Transfigurations: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

It's the fourth Transfigurations entry, everyone, and coincidentally the fourth in our six-part Harry Potter series (technically it will eventually be eight parts, but that's neither here nor there). Today, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

Multiple questions abound this time out- can a new director maintain the impossibly high standard set by Cuaron's last film? Why does Harry Potter's hair grow so much faster than mine does? Does J K Rowling want us to inherently distrust authority?

And most importantly, why hold an international, much-publicized wizarding competition that consists of two events (out of three) that spectators can barely see?

The Crew:

Steve Kloves remains our screenwriter. Meh.

Our new director is Mike Newell, mostly known for dramedy-type British films like Four Weddings and a Funeral and Enchanted April. After Cuaron declined to film two films back to back, Newell took the job fresh off Mona Lisa Smile, which in addition to being schlocky and mediocre did feature students- so perhaps the producers saw Newell as well-suited to handle the burgeoning relationship melodrama that the fourth book contains.

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Patrick Doyle also takes over composing from John Williams, but stays mainly within the themes Williams previously established.

The Cast:

Our biggest notable addition is Brendan Gleeson as the wonderfully grouchy Mad-Eye Moody (sort of, see later). He's been covered in these here internets before.


Well, once we get past the third book, Rowling just sort of goes nuts with the page counts (GOF clocks in at 734) and stuffs in the subplots. Newell and co. initially thought about making Goblet into two films (much like the upcoming pair of Deathly Hallows films) before deciding to condense it into one.

So things like the Quidditch World Cup (at least the match itself) are cut for time, the Weasley twin's gambling winnings bit, the characters of Ludo Bagman and Winky entirely.

House elves on the whole are nowhere to be seen, even Dobby and Hermione's growing S. P. E. W. movement (not something that would have translated. And Rita Skeeter's insiduous journalist has only one scene, which is part of a growing trend of the films toning down the parts of the book that are aggravating.


Well, it's longer, like I said. Moreover, it sets up the eventually revelation that Mad-Eye Moody is not himself a little better, by mentioning more than once that he was attacked early on, along with all of the Polyjuice potion hints.

It's also got classes in it, something laregly absent from all of the films- we usually see one or two Defense Against the Dark Arts lessons and one Snape class on film, but the books are still structured around the school year.

And as part of a larger world, the book has a HUGE advantage over the film- the filmmakers chose to exclude what I feel is one of the most important scenes in the book, near the end when Dumbeldore and Fudge have a sort of stand-off in the school hospital wing.

That scene (which sort of shows us why Dumbeldore is such a revered figure) sets up so much in the fifth book I keep forgetting that it's not in the film at all. Nor does the film explain what "Priori Incantatem" is in the slightest, despite the fact that it allows Harry to escape Voldemort with his life.


It's funny.

Not something I'd really say about the earlier films, even the third, which is wonderfully atmospheric, but darkly so. Goblet of Fire manages to play the fish-out-of-water Moody to a T, get the Yule Ball chicanery just right, and is a showcase of moments invented just for the Weasley twins.

It has the advantage of building on the first three films, in that it doesn't have to introduce us to anybody- thus, after the initial rush through the World Cup and expositional Triwizard Tournament bit, it can stretch its legs a little and let us see Snape whack the back of our young heroes' heads for talking during a test, see Neville's love of dancing, and the twins repeating things five times fast while taking bets on the tournament.

And as stilted as it can be at times, turning the final task maze into a generic attack-hedge and madcapping the dragon and merpeople bits, the instant Harry and Cedric touch the Triwizard cup it completely nails the change in tone- the graveyard battle and especially the chaotic return to the field.


Goblet of Fire might be the closest film to the book that still has a life of its own. It streamlines the plot, but keeps the high points and contributes its own funny moments.

It would nice if it were as jam packed with magical details as Prisoner of Azkaban, but I can't have everything. A worthy entrant to the series, Newell's film would be a suitable substitute for the book, if you really don't have the time, but it's not the greatest experience on its own.

Of course, it's the first one I saw after becoming a fan of the books, so the differences might have struck me harder than before- I notice that Kloves kept Harry and Ron's extended disagreement (despite glossing over Harry's fight with Hermione in book three)- in his ongoing Ron exclusion, but Grint and Radcliffe managed some nice moments out of it.


- I notice the Death Eaters in the film have KKK hoods. Totally subtle, guys.

- Bummest note in the film- the Weasley's tent at the World Cup is small on the outside but huge inside- a point that might've been deftly handled last film here gets a musical flourish and then Harry literally says: "I love magic!" Me, too, Harry. That's why we're all here. Thanks for spelling it out.

- Some people don't care for it, but I like Michael Gambon's much more reactionary Dumbeldore in this film, as he shakes Harry's shoulders when his name comes out of the Goblet. He's important to set the tone for what's to come, even if his scene of badassness was cut for time.

- Sirius in the fireplace ash in the film- meh. That seemed like FX just for the sake of FX to me.

- No Maurauder's Map in the film, as useful as it would have been..

- Not to hark on this, but people watching the Triwizard Tournament must be bored as hell: after a relatively exciting dragon first task, they get to watch the surface of the lake for an hour, and then the edges of a hedge maze, while merely guessing what could be happening. Nothing unites the international wizarding world like being bored out of your minds.

Next time on Transfigurations: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix- featuring Luna Lovegood! an entirely different screenwriter! more of Gary Oldman than his face! and possibly my favorite scene not in the books!

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