Hermione: “Everything’s going to change now, isn’t it?”
For all the talk made about Prisoner of Azkaban being the shift in tone the series needed, Goblet of Fire is the one where that shift is pretty much the central driving narrative. The mystery of Harry’s dreams and who put is name in the Goblet of Fire take him from the episodic teen adventures to the focused exploration of darkness with Lord Voldemort’s return. It’s the turning point of the series, as it was in the books.
Speaking of which, this is the one film in the series where I find separating my love of the book with the movie a necessity, because if you don’t there is a shocking amount left out of translation. On the one hand, this allows the movie a tighter focus on the central narrative (it’s a big ass book). On the other hand, so much of the plot is found in that sprawl that the cuts leave some scenes feeling awkward and rushed, such as the cut away from the Quidditch match, lots of scenes with Rita Skeeter (played here by the wonderful Natasha Richardson) or the whole incentive for Ron and Harry’s arguing in the first half of the movie (between that and everything in the Yule Ball, Ron is such is a diiiiiiick in this movie). This begins the unfortunate trait that these movies have to do later on in the Yates years, where they are only able to hint at larger passages in the books rather than completely explore them.
These translations come courtesy of new director Mike Newell, and with his background in comedy this is among the funnier entries in the whole series despite the darkness. The focus on character interaction in particular produces awkward, situational humour (what American reviewers would call “British”) and in some cases allows for emotional complexity, allowing each of the main cast to continue their maturity as performers (I particularly like how, in spite of taking Cho to the Yule Ball, Harry doesn’t seem to take personal offence to Cedric Diggory throughout the film). But some of these also involve different takes on established character’s that just don’t work, including the somewhat controversial moment in which Michael Gambon’s Dumbledore seems to attack Harry Potter after the announcement of his name in the tournament; this makes sense in theory, but the whole scene is too overwrought to feel like fatherly anger.
So the means to get to the set pieces are muddled. But when the movie gets to them, they are among the greatest scenes in the whole series. Of the matches of the Triwizard tournament the dragon chase in particular stands out, with the design of the Hungarian Horntail, but everything else perfectly demonstrates why this was the movie that Stuart Craig won the Oscar of Best Production Design for.
But as well the big action sequences, its the most human moments that stand out to me. I talk specifically of Cedric Diggory’s death – for me the big turning point of the series tone – and the reaction to this by his father. Some death scenes later on in this series lack the emotional impact I want (for varying reasons I will get to), but in terms of execution this might be the most fully realised in the whole series. Also, it’s odd to remember that Robert Pattison was really good in this movie before Twilight ruined it all and David Cronenberg had to save him.
Speaking of Pattinson, along with him comes some other great new additions to the cast. The most obvious of course being Ralph Fiennes as Lord Voldemort, whose smooth posture and menacing snarl completely dominate. Both his performance and the direction of his introduction in the graveyard provides the most intense scene of the series so far. Then there is Brendan Gleeson as “Mad Eye” Moody. Well, make that Barty Crouch Jr. as “Mad Eye” Moody, and having to play a character within a character more than demonstrates Brendan’s skills. Though the tongue licking certainly doesn’t help David Tennant as Barty Crouch Jr. to play it with any kind of subtlety. I mean, it’s not like David Tennant had much to go with, but after seeing his performance in Jessica Jones his performance here comes across as eve more cartoonish (delightfully so, though).
Oh, and a severe lack of Alan Rickman. Sorely missed in this one.
As Goblet of Fire was the entry that so depended on expanding the character’s world, the translation to the big screen can’t help but feel drastic. And although it is a joke throughout the series, the whole Triwizard cup concept is the one time in the series where the teachers putting the kids in peril actually bothered me (I mean, were they just going to leave those children underwater if they lost?). But that plot also allows for some amazing sequences, more complex performances from the central cast and a world and danger that feels much grander. Everything does change now. Well, most of it anyway…