are a bit awkward at the beginning of Goblet of Fire. Awkward in a way that our teenage years tend to be. Harry (and Ron…and seemingly every male student in this film) is rocking a long, shaggy haircut and seems very moody (he he, get it? Because Mad Eye?). Matters only get worse when Hogwarts is visited by a bunch of foreign students and the pupils are forced to – gasp! – fraternize with others. Even worse, they are taught to dance so they can enjoy an elegant, magical winter’s ball. The horror!
Yes, things feel very teenage in Goblet of Fire and that makes perfect sense because, hey, these are teens. In fact, the series has been really good so far at dolling out the teen angst in small doses. It was only a matter of time before things came to a head. Those hormones will get you! It leads to a moody Ron, a tearful Hermione and a rather pale and clammy Harry.
But teenage mood swings are the least of Harry’s worries. This year, the big problem is the Triwizard Tournament, a.k.a. The Event that NO Young Adult should partake in. Dumbledore says the tournament is meant to bring wizards together and celebrate the skills and talents of students. That might be true but it’s also far, far too dangerous for kids. The first event in the tournament involves dragons. You know, the things that breathe fire. These are kids they’re sending into this!
Harry is too young to be a part of the Triwizard Tournament but somehow his name gets literally tossed into the mix and he’s forced to jump into the challenges. This is something that confused me: why does he have to? Dumbledore and the other head wizards say they have no choice but to send Harry in because his name was picked. But…why? It’s obviously incredibly vicious, Harry is too young to qualify and everyone knows that the kid is seemingly always at risk of being killed by Voldemort’s brethren. Maybe just break the rules and pull him from the tournament since it obviously, totally seems like an awful idea.
Nope, rules are rules. Harry has to compete. I’m really starting to doubt the abilities of the people running Hogwarts.
Harry has even more problems too. Voldemort is most certainly coming back and his followers, the appropriately named Death Eaters, are making their presence known too. Things are getting progressively darker in Goblet of Fire and I absolutely love it. This is the stuff I want to see. I want to witness Voldemort’s return and the evil politicking and scheming that brings him back. I want conflict, I want darkness, I want magical fights and a villain who rivals Darth Vader and The Joker and all the other bad guys of fiction.
Voldemort finally does show up in the last act of the movie and he is something. He’s creepy looking, he’s powerful, he’s oddly charismatic. Seeing him in the flesh really excited me, especially since I knew this was just the beginning of his time in the series. Surprisingly, Harry holds his own against You-Know-Who and is able to get away from him but not before poor Cedric is killed. I’ve been told that Cedric’s death was a big deal in the books but it comes off a bit flat in the film. Maybe it’s because Cedric isn’t given that much screen time but I didn’t feel too shaken up when he perished. I definitely wasn’t as affected as Harry who takes it really, really hard. It was nice to see Daniel Radcliffe flex his acting muscles.
I may be giving the movie a hard time but Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is a strong, strong entry in the series. In a way, it feels like the beginning. The beginning of the end, the beginning of Harry’s ascent to heroic legend, the beginning of Voldemort’s return. The movie has problems but it also left me wanting to jump right into the next one.
After all the dragons and mermaids and sword dueling, Goblet of Fire comes to a close on uneasy ground. With Voldemort finally physically in the world, Harry has never been in more danger and you can feel it. Drama and danger lurk around the corner as the series pushes into its second half. The look on Dumbledore’s face at the end promises that things are about to get very, very dark. Hermione puts it best when she says “Everything’s going to change now.” You bet, Miss Granger, and I couldn’t be more excited.
MVP of the Film
This one is tough but I have to give it to Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort. It’s all been building to this, hasn’t it? Voldemort in the flesh. He doesn’t disappoint. Fiennes plays the character perfectly, not too large and not too small. Like some of the best onscreen villains, you can’t take your eyes off of him. The best part is we just got a small dose of Voldemort in Goblet of Fire, there is so much more to come. Fiennes proves that there’s nothing as fun as a good bad guy.
Random questions/comments about Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
- Brendan Gleeson came close to being the MVP of the film. He kills it as Mad Eye Moody and it’s great to see him in the type of role that he doesn’t typically play. I’m also glad that his betrayal at the end was a trick. I would have been super bummed to see Mad Eye be a bad guy.
- The courtroom scene is legitimately great and, not surprisingly, the most adult moment in the series so far. Director Mike Newell really nailed it, having dialogue ping pong from one character to the next and culminating in a truly surprising twist. It’s also great that I’m starting to understand what all these terms and names mean. It adds weight to the drama.
- It’s so odd that Hogwarts has a school band. Shouldn’t they just use magic to make the instruments play themselves? It seems cruel to make students miss out on the fun because they’re busy playing at every event.
- I’m confused by the giant bath at the school. Do all the students bathe together? Is this a wizard thing that I haven’t been told about. It seems problematic to me.
- I’ve just spent the last few weeks watching the Olympics and that didn’t seem nearly as exciting as the Quidditch World Cup. Where do I buy tickets?