Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)

Title: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Release Date: November 18, 2005
Director: Mike Newell
Production Company: Warner Bros. Pictures

The fourth film features another new director, Mike Newell, and his approach returns to the workmanlike but uninspired style of Chris Columbus.  To be fair, Newell faced a big challenge in tackling the adaptation of the longest novel to date.

He makes some good decisions such as trimming down the Quidditch World Cup portions to just the most important elements. I also like how the film focuses to a greater extent than the book on the students as teenagers with growing romantic interests around the Yule Ball. It is a good way of grounding the story so that the characters feel like real kids as well as magical people.

There are also some curiously bad decisions, such as having the students of Beauxbatons and Durmstrang be single-sex and the gender essentialism on display in their entrances.  The scene with the 40-year-old Shirley Henderson looking at teenage Daniel Radcliffe in a bathtub is also super creepy and I question its inclusion.  But by and large, the film pares down the essentials of the story and maintains a steady level of action-adventure.  It’s just not quite as “magical” as I would liked, especially after the more artistic approach of the Prisoner of Azkeban.

Rating: ***

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling

Author: J.K. Rowling
Title: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Narrator: Jim Dale
Publication Info: Listening Library, 2000

Just before midnight on a July night in 2000, I was walking through Harvard Square and saw lines of children and their parents extending from three different bookstores.  The release of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was my first exposure to the Harry Potter phenomenon as a childless person in his mid-20s.  I heard the name “Harry Potter” before but for some reason I’d gotten it into my head that was the author of the Goosebumps series (I know now that’s R.L. Stine!). By the end of the next year I would binge read all four of the Harry Potter novels to date and be invested in finding out what comes next.

This fourth novel represents a big jump in page count from the previous book in the series, but also a broadening of Harry Potter’s world and a darkening in tone for the narrative.  As opposed to the more self-contained earlier books, The Goblet of Fire ends with the return of Voldemort to corporal form and begins the ongoing story of the Second Wizarding War that will continue until the end of the series.

The heart of the novel is the Triwizard Tournament which brings in students from two other wizarding schools.  My biggest frustration with this book is that the rules clearly state there are three champions and they must be at least 17 years old, and yet when Harry is selected, all the adults claim to be powerless against not allowing Harry to participate.  I mean, there’s a lot of child endangerment in the Wizarding World, but I still feel there should’ve been a more convincing way for Harry to be drawn into the tournament. Nevertheless, I do enjoy the tournament tasks and Harry’s clever ways of approaching them and how Harry and Cedric work together despite being opponents.

The book also introduces Rita Skeeter, who I think is the first of a series of horrible adults in the Wizarding World who are not also Death Eaters.  And Hermione exposes the enslavement of house elves, which is another interesting challenge to the goodness the reader assumes about people in the Wizarding World, although I wish her campaign got more traction with the characters in the book.  Finally, there’s the debut of Alastor “Mad Eye” Moody who is one of the best Defense Against the Dark Arts teachers yet and a mentor to Harry, which is ironic since its revealed he’s Death Eater in disguise.  That’s probably one of the best twists Rowling ever writes!  Nevertheless, the clues I missed on my first reading are all there.

As the middle book of 7, The Goblet of Fire serves its purpose as the hinge of the entire series. More importantly it continues to be an engaging and thoughtful read.

Rating: ***1/2