Whereas Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone and The Chamber of Secrets succeeded at enshrouding moviegoers into J.K. Rowling‘s engrossing Wizarding World, Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban brought a dramatic and cinematic maturity that allowed complexity and depth beyond the surreal and imaginative. In my opinion, it was when Harry Potter stopped being a very good young-adult fantasy series and began reaching for new levels of greatness not often attained by mainstream franchises. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, on the other hand, I’ve always associated as a very incremental and episodic entry in the series.
Directed by Mike Newell, a director with a robust directorial filmography, with well-received films like Donnie Brasco and Four Weddings and a Funeral, however, I think the most telling film to mention in his catalog is Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, because it shows his efforts on a blockbuster level. As a fan of the video-game series, I actually liked that film, but it wasn’t without a certain disjointedness and lack of depth. The benefit to a series like Harry Potter, however, is that a lot of that depth has already been instilled in moviegoers from previous entries. In other-words, the edge was taken off a bit, so to speak.
The film received positive reviews from critics and Potter fans alike, and it was a substantial increase from the dip that was had by Prisoner of Azkaban. It earned nearly 900 million worldwide, more than its predecessor and The Chamber of Secrets, respectively.
Goblet of Fire brings back our ensemble cast of characters, with the additional entries of Brendan Gleeson as our annual teacher for the Defense Against the Dark Arts class named Alastor “Mad-Eye” Moody and, well, a lot of others, actually.
A lot is happening in Goblet of Fire, you see. Lord Voldemort‘s cultists, aptly named Death Eaters, run roughshod at a World Cup match, and summon the Dark Mark, a calling card of Voldemort. Meanwhile, at school, it is announced that the Triwizard Tournament will be hosted at Hogwarts this year, a battle comprised of three Wizard schools competing in three challenges, with the winner receiving prestige and glory. As a result of recent affairs, however, the decree is made that only seventeen year old wizards can compete in the tournament. As this is Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, however, and not Harry Potter and the Bleacher Chairs, the Boy Who Lived is not left to watch to watch the match at ringside. Instead, his name is mysteriously brought out from the Goblet of Fire, which had a spell made to specifically prevent this from occurring, and he’s now a competitor!
The film largely focuses on Harry competing with rival school students and the tasks he has been faced.
The novel by J.K. Rowling was nearly twice the length of Prisoner of Azkaban, which meant the filmmakers had to have a lot of discipline in-order to bring everything into a feature length. Their restrictions meant they had to separate what was needed and what wasn’t, focusing the film primarily on Harry Potter’s journey and trimming the fat.
Despite all its wonder, the film genre isn’t without detriment. The Goblet of Fire had a lot of stuff it needed to do and didn’t have a lot of time to do it. In-fact, screenwriter Steve Kloves claimed their intent to do a two-parter for Goblet of Fire, but that the idea never came to fruition because they couldn’t find a clear way to do it. In a perfect world, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire would have been a wonderful miniseries, seeing an individual episode for each particular task, but that obviously wasn’t on the cards. Even now it would be unfathomable, and this was during an age before streaming giants threw money at large scale projects.
The film is enjoyable, all the way through, but it can’t help but feel formulaic and transitional. The cinematography feels like it carries on where Azkaban left off, carrying that evolved maturity with it, and it is fun to watch the cast of characters continue to grow into themselves as actors and as personalities in the film itself. Regardless, seeing the petty quarrels between Ron and Harry, and the challenges all dealt away with in anticlimactic and frankly uninspired fashion can feel like a disappointment for the corner we had turned with Prisoner of Azkaban.
Placement on the List: – The Goods