01/01/2006. Contributed by Frank Ochieng
The expansive fourth instalment of the Harry Potter film series has arrived and promises not to disappoint in the latest exploits of the harried Boy Wizard, finds Frank. Director Mike Newell's Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire gleefully explores its boisterous realm with skilful exuberance.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) Warner Brothers
The expansive fourth instalment of the Harry Potter film series has arrived and promises not to disappoint in the latest exploits of the harried Boy Wizard. Director Mike Newell's Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire gleefully explores its boisterous realm with skilful exuberance.
Thus, this adventurous fantasy epic continues to bring to life the imaginative scope of J.K. Rowlings's magical literary creation. More important, Newell (Four Weddings and a Funeral) captures the transitional angst of our prized teen protagonist where maturity sets in at a refreshingly awkward stage for Harry and his hangers-on. Thankfully, the robust story is padded with an action-packed spectacle of humour, romancing and a dramatic edginess as never experienced before in a Harry Potter big screen forum.
Worldwide ardent Potter fans will embrace the increasing growing pains and appreciate the complex existence of their youthful beloved and bespectacled hero. This time around, Harry and his company are aged 14 and discover the constant dilemma (yet again!) that threatens to spark their unique adolescence. From confronting dragons to dreading the dating scene, Goblet screenwriter Steven Kloves generously provides the audience with ominous forces that are visually stimulating if not psychologically imposing.
There's an indescribable sophistication in the production that radiates with noted ease-everything from the excitable performances to the vivid special effects and the eye-popping set designs. Overall, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is a feistier, darker and more suspenseful extension of a cherished film franchise that oddly prospers with cinematic age. Indeed, the chaotic atmosphere will never be the same at the Hogswart School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
The intriguing premise centres on Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and his best friends Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) as they begin another gruelling school year. The anticipation of change at Hogswart is expected, especially with the arrival of a new Defence Against the Dark arts instructor coming on board. To highlight the schooling experience, the trio is treated to a field trip to the Quidditch World Cup matches.
Unfortunately, the event goes awry when the menacing Death Eaters disturb the proceedings with their unwelcome presence. The Death Eaters are the minions of Dark Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes)-Harry's intrusive nemesis who's trying to overcome the odds in coming back amongst the living. Naturally, this serves as a nightmarish notion for Harry to consider with the deepest of reservations.
The film's duration mainly focuses upon the intensified tournaments that's being held in competitive mode for Hogswart and two other participating wizardry academies (Durmstang Institute and Beauxbatons Academy). The titular Goblet of Fire is responsible for selecting a candidate from each school to partake in the highly touted exercises. However, the stipulation states that the competitor must be age 17-no ands, ifs or buts about the ruling.
However, the Goblet of Fire chooses the under-aged Harry as an extra to represent Hogswart. Taking by surprise for this revered selection Harry steps forward and accepts the competing spirit. But he does so to the dismay of his pals who wonder why Harry was picked for this calculating contest given the specialized circumstances of being eligible in the first place. What is the basis for Harry's friends' jealousy? Better yet, why the favourable treatment afforded to Harry while engaging in these forceful games?
In truth, Harry needn't worry about the Triwizard Tournament since he'll receive protection. Hogswart headmaster Professor Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) requests that Defence Against the Dark Professor Alastor "Mad-Eye" Moody (Brendan Gleeson) oversees Harry's efforts in the three hostile challenges. Among the "playful" tasks are fighting with a dragon, dealing with an underwater rescue mission and figuring out a tricky maze to run through. It is at the maze challenge that wicked Lord Voldemort confronts Harry and schemes to ensure his resurrection with the blood of the determined teenaged wonder.
Another interesting subplot happens to concern the gang's involvement with the opposite sex. The proverbial "big dance" at the school's Yule Ball is coming up and the students are responsible for grabbing a partner in preparation for this festivity. Harry is understandably wishy-washy around the girls but has his eye set on one particular cutie (Katie Leung) that strikes his fancy. Ron starts to cultivate feelings for Hermione beyond the "buddy-buddy" safety net while harbouring some envious thoughts against Harry. In the meantime, a blossoming Hermione may be looking at Harry in a whole new different light as well. Still, she settles with attending the function with the well-conditioned Durmstang athlete Viktor Krum (Stanislav Ianevski). Will these amorous emotions amongst the threesome spoil their airtight friendship in the long run?
As one can probably imagine, the CGI treatment is lavishly executed and faithful Harry Potter book enthusiasts will love the way that Newell condenses Rowling's sprawling tome on the screen in the form of a fast-paced, steady exposition with a jubilant flow. The one minor criticism against a bouncy and spacious undertaking such as Goblet is the misstep in not fully catering to the several supporting characters that are inexplicably left swinging in the wind.
The film serves up countless old wizards and witches that curiously remain faceless. And then Newell decides to stock the movie with unnecessary fringe players such as a resident rude gossip columnist (Miranda Richardson) that already compromises the existence of the other characterizations being sacrificed. Returning favorites such as Alan Rickman's Severus Snape, Maggie Smith's Minierva McGonagall and Robbie Coltrane's Hagrid are merely reduced to simply being part of the scenery.
The magical discoveries are gloriously colourful in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire as the key lead stars Radcliffe, Watson, and Grint are able to aptly express the hormonal malaise and other uncertainties that plague their developmental spurts. Because of their resilient insistence to fit into advanced material that no longer requires overtones of safe kiddie-friendly whimsy, Goblet emerges as crackling fantasy-adventure full of danger, disillusionment and desperation. Clearly, this Harry Potter chapter is by far the most keenly sharp-minded and observant escapist flick to date.
Hence, the arrival of Harry Potter V should look forward to aiming at the high expectations for introducing another rollicking vehicle that defines the sardonic opus of Rowlings's exquisite creativity.
(c) Frank Ochieng 2006