Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Cinema recurro!

The Harry Potter films have followed a kind of rocky sequel arc. The first film was massively overpraised: everyone was so happy to see a movie made of it that they overlooked the fact that it was actually kind of a nothing script. The second film got somewhat ignored as more of the same (even though, IMO, it was better than the first). The third was hailed as a well-crafted cinematic work, and I’ve missed out by not actually having seen it. And that brings us to the fourth. Jury says: a resounding “eh”.

This reminds me a great deal of the first, in that there is a great deal that is good burdened by poor design. There are a fantastic number of talents, both technical and acting, spent on this film, and most of them are not utilized terribly fully. Part of this is the plot of the book. I was struck by the film, to a far greater extent than the book, that this story breaks from the standard pacing. Normally Harry & Co. uncover dark forces at work interspersed with their seemingly unrelated academic lives, Quidditch matches, etc. Goblet of Fire is basically one long monolithic plot, which makes the world seem sort of sparse around the edges. No Dursleys, no Transfiguration classes, no angsting about the House Cup. There’s little indicating that this story takes place at a school and not, say, at the Summer Olympics. A couple of plot points get reproduced half-heartedly, too, leaving one to wonder about their relevance. The Hagrid/Maxime drama, for instance, is fine getting streamlined a bit, but Rita Skeeter either needs to either retain her narrative purpose or disappear from the story.

Enough about the scriptcraft: what about the execution? With respect to effects: well-done but more-or-less in line with what we’ve seen before, so no bonus points there. And as for acting: another consequence of the choice to minimize scholastic appearances is that Maggie Smith and Alan Rickman get a lot less screen time, and the story suffers therefrom. Michael Gambon is no Richard Harris, but Dumbledore only gets to dodder whisperingly so the depth of his acting doesn’t much signify either. So it really comes down to the kids, I guess. Having not seen the third film, I sort of missed out on their development: they’ve turned from children to early teens without my noticing, I guess. This is a sort of a disconnect in the books too: through Prisoner they’re basically kids doing kid-type stuff, and suddenly in Goblet they’re moody and hormonal and whatnot. This works pretty well in the movie, even if rather unpleasantly. Nobody is really admirable at fourteen. The boys are jerks and the girls devious, and that comes through pretty well, actually. So on that point this film wins. But that’s a pretty small victory for a 2.5 hour film to have to its credit.

See also: Film Website, IMDB, Wikipedia.

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About Jake
I'm a mathematics professor at the University of Louisville, and a geek.

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