Hogwarts Has Me: My take on the Harry Potter series - Volume Four ("Goblet of Fire")
I remember my initial reaction to this film the moment I walked out of the theatre. I had just seen it with my brother and my dad (like I said last time, after Azkaban, we started seeing the rest of the films in theatres).
Both seemed to have enjoyed it. But I remember thinking it was forgettable and unimpressive. There were parts I liked, but this one didn't grab me like its predecessor had.
I remember not liking this one so much that when I decided to go back and re-watch the first five on DVD, I dreaded it. After viewing the film again, I think I understand why I had the initial feelings I did back in 2005.
Clearly, I had just been in a very bad mood that day.
It doesn't happen often, but every once in a while, I will develop a completely new outlook on a film after I come back to it long after my first viewing. This was one of those cases where I had to ask myself, "Why didn't I like this?" It was fun, engaging and very nicely paced. Not to mention, it stepped up in certain areas that the first three films couldn't touch.
If not for Azkaban, this would be the best film in the franchise. Not a doubt in my mind. Sometimes, it pays to retrace your steps with fresher eyes.
This is the one that started it all for me. Literally. See, I didn't start reading the books in order (though I did after this one). I decided to begin with the fourth. I find the three main characters more interesting as teens than as kids, and this was definitely a nice one to start with in that regard.
Not to mention, I'd already seen the six films before I had even read the cover for any of the books, so it wasn't like I was really ruining things for myself.
Just to put things into perspective, Goblet of Fire is over 700 pages. At this point in my life, I don't think I've ever read anything that thick for pleasure, and if I have, I've only midly enjoyed it.
I finished this in about 3 days, and if not for school projects and papers, I'm sure I would have downed it in 1. I enjoyed Azkaban a great deal, but so far, this one may be my favorite.
I like how Hermione is shown to be an avid civil rights supporter here, with her ambitious campaign to see that house elves are treated fairly as equals. Not hard as a minority to identify with that, and it just makes an already likable character that much more lovable.
It's only slightly, slightly hinted at in the film, but it's interesting that there's a deeper connection between the Weasleys and Mad-Eye Moody. I also liked how in the book, everyone (including the Weasleys, Harry and Hermione) seems to be pulling for Angelina to become the Hogwarts Triwizard champion. It gives you the sense that maybe she's much closer to the group than you might have guessed.
One of the major new characters from the book, Ludo Bagman, seems to play a prominent role in the story, yet he doesn't show up at all in the film. I thought the character was pretty interesting, but somehow, the film manages to move along pretty smoothly without him.
We as an audience may have missed seeing the film open with the Dursleys and Dudley's diet (which is humorous to read about), but it was refreshing, after three straight years of beginning at Pivet Drive, to start somewhere else for a change.
And that's what happens. As soon as the snake slithers through a skull, you can tell this isn't the PG-friendly Potter films from the past. It's a little bit different, though not altogether unrecognizable.
Some things from the book I wish had stayed put in the film (particularly Malfoy's altercations with Ron), but things are added that work quite well in their own respective ways.
For instance, the preparation scene for the Yule Ball with McGonagall and the students is great. I can't imagine a single person who's gone through a high school dance who can't relate to that.
The film also seems to play around with the idea of a possible love triangle with the three leads. It's not a triangle in the traditional sense, in that the two guys fight over the one girl. Here, it's the girl (Hermione) who seems to have a thing for both boys.
The aftermath of the ball is an obvious example, taking into account the rift between Hermione and Ron. But she also seems to be very affectionate towards Harry. She holds his hand and kisses him on the head (neither gesture was written about in the book).
It doesn't have the effortless pacing to it that Azkaban had, but Goblet of Fire still entertains. My sister, who is probably the hardest person to please cinematically, sat through the whole thing with me and my mother. And when it was over, she said that she thoroughly enjoyed it. That's a big endorsement.
It may not be a 100% accurate book-to-screen adaptation (director Mike Newell and screenwriter Steve Kloves take their fair share of liberties), but it makes for some fascinating movie-watching nonetheless. I'd enthusiastically rank this in the 2nd place slot.
One of my all-time favorite character actors ever, Brendan Gleeson was excellent as Alastor 'Mad-Eye' Moody. He definitely has the unpredictable factor going for him, and while Moody is an eccentric character, Gleeson doesn't portrary him as a buffoon. He's the best kind of crazy: exceedingly interesting.
I, unfortunately, haven't seen too many films with Miranda Richardson, and the ones I have (The Crying Game, Spider), she was overshadowed by her co-stars. She sticks out here, though, playing Rita Skeeter. It's always enjoyable as a spectator to watch actors have fun with their parts, and that's what happens here.
Lastly, but definitely not least, Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort. What can you say? He's perfect in his role, he's creepy as crap, and he turns in one of the most memorable performances not just in this film, but from the entire series (and I doubt he even has ten minutes worth of screentime here). For those who didn't get to see his genius at work in Oscar pictures like Schindler's List or The English Patient, here's a nice chance to get a glimpse at what you've been missing.
THE VISUAL EFFECTS
It may not have earned an Academy Award nomination for it, but in my opinion, the best visual effects in a Harry Potter film to date came in Goblet of Fire.
The horse-pulled chariot that brings the Beauxbatons works as pure eye candy. True, it's a very brief scene, so there isn't a lot of time to really indulge yourself in the technological creation. Nonetheless, the way the animals gracefully glide through the sky is worth paying attention to, if only for a moment.
