Harry Potter puts a spell on audiences again

by Beacon Staff • November 16, 2005

Riding on the coattails of the best-selling books, the Harry Potter movies act as supplements to their literary counterparts, as well as stand-alone performances. Although largely following the novels scene-for-scene, the movies gloss over some minute details from the books due to time constraints and continuity issues. The latest film, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, is sure to please fans and newcomers to the series alike with its entertaining universe of special effects and fantasy.

The world of wizards has undergone considerable changes since 2004's Prisoner of Azkaban; most notably, it has become darker. The Goblet of Fire, which carries a PG-13 rating for the first time in the Potter series, is not censored for the audience and earns its rating. Whereas the previous three movies were PG, the latest installment includes intense imagery, not to mention a little tongue-in-cheek sexual humor and even a dramatic utterance of "piss off" by angsty Potter pal Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint).

Although the life of Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) once seemed light-hearted and fancy-free, it is now rife with danger and peril. Upon returning to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for his fourth year, Harry is faced with the rising power of the dark Lord Voldemort, who is responsible for the death of his parents and just about everything else terrible-except for Potter's lack of social skills.

The Goblet of Fire, taken from the book and film's namesake, is only the beginning of a "Tri- Wizard Tournament" that tests the skills of three competing students from separate schools in all areas of brain and brawn.

The goblet is designed to discover the most proficient and burgeoning young wizards, and Harry's name is chosen from it to be entered in the contest, despite the fact that he does not meet the age requirements. Trial after trial brings the contestants closer to death and nearer to the discovery that Voldemort is much more powerful than everyone thinks.

Harry and his classmates must also battle the awkwardness of teenage pubescence when introduced to the opposite sex. The film stumbles, however, when the characters are forced to learn how to formally dance and interact with their classmates. Sequences seem quaintly inserted into the film without any connections to the rest of the movie in attempts to force comedic situations.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is an entertaining film filled with spells, action and a little bit of darkness. Aided by cinematic greats such as Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman, Gary Oldman and Ralph Fiennes, Fire deserves more credit than just being a film intended for children.

The movie incorporates much more of the real world into the story than its predecessors, considering the large amount of fantasy and movie magic on screen. Other wizard schools (French and Bulgarian to name a few) are introduced to compete in the tournament. Since actual nations are referred to in relation to Hogwarts, a feeling is created that these schools actually exist in the world.

The stakes have also risen in Fire when death comes knocking on Harry's door more than once. For the first time in the series, characters are actually murdered (albeit with spells rather than swords or guns). One of the dramatic end scenes shows that even in a world controlled by powerful magicians, death is never too far away.

As the fourth installment of the Harry Potter series, Goblet of Fire has a lot to live up to and does not disappoint. The gloomy atmosphere and spooky fantasy imagery, complete with skulls and ravens, stays true to the books, and the film is not afraid of driving away cautious parents who are afraid of exposing youthful audiences to blood, violence and a little young love.

With so much information to cover from the 734-page book, the intricacies of the story could be lost on viewers unfamiliar with the series. Characters casually reference in passing the usefulness of "Gillyweed" to breathe underwater, along with spells and information privy only to the voracious readers of J.K. Rowling. Audiences unfamiliar with such details may find the prompt beginning of the two-and-a-half hour movie confusing.

Director Mike Newell (Donnie Brasco), a newcomer to the Potter universe, provides viewers with plenty of visual treats from the book. From a flying Pegasus-drawn stagecoach to a submersible sailing ship, the movie treats audiences to some larger than life adventures.

Harry Potter delivers entertaining fantasy escapism that many will enjoy. Even for those who have not read the series, The Goblet of Fire is sure to please.