Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire

Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire

****1/2

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

The claws are out, the gloves are off. Harry is 14. This time, they want to kill him.

You might say, "What's new? Lord Voldemort and the dark forces have consistently been trying to do that." Yes, but in the first two Chris Columbus movies, it was as much to do with comic ghosts, moving staircases, talking portraits and Quidditch, as it was about violent death. The third, directed by Mexican-born Alfonso Cuaron, was less interested in boarding school banter and closer to the power of good and evil.

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The Goblet Of Fire breaks with tradition from the marvellous opening sequence of a magicians' fair on a hilltop, being attacked by cadres of Death Eaters, to the changing relationship between the three friends, once inseparable, now fractious and jealous.

The Dursleys are out of sight and out of mind. Hogwarts is not so much a school, as a louring castle on the edge of a loch, where uniformed teenagers - noticeably more multi-ethnic than three years ago - gather in the great hall to listen to wise, if incomprehensible, words from a crinkly-bearded old fart (Michael Gambon), called Fumblemore, or something.

The teachers don't show off their spells in class, like they used to - Alan Rickman is in the film, but you might miss him - and Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane), the loveable giant, who lives in a cottage beside the forest and keeps an eye on the friends, because he's a big fat softie, has a romantic interlude at Prom Night - or the Hogwart equivalent - when dancing with a lady (Frances de la Tour), almost twice his height, while Minerva McGonagall (Maggie Smith) has her Jean Brodie moment before disappearing into the mingling crowd. The only member of staff with a handle on the action is the new Dark Arts teacher, the exquisitely eccentric Alastor Moody (Brendan Gleeson), who has bits falling off (leg, eye) and a laudable disrespect for authority, even his own.

The story of The Goblet Of Fire, J K Rowling's doorstopper of a novel, is, like The Odyssey, the story of a quest, or, in this case, a tri-wizard tournament. Three contestants - a strapping, good looking, popular Hogwartian, a bull-necked, intellectually challenged Quidditch champion and a svelte, petite blonde in a sky blue Robin Hood outfit - and, for reasons that are not immediately obvious, Potter H, are given dangerous tasks to find out who will win the coveted glass trophy.

On the surface, this sounds as thrilling as watching wrestlers in a snake pit. After one bite, what's next? Another bite? Under the surface, so much is happening - the influence of girls on Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and Ron (Rupert Grint), Hermione's (Emma Watson) increasing independence, the force of magic which is no longer a toy in the special effects' nursery cupboard, the threat of evil and Voldemort's eventual resurrection - and, for the first time in what has become known as The H P Experience, you feel genuine emotion.

Mike (Four Weddings And A Funeral) Newell directs with confidence and conviction, emphasising the spectacle that is CGI, with the need to stay taut and remain true to Rowling's vision. There is more magic in this film and more fear than ever before. Harry is no longer protected by those who watch over him for his dead parents' sake. In dreams and later in the flesh he witnesses terror that mutates into the shape of nightmares.

Finally, his enemy is with us. Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) has returned. Harry's life and those of others will never be the same, never be safe.

This time, people die.

Reviewed on: 17 Nov 2005
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It's darker now and Voldemort is close. Can Harry triumph at the Tri-wizard Tournament and save the world?
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