Harry, Ron, Hermione and hormones
BRITISH DIRECTOR Mike Newell’s tough-minded take on Rowling’s fourth novel is darker and more violent than the three previous Potter films. The story? Oh, you know, teenage wizard and friends save the world from evil, yet again. However, this time, not only does Harry have to contend with a resurrected Voldemort and survive the dangerous Triwizard tournament, but he enters the most terrifying arena of them all – raging teenage hormones.
While the first two films delighted in the magical world Rowling created for Harry and his friends, the third moved past the wonderment and the children have grown up a little. But with the latest, Harry isn’t worried so much about learning how to use his wand to cast spells, but how to use it to woo the biggest mystery of all – girls! That said, this is the darkest and most adult film yet.
Mike Newell (Four Weddings and A Funeral) delves deeper into the human drama as Harry (Radcliffe), Hermione (Watson) and Ron (Grint) move into their teenage years, confronting something even more horrible than Lord Voldemort – hormonal urges.
Some doubted that Newell could cram 630 pages into a single film, but he’s managed it, thanks to judicious cutting. However, even at 157 minutes, it’s a tight fit and lacks the playfulness that Alfonso Cuaron brought to Azkaban.
Goblet of Fire is relentlessly crammed with incident. You are never more than a minute away from a fight, spell or monster. The downside is that the story feels rushed and quieter scenes are given little room to breathe in the headlong tumble towards the next set piece.
Rowling really puts her hero and co through the wringer. It’s not a nice world they inhabit – there’s jeopardy at every turn, with Lord Voldemort intent on finishing what he started. It’s lucky that orphaned, abused, battered and beaten Harry is so stoical, as his adventures in this one are particularly gruelling.
Here, the British director changes the formula of the film’s predecessors and books, by skipping over any business with the Dursleys and, after a brief, creepy prologue, gets right to the first set piece – the Quidditch World Championship. It’s here that Voldemort’s Death Eaters make their presence felt, destroying the tournament grounds and leaving the Dark sign dominating the skyline. The return of Voldemort (Fiennes, genuinely terrifying, with some extra special computer generated effects) does not disappoint. He’s the personification of pure evil and you wander how young Potter will handle such a master of evil when they finally do battle.
Things remain uncomfortable even after Harry, Hermione and Ron return to the safety of Hogwarts, the chosen setting for the Triwizard Tournament. This magical competition between Hogwarts, Beauxbatons Academy with its beautiful young girls and the Durmstrang Institute of Eastern European athletic boys is the most dangerous and challenging of all magical trials.
Due to the life-threatening danger associated with the competition, only advanced students over the age of 17 may submit their names to the goblet for consideration. It spits out the names of one candidate from each school to compete in the deadly contest, but is a big surprise to everyone when the goblet also spits out 14-year-old’s Harry’s name as being a fourth entrant.
Being so young, Harry shouldn’t have been allowed to enter the contest and rumours start flying around about cheating. Ron is furious with Harry, feeling like he played a trick behind his back, whereas Hermione is extremely worried for her friend. The head of Hogwarts, Professor Dumbledore (Gambon), is worried as well and assumes someone entered Harry in order to set him up for a deadly fall. Dumbledore asks the new Defence Against the Dark Arts professor, Alastor Moody (Gleeson), to keep an eye on Harry and make sure no one messes with him.
The school’s Yule Ball has everyone expected to pair up and dance. Harry, still not claiming his magical heritage, fumbles around girls. He is far more comfortable dodging fire-breathing dragons than he is tiptoeing around the opposite sex. Ron, after getting over his jealous spat with Harry, starts to notice his feelings for Hermione. However, being more mature, she accepts Durmstrang’s muscular Viktor Krum’s (Ianevski) invitation to the dance. While central to the subplot of the development of the main character’s sexual awakening, the dance does slow the magical pace somewhat.
The three children, who began as unknown actors in the first film, have grown into their roles nicely and are showing depths and levels to match their maturity. Radcliffe, Grint and Watson all show they have the talent to take them beyond this franchise, if the movie-going public can muster the ability to see them in any other light.