Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - SPOILER FREE!
Now, I will admit that this book is my favorite of the series, and that I was thrilled as ever to see it on the big screen. Aside from the obvious adoration I have for the film on principle alone, this movie is the franchise's best, and I would recommend it to anyone, regardless of whether or not you've read the books... except small children, who should not see this movie.
I've summed up my take on the film, without details or spoilers, to give anyone who's interested an idea of what to expect.
Now, before I continue, I must admit that I loved Prisoner of Azkaban as a film. As an adaptation it had several weaknesses, but as a film, it was surprisingly coherent, consistent, stylized, and moody. That is the film that sets the stage for this one (literally, too... I recognized several of my favorite sets) and it's necessary to accept how much darker the films are getting.
Goblet of Fire has lots of trouble with pace and consistency. I give them credit for cramming a lot of book into the movie, but transistions were virtually forgotten, and I'm not pleased with the result (particularly because the management of time is, like a lot of aspects of the film, highly inconsistent; there are a few scenes that are unnecessarily drawn out). The film could not seem to decide on a pace... but that was, while probably the most noticable, the least of its problems.
The film is undecisive about the mood, as well. They've used the Hogwarts of Prisoner of Azkaban but from looking at the two films, you'd think the third was darker. The soundtrack is virtually no help at all; for the most part, the music is unobtrusive to the point of being forgettable. While I definitely prefer this to the manic-depressive score of the first two films, I had felt that John Williams was on track after the third movie, but bringing in Patrick Doyle for this film is just... weak.
I'm not sure who to blame for this next issue, so I'm going with their new director, Mike Newell. The film has a terrible problem of being almost shockingly mature... and treating the audience as so many idiots. The darker aspects of the film were rather jarring onscreen, to the point that I hope no small children attend this movie...
Oh yeah, DO NOT BRING SMALL CHILDREN TO SEE THIS MOVIE.
And then other aspects were incredibly blunt, flogging the audience with something already obvious. It was insulting, actually, and somewhat reminiscent of of a few aspects of the earlier films, so possibly the fault of the writing.
Now, I've never been a huge fan of their screenwriter, Steve Kloves, but after this film, I just don't know what to make of him. His screenplays have never been entirely faithful to the books, though I do think this film shows a wild improvement, as far as adapting the story goes (he even kept a few of my favorite lines of dialogue from the book). His plot cuts are understandable, and without major consequence to the story; if anything, they may make the story even more consistent than the original material. This is, however, not a trend.
Kloves has been wonderful with comedic dialogue. It's generally... British. The funniest lines in GoF are subtle and a few of my favorites are in the background, likely to go entirely unnoticed unless you listen carefully. This is higher-brow humor than the last few films, and I'm very appreciative.
The dialogue cannot seem to be both serious and believable, however, and in this film, that's an incredible weakness. If you're willing to go and not listen obsessively to the words, however, there's a good chance you won't notice. What you WILL notice, however, is that this film is spectacular, as far as the franchise goes.
The kids' acting has improved remarkably. It took them a few years, but I think they're finally settling into their characters; if you've watched the last few films, you will stop and notice how much better they've gotten (particularly Radcliffe, who can now portray emotions).
I'm particularly pleased with the casting, as well. In the past they've had a terrible knack for casting big names of British cinema, and then either ignoring their talents or allowing them to chew scenery. While I do think they've not entirely outgrown this habit (there are a few examples of each in GoF that I could cite), they've allowed the students to be the focus of the story, and I love them. They do a fantastic job with their scenes, and I do wish the films would let them have a little more control. (Older favorites like Snape and McGonagall are excellent, however, and anyone who enjoys these characters will be delighted with their scenes in GoF.)
I feel I must add that this is the first film of the franchise that seems to remember (most of the time) that it is based on a book, and rather than give you entirely new interpretations of the old material, the film fleshes out the descriptions; I cannot tell you how many times I looked at something on the screen and said to myself, "That's just how I pictured it..."
There are a few more things I could say, but I'm less concerned about making my position clear than writing for people who haven't seen the movie. So I will say that Goblet of Fire has weaknesses, both as a film and an adaptation, but that no fan of the books or movies should go without seeing it. Those that are looking to get into the story should check this movie out; if you've not seen the films or read the books, I think this film gives a pretty accurate sketch of what to expect.
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