Hippo Manchester
November 24, 2005

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Film: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (PG-13)
by Amy Diaz

Harry Potter and actor Daniel Radcliffe decidedly turn from children into that horrible creature known as the teenager in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, part four in J.K. Rowling’s series.

For most of the movie, leads Harry, Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) wear very age-appropriate scowls. Pissed at each other, pissed at perceived injustices, pissed at the world — these would-be high school freshmen have the teenage mope down perfectly.

And, I suppose, they have plenty to be pissed at. Hogwarts is hosting the Triwizard Tournament this year — which means that the strapping boys of a vaguely Russian wizards’ academy and the flouncy girls of a French school will be hanging with our Brits for a year. Hermione becomes the friend and sometime escort of one of these visiting boys, much to the dismay of Ron, who has no luck wooing one of the French girls. Ron is also dismayed when Harry is picked to compete in the tournament, even though he is underage. Ron’s frustration meets Harry’s genuine dismay at having to compete in a tournament he wanted no part of and the boys have a falling out.

Harry, meanwhile, must feel pissy at least in part because it seems like someone’s always trying to kill him. The tournament is fraught with dangers that Harry’s level of wizardry is unable to handle really well. And he is tormented by dreams of the murder of an unknown man by what Harry comes to believe is a weak but still living and breathing Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes).

Voldemort’s ever-growing strength is a theme throughout the movie — not just the big baddie’s physical strength but his political strength. In the movie’s first act, a World Cup Quiddich tournament ends when Death Eaters (who look like the Klu Klux Klan in Halloween robes) show up and begin wrecking havoc on the assembled throngs. Voldemort’s old followers seem to be getting braver, smugger and ready to renew their efforts toward their boss’s world-domination goals.

This darker element along with the teen angst helps move the series from the fairy tale-like environment of its earliest days to the good-versus-evil moral struggle that we know is coming. This gives the movie some tension and new emotional depths to plumb. Especially in the film’s final scenes, when Harry must deal with the death of a fellow student and his own potential death at Voldemort’s hand, we get a real sense of the seriousness of Voldemort’s evil and the suffering he caused, which the earlier movies had only hinted at.

Although I like the Harry Potter books and this particular movie, some of its elements are starting to wear a bit thin. The magic, from the Quiddich flights to the assorted enchanted appliances that litter Hogwarts, seems occasionally less like marvels of fantasy and more like hokey bits of window dressing. It’s good that most of the gasps in this movie come as a result of boys looking at girls or girls looking at boys; after three years of hocus pocus, the round-eyed wonderment at floating candles is a bit much.

There was something fresh and dazzling about Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban that does not appear here, something I don’t attribute to the darkness of the story. Clearly, that movie’s director, Alfonso Cuaron, had a deftness with material that could, on occasion, seem silly that this movie’s Mike Newell can’t match. And, though I would happily see this movie again, my approach to part five is not quite so optimistic.