Goblet of Fire Review
This article was originally written in November 2005 and published on the now-defunct pottersplace.org.uk
Yesterday I went to see Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I was slightly apprehensive and was trying hard to not get my hopes too high, I remember how they were dashed in every single one of the Star Wars prequels. GoF has been getting good reviews from all over the place though, so I felt assured it would be excellent. The main thing I was worried about was how much had been left out and how much damage had been done. This is probably a good time to confess that GoF is my favourite of the books. I’ll give you advance warning, this review contains some spoilers, certainly if you haven’t read the book.
So, did I enjoy it? Yes. Did I think it was the best Potter film to date? Yes. Did I think it was good? No. Let me explain.
It wasn’t the acting that let it down. The cast has been maturing throughout the films and the main characters were on form for the additional acting required of them in this film. They handled the emotional depth and awkness of getting involved with the opposite sex very well. Ron is hilarious, Hermione mature and scared and Harry troubled. The rest of the cast, which is filled with top-quality actors, excelled as well. Michael Gambon has indeed made Dumbledore his own, the other characters, although sidelined somewhat, seem to be glad of the extra meat provided by the story.
The new characters are excellent too. David Tennant (aka the new Doctor Who) is excellent as Barty Crouch Jr. while Roger Lloyd-Pack plays his rule-abiding father perfectly. Miranda Richardson (Rita Skeeter), Predrag Bjelac (Igor Karkaroff), Frances de la Tour (Madame Olympe Maxime), Clémence Poésy (Fleur Delacour), Katie Leung (Cho Chang), Stanislav Ianevski (Viktor Krum) and Robert Pattinson (Cedric Diggory) all turn in good performances, though you see very little of them. A heavily made up Ralph Fiennes makes Voldemort fantastically evil without overdoing it or going camp. David Bradley is hilarious again as caretaker Argus Filch (he gets some great lines in all the films). It is Brendan Gleeson as Alastor ‘MadEye’ Moody that steals the show though. He is in turn both humourous and a torrent of rage. One minute laughing, the next threatening some student or shouting at the top of his voice. I must confess that I was very happy to see Fred and George finally get some real screen time. They’re characters are hilarious in the books, with many great, laugh-out-loud lines. James and Oliver Phelps play them perfectly but are rarely given any space. One of the things I was sorry to see left out from Chamber of Secrets was:
Fred and George, however, found all this very funny. They went out of their way to march ahead of Harry down the corridors , shouting ‘Make way for the heir of Slytherin, seriously evil wizard coming through…’
The effects too, are well done. The changes to the story were done to help the narrative, though some are there to try and up the danger level Harry is facing, which is pretty pointless, he’s already in a life-threatening position, how can it be any worse? Harry spends almost all of the film with some sort of injury visible.
Considering I liked all that, just what did I not like? The pacing. I think every fan was worried that with bits missing from the other books, which are considerably shorter, GoF, which weighs in at well over 600 pages, was going to be a massacre. The film-makers seem well aware of this and so crammed everything into one film (they did think of dividing it into two at one point). The result is you end up with something that charges through the story like an enraged bull only playing lip service to most of the scenes. I’ve read the novel and some of the scenes shot by me with barely time to register what they were. For anyone who hasn’t read the book this must be very confusing. It was like watching it on fast forward, or watching the highlights of a football game. Take the opening scenes:
- A dream about Voldemort at Riddle’s house.
- Harry waking up at Ron’s house.
- Walking to the port key.
- Taking the port key.
- Arriving at the tent.
- Seeing the opening of the Quidditch World Cup.
- The train to Hogwarts. All that is covered in ten minutes.
It carries on that pace all the way through. That’s half the reason you don’t get to see too much of many of the new characters, I can’t remember Fleur, Cedric, Cho and Viktor saying more than a dozen lines between them. Most of the roles could be considered cameos rather than full parts. It’s like every scene is attached by a port key where we scream in, watch a quick excerpt, then woosh, we’re off to the next one. That means you don’t really have time to get settled in the narrative, you’re too busy trying to take it all in for a start. Take the fall out between Ron and Harry, in the book it goes on forever (perhaps too long), but onscreen it’s over and done with before you can get a feeling for Harry having to struggle alone, it barely registers. The final maze task, which could have gone on for a very tense, enthralling half-an-hour is shot through in barely 10 minutes. The finale, with Voldemort, the most dangerous dark wizard of all time, Harry’s nemesis, the man who tried to murder Harry right after he had killed his parents, is rushed through so quickly they barely have time to exchange words.
It will probably improve with repeat viewings, where you can spend less time looking at everything, comparing it to the book and just focus on the story, but for me it was just too fast, and as the film comes in three minutes shy of 2 hours and 40 minutes, they could easily have shot an extra hour of footage and split it into two films, making Warner Bros. even more money.
Having said that, still the best of the films so far, with the characters coming to the fore at last, something that should have been done from the start, hopefully this recipe will remain for the rest of the films, but with a bit more time taken.