Emma Watson as Hermione Granger, Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter and Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley in Warner Bros. Pictures' Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - 2005
The Harry Potter films have accomplished something remarkable, and rarely seen in the annals of film history. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is proof positive that a series of films can maintain consistent quality, despite a rapidly aging cast, and a revolving door of directors. I very much enjoyed this film, and I suppose there are comparisons that can be made with the other three - some things were better, some were worse, but on the whole, I see very little difference in the four films, and I don’t know whether this should be attributed to the strength of J.K. Rowling’s stories or to the resilience of the actors.
In his fourth year at Hogwarts Academy, Harry Potter is experiencing something that will look very familiar to high school teachers everywhere - teen angst. But can you blame him? Aside from being a fourteen-year-old boy, Potter is also the most famous young wizard in the world, and a frequent target of assassination by the increasingly bold followers of the deposed Lord Voldemort. This year the difficulties begin early and in earnest. While attending the Quidditch World Cup, followers of Voldemort, Death Eaters, attack the crowd, nearly finishing Harry. Signs abound that evil is on the rise. And things only get worse for our hero when his name mysteriously appears as a contestant in the highly prestigious, and highly dangerous Tri-Wizard’s Tournament, a contest he is much too young to have entered legitimately. Someone wants him in that competition, but why? Could it be the prickly professor Snape, the protective but secretive Dumbledore, the unpredictable Mad-Eye Moody, new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, nosy reporter Rita Skeeter, or some other secretive schemer? There’s no telling, but for Harry to survive, it’s up to he, Ron and Hermione to solve the mystery. Only there’s a new wrinkle this time - turbulent teenage emotions. Oh the treachery of it all!
I was puzzling over my earlier assertion as to the consistency of this series and was wondering why these films have maintained such a level of quality where other films often stumble in their second and third outtings - the Batman movies, for example. I think it has to do with the fact that these characters have been allowed to age along with their actors, and the themes that they are dealing with seem to age as well. Rowling was very clever in her structure - organizing her epic so that her hero grows up alongside his fanbase. The issues that Potter and co. deal with in this film are far more complex than those they dealt with in the first film. More time is spent on the characters’ emotional interconnectedness than on the wonder of Diagon Alley or of the school itself. This could be disappointing to some, but it makes sense. Just as a fourth year student at a private academy would cease to gape at the vastness of his campus after a couple of years, so do we cease to be amazed at the presence of fantastic creatures and flying broomsticks. Well, at least we’re not as amazed. It is magic, after all. The point is, the films and their handlers are adept at tailoring the mood and feel of the films to the mood and feel of the characters, and by extension, the fans. A friend of mine who works at the theater told me eagerly that she had heard there was a possibility that the last Harry Potter might even be rated R. I daresay that it’ll be a dull day in Hogwarts when that happens, but it begs the point. These films are growing up, and we along with them.
In that vein, Goblet of Fire is the first of the series to gain a PG-13 rating, and I have to say it is deserved. The film is much darker than the other three, and has moments of real fright and true sadness. Several of the kids in the theater where I saw the film seemed a little freaked out, with one little girl desperately asking, “Is it just a dream, mommy?!?” It wasn’t. I guess this is kind of problem for parents who have gotten used to the idea that the Harry Potter films are accessible family fare, but, not to belabor the point, the films are maturing. For the little ones, I’d stick to replays of the first two films, saving Azkaban and Goblet of Fire ‘til they’re just a little older. That issue aside, the only real problem I had with this film was its slightly anti-climactic ending, shying away from the earthshaking cliffhanger ending of the book and instead opting for an easy, and just a little dull, “see ya next year and don’t forget to sign my yearbook” style sign-off. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is already in production, with Half-Blood Prince soon to follow. The trick will be completing the film series while the original cast is still young enough to play the parts. Here’s hoping they do it, because what they’ve achieved so far is pure magic. Grade: A-
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is rated PG-13 for scares and scenes of violence.
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