Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Goblet of Fire

I had the opportunity to catch a private pre-screening of this movie. What a treat!

It opens in black and white with a dark and stormy night and the Warner Brothers logo. Then a snake slithers along the ground… and then the title. But soon afterward, it explodes into full-color fireworks of the World Cup of Quidditch. But we aren’t shown this exciting game as it’s portrayed in the book (you’ve got to cut something from the 734-page book. They were toying with making two movies from it, to be released close together, but ultimately decided against it.) Rather, we’re ushered into a different contest, the TriWizard Tournament competition.

It soon becomes clear that this isn’t your previous kiddie’s movie. As the first PG-13 movie in the Harry Potter franchise, it’s darker, more frightening, and more mature. In many ways, it is the most satisfying of the series. However, the appearance of the personification of Lord Voldemort and some other scenes may be too intense for younger viewers.

This is not about fun and games; the struggles here are about life and death.

 

The Story

Harry and Hermione

Arrival

 

The Characters

Hermione

Ron

Cho Chang

Hagrid

Dragons

Harry Potter is an “everyman”, a rather ordinary boy with extraordinary power. But as a hero, he’s unexpected and reluctant, not the quickest in mind or body, but his character is revealed in each trial as that of “strong moral fiber.”

Tournament

 

The Co-Stars

Mad Eye

Meanwhile, the co-starring roles of the Hogwarts’ faculty are delightful. Brendan Gleeson does a terrific job as the curious “Mad-Eye” Moody, a new Professor of Defense against the Dark Arts, and his arch-Dublin accent puts him just short of a Pirate. He’s had significant roles in recent movies, including Menelaus in “Troy” and Reynald in “Kingdom of Heaven.” He is probably best remembered as Mel Gibson‘s right-hand man Hamish in “Braveheart,” which was filmed mostly in Ireland. Ironically, Gleeson spent 10 years teaching school before becoming an actor.

Rita Skeeter

Snape

Dumbledore

Obligatory Movie trivia: he once auditioned for the role of James Bond after George Lazenby‘s single performance in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” but was turned down as they didn’t want to hire another “unknown.” More ironic still, he appears in the 2004 movie “Layer Cake” with Daniel Craig, who has been cast as the new James Bond in the next 007 outing “Casino Royal.”

But this film especially felt the absence of Richard Harris in the role. Gambon seems to be more of an academic functionary and a less wise and powerful wizard than Harris. Something about Harris suggested his kind affection for the lonely orphan Harry. And Harris has played his share of regal characters.

Obligatory Theatre trivia: I had the pleasure of seeing Richard Harris in person doing the role of King Arthur in the revival of “Camelot” some 25 years ago in Los Angeles. While Harris did have a hit single in the 60s with “MacArthur Park” he is not best known for his singing. However, he was a stand in for the original Richard Burton, who is even less well known for his singing, but Burton had been permanently sidelined from the revival tour by a pinched nerve in his back.

At the end of each movie, Dumbledor has a brief interview with Harry where he asks simple yet deep questions and imparts some wisdom. The same happens here as he notes that with his coming of age, he will have to make decisions “between what is right and what is easy.”

Ralph Fiennes is cast as the now corporeal Lord Voldemort. Lithe and reptilian, he is both charming and loathsome as the evil wizard who years ago killed Harry’s parents. Harry’s contest with him is quite dramatic and revealing. I’ll say no more.

This is the first Harry Potter movie where John Williams does not do the music, other than the theme, and he wasn’t missed. I find the theme too reminiscent of his music in “Hook” and rather distracting in the Potter movies. Instead, in this movie, the music is by Patrick Doyle, who had a small role as an actor in my favorite movie, “Chariots of Fire” (1981). He’s also done the music for “Bridget Jones’s Diary” and “Gosford Park.” It’s got more of a sense of wonder and whimsy.

This movie was sincerely entertaining, a real pop-corn pleaser for the holidays, but those who know me have heard me describe the Harry Potter books as “Diet Tolkien” or “C.S. Lewis Lite.” While it does enjoy magic, it is derivative of Ursula K. LeGuin‘s wizard school in “A Wizard of Earthsea” books. And the creatures, culture, history, and languages in no way compare to the depth and scope of Tolkien. Not that J.K. Rowling is not a good writer, it’s just that Tolkien was a professor and knew his history, language, and literature to a level far beyond Rowling. And Tolkien’s close friend, fellow professor, and novelist C.S. Lewis was equally popular, especially with his fantasy series. J.R.R. Tolkien is my favorite writer of fiction, but I love Lewis’ non-fiction writing.

It will be interesting to see what December’s movie “Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” brings.

 

Grade: B+

  • You’ll like it if: You like action, special effects, teen romance
  • You won’t if: You’re disappointed by movies that don’t cleave close to the book or are easily frightened

 

Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood culturevulture
billpetro.com

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About billpetro

Bill Petro has been a technology sales enablement executive with extensive experience in Cloud Computing, Automation, Data Center, Information Storage, Big Data/Analytics, Mobile, and Social technologies.

1 Comment

  1. Amen to your comments about Harry Potter being Lewis Lite and Diet Tolkien. And it does all seem very derivatice of Earthsea doesn’t it? I was entertained by the movie, but I was also very disappointed by it. I reviewed it at http://tuesdaymovienight.blogspot.com/

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