Director: Mike Newell
With: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson
Runtime: 157 mins
Many Harry Potter fans consider Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire to be the best book of the series so far. Therefore, despite the disappointing earlier films, an inordinate amount of hype has surrounded HP4. However, this feverish anticipation places an unenviable burden on Mike Newell, the latest director, to adapt the massive original tome to achieve universal satisfaction. It’s a daunting and wholly unrealistic task.
HP4 sees Harry begin his fourth year at Hogwarts and develop his first crush, while all those around him fall into the usual pitfalls of adolescence. Naturally, there’s far more going on in the increasingly dark and dangerous world of Hogwarts than mere teen angst, notably the Triwizard Tournament (a series of horrific challenges which risk the competitors’ lives). Harry has been entered, but neither he nor anyone else can explain how or why. Oh, and the ‘Dark Lord’ Voldemort is returning to full power, and still wants Harry dead.
If this sounds like an awful lot of plot for one film, it is. Newell has overseen a lot of editing, and big chunks of the book are missing. Purists and geeks will send complaints, but it’s a necessity. While the book includes all manner of additional meanderings, the film would be two and a half weeks long if it were to attempt to do justice to everyone’s favourite trivialities. As I am defending the film now, I should really turn my attention to the main target of criticism: the kids. It isn’t easy to impress when on screen with British cinema’s greatest actors, but they are much better than in previous films.
Myriad new characters are introduced, each played by one of British acting’s leading lights, with David Tennant and Brendan Gleeson as the brilliantly insane Mad Eye Moody. Particular praise must go to Ralph Fiennes who is as sinister and truly evil as I had always hoped Lord Voldemort would be on screen (especially when you consider the target audience). He’s certainly more frightening than the Mister Potato-Head in The Philosopher’s Stone.
At the end of the day, there’s nothing particularly wrong with HP4. It reduces its awesome cast to cameos and the narrative jumps as it tries to negotiate the vast scale of the book. Personally, I would have preferred more of the dark fantasy and less of the angst.
However, HP4 has a bigger and more demanding audience than almost any other film series, and concessions have to be made to capture the bigger picture. And this is as big a picture as they come.
Reviewed by Rob Perkins