Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Gary Oldman, Robbie Coltrane, Ralph Fiennes, Miranda Richardson
Running time: 157 mins
Another year at Hogwarts brings with it another adventure for young wizard Harry Potter and sidekicks Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley. As if Harry doesn’t have enough on his plate with an ever-strengthening Lord Voldemort threatening the world, he is then involuntarily entered into the potentially perilous tri-wizard tournament. Even worse, the hormonally-infused trio have to find dates for the Yule Ball.
In Goblet of Fire, Mike Newell has produced the best Harry Potter film yet. With his credits including Four Weddings and a Funeral and Donnie Brasco it is unsurprising that his influence helps it to be funnier, more thrilling and more moving than any of its predecessors.
Rowling’s fourth Potter novel is a hefty tome, particularly as children’s books go, and to compress it into a film of two and a half hours is no easy task, especially if it’s expected to make much sense. Happily, the editing process for transferring the material to screen has been very well done all things considered, and captures the essence of the novel admirably.
Although there are clear differences in the material covered - gone is Hermione’s political conscience and fight for elf rights, as is the perennial opening with the Dursleys and other sub-plots which are frankly disposable in favour of making the core story come across in a manageable time. Meanwhile, other themes are covered to an extent but again curtailed in order to keep up the pace and story – Rita Skeeter’s muckraking subplot never really takes full flight, although it allows a highly entertaining performance from Miranda Richardson. This may irritate Potter fans who would insist that everything should be included, though more moderate Rowling followers might not appreciate the six-hour-long marathon this would entail, let alone the casual cinemagoer. On the other hand, there are some omissions, particularly towards the end, which will make the handling of Order of the Phoenix interesting.
The acting has come on leaps and bounds of various sizes since the wizard’s last screen outing, again perhaps owing something to Newell. Daniel Radcliffe’s performance as Harry is the most marked improvement, with one of his scenes providing the most touching scene in any of the movies to date. Rupert Grint’s has also grown in range as Ron Weasley, although Emma Watson’s Hermione does seem to be subject to rather violent mood swings – she’s either very afraid, very angry or very happy, refusing to do things by halves. As ever, Alan Rickman is a joy to watch as Snape, and Brendan Gleeson does well as Mad-Eye Moody, although Michael Gambon makes a strangely angry Dumbledore. Ralph Fiennes makes a stand-out performance as the villainous Voldmort, making him a personification of evil rather than an abstract idea. Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker and Radiohead’s Johnny Greenwood and Phil Selway also make welcome cameos at the Hogwarts Yule Ball.
Visually, Goblet of Fire is very impressive. There are some beautiful shots, highly detailed scenery, and excellent CGI, including a superbly-done dragon.
All in all, Goblet of Fire is certainly the best Potter yet, with most of the cast doing their roles justice, some great direction and Steven Kloves’ screenplay makes the core of Rowling’s novel into a fast-paced but easily-comprehensible enjoyable movie.