Directed by: Mike Newell
Written by: Steve Kloves
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Robbie Coltrane, Ralph Fiennes
Our worst fears, hopefully, represent something that will only happen in worst case scenarios and could be sidestepped if treading carefully through life. However, that might not always be the case with us having to confront it straight on. Certainly not the best proposition but one the titular character in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire must fully take on. The inevitable has arrived and it gets delivered in glorious style.
Now entering the fourth year of his Hogwart career, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) mysteriously gets entered into the Triwizard competition where he will have to compete with older students for glory. Along with this new test, he begins to receive more visions about the appearance of the person who should not be named, as things continue to get more perilous for the teenager.
The prime of adolescence finds itself in full swing in this feature picking up right where it left off from Prisoner of Azkaban. Not only do these young wizards and witches need to contend with the evils coming after them but they must also withstand their hormones and feelings trying to get the best of them. A tumultuous time in more than one way and it becomes the perfect storm culminating in the events taking place in this fourth installment of the franchise.
Goblet of Fire has always had a special place in my heart for the way it expands the wizarding world. For the past three films, Hogwarts began to feel a bit insular with Potter and his friends interacting with the same people time after time with only a professor for the Defense Against the Dark Arts providing a newer perspective into the story. This feature brings individuals from different cultures in order to compete in this competition, and while they’re still mostly white, it still shows wizards and witches exist outside of England. The interactions these Hogwarts students have with those coming from the other two schools, presumably from France and Bulgaria comes with a bit of a culture shock but serves as a good learning moment for them all.
The competition itself consists of three separate challenges all representing a life-threatening experience for the champions to take on. It feels a bit odd to see these death-defying acts on display for others to watch, especially with a much younger Harry Potter also competing in these trials without much of the knowledge his competitors hold. With so much density in this story to distill to a film already surpassing 2.5 hours, I did wish there was more reasoning to each of these challenges and what they represent. They all come with a degree of difficulty but they mostly feel fairly random and not something that has some sort of meaningful throughline. However, none of that matters when it comes to the final challenge and the frighteningly thrilling scene it eventually gets into.
Even to this day I get goosebumps during the cemetery scene where a specific character finally makes their grand entrance onto the stage. So much anticipation and the reveal was worth every single second of waiting. This particular climatic scene goes with the overall vibe of the franchise but amps it up even more. With the visuals picking up from what Alfonso Cuarón did with the third installment, it creates a surface for all of this horrid evil to unfold. It becomes the amalgamation of Harry’s biggest fear and pretty much everyone else in the Wizarding world all mixed with a terrible tragedy.
As a turning point in these films, Goblet of Fire begins to get incredibly serious and introduces the reality of wizards and witches willing to kill others. This occurs with the teaching of the three unforgivable spells and what they can do to people. Additionally, it introduces death in such heartbreaking passion. No longer are the days of Chamber of Secrets where the peril simply lied in being petrified by the obelisk. The stakes are raised here and genuine consequences come to fruition in terrifying ways. Death has mostly been in reference to the past with Potter’s parents but now they must confront it happening with peers of their own age. The key to this success comes from none of it feeling particularly jarring seeing as it comes with a natural part of life. Whatever sheen of innocence existed with these characters in the past has been completely stripped away. As these characters turn 15, this film ensures they know that war is coming.
With these characters right in the prime of their teenage years, it captures a particular angst I was not necessarily looking forward to revisiting. In certain moments, it felt like a teenage romantic comedy with the pressures of finding a date to the dance and the nerves coming with it. For anyone else who had issues gaining the confidence to ask someone to the dance, Harry and Ron’s (Rupert Grint) struggles in actually finding a date hit too close to home. Couple that with the horrible time they have while at the dance and you’ve got a fully fleshed out teen experience in the middle of the life-threatening competition. The way this film manages to keep the balance between these two aspects demonstrates its brilliance because one is never distracting from the other.
Coming on to join the incredible cast are, surprise, more incredible British actors with this go-around eliciting the services of Ralph Fiennes, Brendan Gleeson, and Robert Pattinson. All of them do a stellar job in their role with Gleeson bringing this manic energy to the new professorship of the Defense Against the Dark Arts. A bit dangerous while also incredibly experienced Gleeson does well to immediately create a memorable character. Then we have Fiennes who portrays someone I will not directly name because the reveal occurs towards the end of the feature but you know. I don’t have to say it. With so little time, he already makes a discernible difference in the story to show a level of villainy that will carry on for the rest of the films.
Seemingly, I always return to Goblet of Fire as one of my favorites in this series for a bevy of reasons. I am genuinely a fan of competitive sports so it scratches that particular itch on top meshing the teenage angst these young characters experience along with finally bringing forward the big bad of it all in spectacular fashion. From dances to deadly duels, this film has all of the best aspects of this franchise and leans right into them with no shame.