Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Posted By on Wed, Nov 23, 2005 at 12:00 AM

With the most recent Harry Potter novel, The Half Blood Prince, J.K. Rowling once and for all dispelled the notion that these are kiddy books. As such, the latest cinematic telling of Hogwarts adventures have proved that these aren’t kiddy flicks, either — they’re just damn good movies, which keep getting better with every installment.

In line with the series’ progressively maturing tone, Goblet of Fire is the darkest offering yet, both literally and figuratively, and has our young heroes confronting one of the most terrifying developments imaginable: puberty. It’s also the first film of the series to get a PG-13 rating.

In their fourth year at Hogwarts, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) seem light-years away from the meek little kids who first entered the magical world of wizardry in Sorcerer’s Stone. The film opens with a glorious trip to the Quidditch World Cup, resplendent in CGI wizardry that never looks fake or hokey, just stunningly magical. But the event is suddenly marred with an attack by the Death Eaters, Voldemort’s supporters. In addition to the frightening realness of the attack, the Death Eaters’ garb looks disturbingly similar to Ku Klux Klan robes.

When Harry returns to Hogwarts, he’s unwittingly thrown into the tri-wizard tournament under sketchy circumstances, which turns many of his classmates against him, even his best buddy Ron. The tournament pits Hogwarts against two other wizard schools: a primly pretty all-girls French academy, and a militant all-boys school from Bulgaria. The trials of the tournament are harrowing — students have died in it in the past.

As Harry fumbles through the tourney with the help of his friends, he also struggles with a growing attraction to the opposite sex; the entire school is cast into confusion and panic when the students learn they must find — gulp — dates for the formal Yule Ball. The look on Ron’s face is priceless when tomboy Hermione shows up for the ball transformed into a beauty, in a flowing evening gown with a — gasp — hint of décolletage! (Rest assured, it’s very demure, sensible, Hermione-like décolletage.)

The buds of preteen sexuality are everywhere: There’s the fairly disturbing sight of Harry Potter nipple during a bathtub scene — not to mention the fact that the Weasley twins have become bona fide hotties, the male version of bubblegum Olsen twin fantasies.

Goblet was one of the most complex novels, and director Mike Newell (the first Brit to direct the series) and screenwriter Steven Kloves have admirably tried to encompass all the character developments and story nuances. But some smaller plot lines are skimped on or skipped altogether, and the film is still two and a half hours. Some who haven’t read the book may struggle to keep up with it all.

The outstanding cast of character actors is impressive as always. Brendan Gleeson does a delightful turn as the batty professor Mad Eye Moody, and Ralph Fiennes turns in a surprise performance, totally unrecognizable as the serpentine Voldemort.

As with any pop-culture juggernaut, backlash is inevitable, and plenty of folks out there can already be heard muttering, “What’s the deal with this Harry Potter crap?” Maybe Goblet can answer that question: It’s just really good entertainment and storytelling — for young and old. In one scene, when Harry enters an enchanted tent that looks tiny but reveals a cavernous, ornate interior, he murmurs in wonder, “I love magic.”


Sarah Klein is Metro Times culture editor. Send comments to


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