Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Mike Newell picks up directing reins in this follow-up to Prisoner of Azkaban and it’s good to see this series really take a qualitative leap upward with the last two movies. Newell’s movie takes its stylistic cues (intentionally or not) from the wonderfully moody, almost expressionist touches that Cuarón brought to the last film but without the lightness of touch that Cuarón brings off in each of his movies. Still, I enjoy Newell’s films (Donnie Brasco in particular)–he’s got a sharp eye, his work with actors is excellent, but, at least in the case of Goblet of Fire, his filming of Steve Klowes’ admittedly heavy-handed script does plod and lag in the last hour.

The three leads continue to inhabit their roles more and more deeply with each film, and they’re all charming. The action is dark, intense, and, though Goblet of Fire feels overlong by, at least 30 minutes, I enjoyed Newell’s handling of this magical milieu. The effects are consistently brilliant (unlike the doofy effects of Sorcerer’s Stone), and there’s a real humanism stirring at the heart of Harry Potter’s story.

Essentially, this installment of Harry Potter’s adventures introduces sex and mortality into the life of the budding magician. In fact, my favorite part of the film is along the middle, during the lead-up to the Christmas Eve Banquet. It’s full of scenes whose honesty, sincerity, and sense of romantic longing earn them the humor and heartache radiating out of them, and make for really funny and beautiful stuff. After the dance, though, the film takes a turn into some heavy territory that leads Harry into the clutches of Valdemort. The grim tone feels overwrought but, in Newell’s hands, and in those of his cast and screenwriter’s, the movie remains dramatically solid. Still, it did leaving me wishing for a less noisy, less hammer-over-the-head approach that might have foregrounded characters over spectacle.

Grade: B

Directed by: Mike Newell
Written by: Steven Kloves
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Timothy Spall, Ralph Fiennes, Miranda Richardson, Gary Oldman, Maggie Smith, Brendan Gleeson, Alan Rickman, Michael Gambon

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