Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire
There comes a point in every child’s life when they begin to feel childhood slipping away to make room for the growing responsibility of being an adult. This is only natural, their bodies change, school becomes more difficult and socialization takes on a whole new meaning. For a normal fourteen year old boy this is hard enough but if you happen to be one of the most powerful wizards in the world like Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) these changes can be down right world shaking. As Harry and his friends Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) enter their forth year at the Hogwarts Academy they discover that being a teen means a lot more than zits and changing voices. As the film opens Harry and his friends are intensely involved with the World Quidditch Cup. The cup finals are rudely interrupted by Death Eaters, followers of He Who is Not Name, but usually is, Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes). The talk beings among the young wizards and their teachers, the dark Lord is coming back with a vengeance. The mood lightens as Hogwarts prepares to host the most important magical event of the year, the Tri-Wizard torment. Hogwarts is to welcome two groups of exchange student who will join them in the competition. From France comes the magical girl’s school Beauxbaton (roughly French for beautiful sticks, a reference to their magic wands). Joining them are the Aryan looking young men from Central Europe’s Durmstrang Academy. The two schools enter Hogwarts with panache, all eyes riveted upon them. For students that are seventeen there is a chance that they will get to compete in the games. The names are entered into the Goblet of Fire who makes the final decision. To everyone’s surprise a forth name pops out, Harry. Even though he is underage and there was already a Hogwarts champion selected Head Master Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) decrees ‘what the goblet wants the goblet gets’. Joining Harry in the ordeal will be from Hogwarts, Cedric Diggory (Robert Pattinson), Durmstrang Quidditch star Viktor Krum (Stanislav Ianevski) and the beautiful half human-half nymph Fleur Delacour (Clémence Poésy) representing Beauxbaton. As if the competition, the pending return of Voldemort and regular school work wasn’t enough for our hero to contend with adolescent hormones kick into high gear. The formal Yule ball is coming soon and Harry and his pals have to get dates. Harry asks Cho Chang (Katie Leung), a Ravenclaw beauty one class ahead of Harry. While Ron wants to ask Hermione she already accepted a date. While Harry handles the many monsters and magical creatures in stride learning ballroom dancing is something that tests his mettle.
This is without any doubt the most intense film of the franchise to date. It was the first of the Potter films to garner the MPAAs’ PG-13 rating reflecting this more intense subject matter and content. Visually this film is incredible. The special effects are so well integrated with the live action that you will be swept into this world of magic and wonder. Harry fights a fire breathing dragon, underwater creatures and the Dark Lord himself in scenes that are too much for the younger viewer. Part of the charm of J.K. Rowling’s books is she permits the characters and story lines to grow up naturally. This is accurately reflected in this tale. The introduction of sexual tension between the characters is only natural and handled with taste. As parents we may not want to admit that our children had these feelings in their early teens but just look back on your own life, they where not only there the where paramount in our thoughts. Ron begins to see Hermione not just as his buddy but as a beautiful young woman, things are not going to be the same in the next three films. The monsters are scarier, the emotional range more intense and the trials more extreme but the story is told with grace, merging action with humanity, true to the book.
Not only are the characters growing up the cast is undergoing the same changes. The awkward child actors have grown into teens with considerable talent and ability. Daniel Radcliffe has Harry down to a tee. His ability to project a boy with very special powers and notoriety has kept up with the necessary changes in his character. Radcliffe does not play Harry as one sure of his extreme magically abilities. There is humility in Harry that comes from being an otherwise normal kid facing dangers that would cause many an adult to falter. Rupert Grint is just fantastic as the lamented Ron. He is the kid we all knew in school (or was in school) that is the object of the bullies. His family is not rich in the monetary sense but is as tight and loving as a family can be. He is the ultimate best friend, true, loyal and always there no matter what personal trepidation he may have. Being a father of a girl I have a special place for the way Emma Watson portrays Hermione. She is the role model any father would want for his daughter. While Watson started with a character that was a know-it-all she has blossomed into a girl on the cusp of adulthood. Watson gives an emotional connection to her character that gives a much needed respite from the action. Clémence Poésy provides the girl that every teen age boy dreams of but knows she is out of his league. She has grace and flair that is a nice counterpoint to the more humble, girl next door aspects of Hermione.
Finally, an English director is given a shot at the helm. Mike Newell apparently turned down the Oscar worthy ‘Constant Gardner’ for a shot at a Potter film. I for one am glad he made this decision. His pacing of the film is flawless. There is a perfect balance between the much needed exposition and the long awaited action. He has to handle not only the plot arcs specific to this film but forward the many themes that run through all the stories. His ability to frame a shot is excellent. This film will be ruined completely by the Pan & Scan process. Newell fills each frame of the film with so many details that the audience is immediately pull in as part of the story. His talent is a large part of why this darker installment of this epic tale translates so well to the screen. He manages to infuse the necessary sinister themes seamlessly into the world of a group of young teens.
Warner Brothers scores another home run bringing this film to DVD. There are three versions available, Pan & Scan, widescreen and the special edition. Do yourself and your family a favor and shell out the extra five bucks or so and get the special. This disk is sure to become the new ‘show off your home theater’ DVD. The technical specifications are reference quality. The 2.40:1 anamorphic video is perfect. Not only is there no sign of compression artifacts the mastering is text book. The color balance is vibrant and natural. There is no fading or bleeding of the rich colors so important to the costumes and sets. The contrast holds together even in scenes where there is a juxtaposition of light and dark. The Dolby 5.1 audio will test all six of your speakers. The channel separation is excellent with the rear speakers part of the action not just something to fill out the room. The sub woofer comes alive in the battles rumbling through the room. With the special edition there are enough extras to keep even the most die-hard fan busy for hours. There are feturettes detailing the three main tasks of the competition, a look at the three other champions and a consideration of the nemesis Voldemort. On the lighter side there is a feature about the production of the pivotal Yule ball. Add to this a conversation with the three young leads and some additional scenes for those that need more and you have a great addition to your collection. While not for younger viewers this is a film that can be enjoyed by the family.