The other big effect that I found to be completely flawless was the design for the Hungarian Horntail dragon. It's not just an impressive-looking monster, it actually looks real. There have been plenty of other movies that included computer-generated dragons (Dragonheart and Reign of Fire immediately come to mind). While those movies may have been entertaining, it's obvious that the creature you're looking at is imposed into the scene.
Here, however, you don't get that sense. It actually looks like the actors are in the same setting interacting with the dragon, and the talented effects artists don't hold back when the horntail takes flight after Harry. Amazing work by those behind the scenes.
From what I've gathered, most fans who listen to the soundtracks from the Potter films like Patrick Doyle's score the least. And while I would agree that his score is the least impressive once you compare his compositions to those of John Williams and Nicholas Hooper, I still like his style of orchestrating.
I like how The Story Continues has an almost Danny Elfman-esque quality to it, those it isn't my favorite version of the prologue.
Foreign Visitors Arrive is an extremely elegant piece that acts as a precursor to the film's end credit sequence, which I will discuss in a minute. I'd say it's the best piece available on the soundtrack.
Rita Skeeter has a fun feel to it that seems to be perfect for the person the score's about.
Neville's Waltz is probably the runner-up for best score on the soundtrack. It's a light waltz that conjures up the image of dancing on air.
Harry in Winter is probably the saddest-sounding piece, though it's still plenty good. I suppose it matches Harry's rather depressing life.
Potter Waltz is much livelier than "Neville's Waltz," though it moves just as effortlessly.
It took me a while to get into Voldemort. But now, I enjoy it, particularly for the way the music shifts from this overwhelmingly evil tone to an almost entirely different piece (starting at about 8:53).
***POSSIBLE SPOILER IN SCORE TITLE AHEAD. BE WARNED***
You know, I really hate how soundtracks can act as spoilers. Death of Cedric is a great piece in Goblet of Fire, but if you, like me, didn't know what to expect heading into the film, and you bought the soundtrack first, you just ruined a big thing for yourself.
***POSSIBLE SPOILER OVER***
It's hard for me to articulate, but I really like the sound of Another Year Ends. It feels kind of heavy, though not overwhelmingly depressing, yet not incredibly cheerful either. Bittersweet might be a good word for it, like when your school semester ends, and you don't see your friends everyday for a while.
Hogwarts Hymn sounds like the kind of music you'd expect to hear at a Hogwarts graduation ceremony. I like it.
Despite what others may say, I enjoyed the three songs from The Weird Sisters (Do the Hippogriff, Magic Works and This is the Night). All three could definitely pass as prom/school dance songs.
Now, as a soundtrack collector, I've noticed that when movies have big orchestra pieces, a lot of the times they're not included on the actual soundtracks. Such is the case here. The end credits score to Goblet of Fire, performed by the London Symphony Orchestra, is nowhere to be found on disc. And that's really a shame, because it's the best score from the film.
THE DVD FEATURES
Of all the Potter DVDs, this one is by far the best in terms of the features it offers. You get lots of comprehensive behind-the-scenes accounts that are all quite interesting and thoroughly engaging.
- Triwizard Tournament: Dragon Challenge - an interactive DVD game where you can play all 3 tasks (the dragon, the lake, the maze), or one at a time. Not quite sure what you're supposed to do, though the maze level is the most fun.
- Harry vs. The Horntail: The First Task - shows all the hard work that went into making the impressive dragon for the film. Really can't say enough about what these people can do.
- Meet the Champions - the best feature from the DVD, and that's saying something, because there are plenty of good ones. Here, you essentially go through the daily routines of actors Robert Pattison, Clemence Poesy and Stanislav Ianevski.
- Triwizard Tournament: Lake Challenge - the exact same as the other Triwizard Tournament challenge, though I can understand why they'd break it up into threes
- In Too Deep: The Second Task - a detailed look into what went into the lake task, something producer David Heyman called the hardest thing to shoot (up to 2005, anyway)
- Triwizard Tournament: Maze Chllange - would you be incredibly surprised if I said it was the same as the other two? Well, it is. The exact same.
- To the Graveyard and Back Challenge - at least it's a new game, where you have to look for the portkey while evading Death Eaters. You know. Normal graveyard assignment.
- The Maze: The Third Task - like the other tasks, comprehensive look into what goes on behind the making of a massive set design
- He Who Must Not Be Named - all about Voldemort. Ralph Fiennes was apparently the studio's first and only choice. Nice work.
HOGWARTS CASTLE - while I do think the "Meet the Champions" featurette is the best thing on the DVD, this category definitely stands out from the others as having the best supplemental materials.
- Additional Scenes - in all, there are 8 deleted and extended scenes, including one where the school sings the Hogwarts anthem, and a great one with Harry overhearing Snape and Karkaroff outside of the ball
- Preparing for the Yule Ball - exactly what it sounds like, and every bit as fun to watch
- Conversations with the Cast - well, maybe this is my favorite feature from the DVD. Richard Curtis interviews the three main actors for a nice duration of time, and it ends with a select few fans from all over the world asking questions. Emma Watson is wearing braces.
- Reflections on the Fourth Film - maybe this is my favorite? A lot of the young cast reflects on how things have changed since the first film, and how close everyone is off the set. They also discuss how crazy Mike Newell is.
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