Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Posted by Joel Copling on December 4, 2015

"Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," perhaps more than any other adaptation of a novel from author J.K. Rowling's series about the titular, young wizard, relies upon its set-pieces to work. For the most part, it is successful at doing this, as the breakneck narrative revolves around a deadly competition that culminates in a climax of near-historical proportions. Elsewhere, the characters have their first pangs of adolescence, launching the structure into a back-and-forth between action sequences and ones steeped in John Hughes-like teen comedy. It's so breakneck, in fact, that screenwriter Steve Kloves isn't fully able to capture the sense of patience the book on which his screenplay is based.

Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and his best friends, Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), have reunited just in time for the 422nd Quidditch World Cup, taking place in Scotland for the first time in years. The post-game party in the Weasleys' tent is interrupted by an attack from hooded, masked men, one of whom declares his allegiance to the dark lord Voldemort by launching his famed Dark Mark into the sky. It's not a good sign for the wizarding world that Voldemort might be back, but Harry has a more compelling reason to worry than most do: Voldemort is the reason he has no parents, a lightning-shaped scar on the right-hand side of his forehead, and a fame as being the only wizard in history to have survived the Killing Curse.

Harry's return to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is predictably marred with strange events, the first of which is that he is chosen as fourth champion in the Triwizard Tournament (the aforementioned competition), which usually has three from the three major European schools of magic. Nobody, not even Ron, believes that Harry is telling the truth when he insists that he has no idea who submitted his name. Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon), headmaster of the noble school, is divided between wanting to protect his pupil and being forced by wizarding law to allow him to compete. Hermione stands by Harry, too, but the rest of the school don badges siding with the other Hogwarts champion.

The Triwizard Tournament is a trifecta of tests of daring, courage, and skill in which each competitor must use his own intuition to get through each round without dying or being maimed. The first task involves a dragon guarding an egg that holds a clue to the second task, in which the champions must enter the lake on the school grounds to retrieve something taken from them; the third and final task is a maze in which dark enchantments must be avoided to get to its center. The real finale, though, comes when the maze leads Harry to a graveyard where Voldemort himself, played by Ralph Fiennes with a slithery grace and cold, cunning eyes, rises again; it's great, chilling, immediately iconic stuff.

Harry and friends also deal with those pangs of adolescence, coming to head with a prom-type dance native to the Triwizard Tournament, in which an attraction between Ron and Hermione is first hinted and Harry goes to the ball with one fellow student while pining for the affections of another. It's amusing and revealing in equal measure: These characters are growing up (and so is the series, as this is its first film to receive a PG-13 rating, entirely deserved because of the scene with Voldemort). Elsewhere, potions master Severus Snape's (Alan Rickman) true allegiances are once again in question, and there's a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Alastor Moody (Brendan Gleeson), whose view of the world is as mad as his left eye.

A series of narrative surprises are once again stacked on top of each other in the final act, something Rowling earned and Kloves merely seems to imitate. Director Mike Newell's British sensibilities are perfectly aligned with this material, from how deftly he handles the romantic drama and comedy of the students' budding love lives to his staging and execution of some brisk and blustery action sequences (particularly the showdown with the dragon). The real story of "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" is both its busybody structure (which sometimes gets in the way of actually conveying the character growth that happens here) and the sense that this is quite the turning point for young Harry.

Film Information

Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley), Emma Watson (Hermione Granger), Ralph Fiennes (Voldemort), Michael Gambon (Albus Dumbledore), Maggie Smith (Minerva McGonagall), Alan Rickman (Severus Snape), Brendan Gleeson (Alastor "Mad-Eye" Moody), Robbie Coltrane (Rubeus Hagrid), Timothy Spall (Peter Pettigrew), David Tennant (Barty Crouch Jr.), Miranda Richardson (Rita Skeeter).

Directed by Mike Newell and written by Steve Kloves, based on the novel by J.K. Rowling.

Rated PG-13 (fantasy violence/frightening images).

157 minutes.

Released on November 18, 2005.