Naturally, as the release date of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire drew closer, I became giddier by the day, awaiting what new Potter director Mike Newell had in store for me and Harry’s other 80 million fans. So I grabbed my tickets 9 days in advance and counted down the days until November 18.
But as I watched, it was obvious that Newell had a different vision for Potter than his predecessors Chris Columbus and Alfonso Cuarón. It was the same innocent, quirky Harry Potter, the same gothic castle wizarding folk refer to as Hogwarts, and the same Voldemort set on Potter’s destruction. And though it followed the book closely, (because of the book’s length, scenes were omitted from the movie) Newell directed this one differently. I can’t seem to put my finger on it, but it was different. Maybe it was his terse portrayal of Dumbledore, when his predecessors portrayed the headmaster as a gentle, shrewd old man. Maybe it was the absence of Harry’s awful aunt and uncle on Privet Drive. Maybe it was Newell’s straight-forward cinematography. But whatever it was, it bothered me.
Another factor that didn’t thrill me was Newell’s decision to cut key parts of the book from the movie. I understand the book was too long to include everything, but I didn’t agree with some of the things he left out and changed. Most notably was the maze scene in which Newell changed everything. No sphinx. No bewitched Krum attacking Fleur. No magical cloud that literally turned Harry’s world upside down. The only thing that was the same was Harry and Cedric both being transported to Voldemort’s graveyard via a Portkey. Dobby did not appear at all. The blast-ended skrewts were left out altogether. The movie opens with Harry already at Weasley’s and headed for the Quidditch Cup, where in the book he is still stuck in Privet Drive. Despite so many changes, Newell did an excellent job of keeping the movie cohesive and easy to understand for viewers who have not read the books.
The acting was solid as usual. The only character that bothered me was Dumbledore (Michael Gambon), who seemed more prone to yelling and accusing than in movies past. The additions of the gossipy reporter Rita Skeeter (Miranda Richardson) and the ridiculous Mad-Eye Moody (Brendan Gleeson) simply added to the movie’s already strong cast. Regulars Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint were charming as usual, and I thought Watson especially did an excellent job of playing an emotional and love-struck Hermione.
The visual effects were dazzling. Non-human creatures look more real than ever. Ralph Fiennes underwent an astonishing physical transformation to play Voldemort. A brief but visually jaw-dropping scene during the Quidditch World Cup gives viewers a taste of what Hollywood can do. Even if the other parts of Potter were unsatisfactory, the visuals would almost be worth a trip to the movie theater.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire will win its viewers based on reputation, and should break a few records in the process. And though it will probably draw the largest audience of any Potter movie, I do not consider it the best. My personal favorite was the second movie, probably because The Chamber of Secrets is my favorite book of the first four. But nonetheless, The Goblet of Fire is worth the ticket price because it follows the book closely (despite omissions) and provides stunning visual effects and solid acting. This reviewer gives it a solid four out of five stars.