Now we come to fourth installment: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Darkness has been building in the last three installments. But this is where things turn pitch dash thanks to a magical contest and the return of Lord Voldemort.
The movie opens with the Quidditch World Cup. It’s all fun and games until there’s an attack at the competition by Death Eaters, Lord Voldemort’s followers.
As Harry, Ron and Hermione return to Hogwarts, the school is joined by students from two other wizarding schools: Durmstrang and Beauxbatons. Champions are selected from each school to compete in the Triwizard Tournament.
Students wishing to compete put their names in the Goblet of Fire. The champion from Hogwarts is Cedric Diggory (Robert Pattinson), Durmstrang’s is Viktor (Stanislav Ianevski) and Beauxbatons is represented by Fleur Delacour (Clemence Poesy). The field seems set. But then the Goblet of Fire spits out Harry’s name. After heads of all three schools debate what to do, it is decided Harry will also compete. But Harry didn’t enter his name. Who set him up?
The contests are no walk in the park. First, each competitor has to go up against a dragon to retrieve a dragon egg. Then they have to save friends of theirs being held underwater in the Black Lake while fighting off all sorts of underwater creatures. Finally, they have to navigate a magic maze to get the Triwizard Cup. My favorite is the first one, because dragons.
As if all of that wasn’t enough excitement, Hogwarts gets a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. He’s an ex-auror (dark wizard hunter) named Alastor “Mad-Eye” Moody (Brendan Gleeson). Oh, and there’s a dance: the Yule Ball.
So, there’s a lot crammed into this movie, just like Prisoner of Azkaban. Goblet of Fire brings another new director to the franchise: Mike Newell. You might remember him as the director of Four Weddings and a Funeral. His knack for dry humor shown in that film shines here in the lighter moments, especially the teenage drama surrounding the Yule Ball.
One of the smart things this movie does is allow Harry, Ron and Hermione to go through teenage growing pains in a realistic way. And the feud between Harry and Ron early on (Ron is mad at him for not telling him he would enter the tournament) doesn’t get dragged out as long as it does in the book.
The finale is also handled very well. When (spoiler alert!) Harry and Cedric both reach for the Triwizard Cup, they’re transported to a cemetery. There Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) is resurrected by Peter Pettigrew (Timothy Spall). Pettigrew kills Cedric with the killing curse. And then Voldemort challenges Harry to a duel. This is the moment we’ve been waiting for. But, when Harry and Voldemort cast spells against each other, their wands connect. This brings about images of people Voldemort killed. Voldemort is distracted long enough for Harry to grab the Triwizard Cup, which takes him back to Hogwarts, along with Cedric’s dead body.
The emotional impact of the ending is handled as well as you could hope. I for one shed some tears. Daniel Radcliffe really makes you feel the weight of Harry’s struggles. He’s great in the first three movies. But here, his acting chops really go up a few notches.
Among the acting performances, I want to give a special shout out to Brendan Gleeson. He’s been a great character actor for a while. You might remember him from 28 Days Later. He brings a lot to Mad-Eye Moody. At the end, when we learn that the Moody we’ve seen has been an imposter (Barty Crouch Jr. used polyjuice potion to assume his form and imprisoned the real person), his turn from helpful teacher to villain is quite jarring.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire ratchets up the tension in the franchise to whole new levels. The Triwizard Tournament is thrilling, the Yule Ball a fun diversion from the darker elements and the human drama involving. I enjoyed it a lot. But I’m not sure where I would put it in my ranking of the movies.