I’m going to make a rather bold statement here, having re-watched The Goblet of Fire and The Order of the Phoenix yesterday. The latter was much better than I remembered it to be, but the overbearing presence of Imelda Staunton still irritates me, and this is adapted from Rowling’s weakest novel. The climactic confrontation between Voldemort and Dumbledore is fantastic, however. In my opinion, Goblet of Fire is one of the best novels in the series, and it is adapted into one of the best films too. I’m going to try and explain why.
This film, though one of the best received, is often criticized for being episodic and for disregarding large chunks of the novel. This does apply to all of the films and when you consider how long some of the novels are (and this is by far the longest in the series at this point), there is always plenty to get the chop. The films also feel episodic because they are usually comprised of challenges and spectacles that culminate in a violent confrontation. There are a few awkward temporal jumps in Goblet, which are the most glaring faults, but overall I think it is a pretty effective fantasy adventure that rewards on repeat viewings.
Here are some examples of these temporal jumps included for the purposes of the trimming the film’s length. The game play during the Quidditch World Cup is completely removed, which no doubt would have been a massive disappointment for fans. I think, initially, I was disappointed too. Following the introductions of the teams and the establishing the visual spectacle of the stadium, the film jumps to the aftermath with the group celebrating at the campsite and commenting on the game. We do learn all that we need to here.
Later, in the Yule Ball sequence, there is another strange jump. Following Ron’s embittered taunting of Hermoine, she leaves alone to join Krum, who has gone to get drinks. The next shot is of Hermoine and Ron arguing again. Evidently Ron has continued the taunting to the point where Hermoine has become overwhelmed and now distraught. Harry approaches them and is scolded for having been mysteriously absent. In no way is it made clear that this is later in the night. It feels like a continuation of the previous scene. This is not coherent or cohesive storytelling. But, overall the Ball sequences are relatively effective, and a nice division between the challenges.
Screenwriter Steve Kloves, the man who is responsible for all-but one of the film adaptations, has chosen to focus on everything essential to Harry’s personal story and his involvement in the Triwizard Tournament. But it does well to further develop his relationship with Ron and Hermoine and introduce Cho Chang, Harry’s love interest. Much has been said about the performances of the children, but I think they each give strong performances here. Also, how much better is Bonnie Wright (who plays Ginny) when she is younger? Mad-Eye Moody is the film’s most prominent character outside of the three children. Played to perfection by the great Brendan Gleeson, he seems to lack a motive but assists Harry with each challenge, and is an essential part of the film’s core mystery.
Professors McGonagall and Snape have a couple of great scenes, and I much preferred Sirius Black’s appearance in the fireplace to the one in The Order of the Phoenix. Though a brief expository sequence, it more than sufficed. I think there is a whole chapter devoted to Harry visiting Sirius in the outskirts of Hogsmeade. Harry’s plunge into Dumbledore’s memories in the Pensieve reveals all we need to know about Barty Crouch Jr. and effectively trims down an entire chapter into one brief sequence. By no means are any of these films perfect. As I mentioned before, the temporal jumps feel a little clunky, but I do think Michael Gambon’s portrayal as an angrier, more aggressive Dumbledore was off the mark here.
But, I think the film does a great job in dividing up the three Tournament challenges with plot developments that play to the strengths of the cast - Miranda Richardson as Rita Skeeter has a couple of fantastic sequences - while the film also presents some powerful adolescent conflicts between Harry and Ron (jealousy, betrayal), and Ron and Hermoine (embitterment, frustration), who for the first time are discovering their sexual desires and facing their first challenges with interacting with opposite sex. In addition there is this ever-present, ominous feeling as the Death Eaters begin to build an unhinged fear over the Magical Realm – evident through their terrorization of the World Cup campsite and the raising of the Dark Mark. The rise of Volemort is imminent, and his followers, it seems, have penetrated Hogwarts. The death of Cedric Diggory actually packs an emotional wallop; purely through the way the reactions to his limp body are captured. The same cannot be said for the most recent installment, which left me feeling very little.
The extended action sequences with the dragon, and in the Black Lake are both tremendously exciting and visually exceptional. Is it just I, or did the dragon in Goblet look better than the recent one in Deathly Hallows Part 2? These scenes also further confirm Harry’s sense of righteousness. He is always willing to do the right thing and help others, even if it means placing his own life in danger. Unwillingly selected to compete, it is not an attempt to aid Harry in achieving eternal glory (something Harry also doesn’t desire) but to actually place his life in danger and ensure he is brought before Voldemort in a vulnerable state to play his part in his resurrection. The concluding sequences in the graveyard, and Ralph Fiennes’ awesome introduction as Voldemort, are excellent. Of course, what would a Harry Potter film be without a rousing score? While he doesn’t reach the heights of John Williams’ early scores, or the recent work by Desplat, Patrick Doyle does a great job.
I am quite surprised that this one isn’t more widely considered by Potter fans to be one of the best films. While I admired the job that David Yates did, especially considering the film I thought was his weakest, was better than I remembered, I think it is interesting to speculate what Mike Newell would have come up with. His involvement with just one film is a memorable one. I felt compelled to re-watch The Goblet of Fire after a lengthy discussion with my mother about why it was my favourite novel in the series. We immediately decided to watch the film, and because I needed to do something to fill in time during a train trip today, I decided to share my thoughts.
My Rating: 4 Stars (B+)
What are your thoughts on The Goblet of Fire? Is it a hit or a miss in the franchise?