In commemoration of the upcoming sequel, FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD (2018), I’m going to review the rest of the Harry Potter series:
- THE SORCERER’S STONE (2001)
- THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS (2002)
- THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN (2004)
- THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX (2007)
- THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE (2009)
- THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 1 (2010)
- THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 2 (2011)
- FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM (2016)
First disclaimer: Before anyone freaks out, yes, I’ve seen all of the films before. When I was a kid. I haven’t revisited most of these films since they were released in theaters. I’m just taking a trip down memory lane and seeing how they hold up compared to when I first saw them and getting my opinions out there. Second disclaimer: No, I’ve not read the books. Okay, I’ve read the first three. I do not remember them. I am not planning to read these books, so please don’t freak out with sentences like, “Well, it’s better explained in the book!” I do not care. This is purely my opinions regarding the films.
Returning alumni: Daniel Radcliffe (SWISS ARMY MAN , VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN , and the upcoming PLAYMOBIL: THE MOVIE ), Rupert Grint (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of), Emma Watson (THE CIRCLE , and the upcoming LITTLE WOMEN ), Michael Gambon (JOHNNY ENGLISH 3 , KINGSMAN 2 , HAIL, CAESAR! , and upcoming films THE DEATH AND LIFE OF JOHN F. DONOVAN  and JUDY ), and Alan Rickman (EYE IN THE SKY , LOVE ACTUALLY , and DIE HARD )
Franchise newcomers: Robert Patinson (DAMSEL , GOOD TIME , and upcoming films THE KING  and THE LIGHTHOUSE ), Katie Leung (THE FOREIGNER ), Clémence Poésy (127 HOURS  and IN BRUGES ), David Tennant (BAD SAMARITAN , FERDINAND , HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON , and the upcoming MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS ), and Ralph Fiennes (LEGO BATMAN , KUBO , SPECTRE , and upcoming films HOLMES & WATSON  and ANTONY & CLEOPATRA )
Director: Mike Newell (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of)
Writer: Steve Kloves (THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN )
Composer: Patrick Doyle (SGT. STUBBY , ORIENT EXPRESS , THOR , and upcoming films ALL IS TRUE  and ARTEMIS FOWL )
Cinematographer: Roger Pratt (TROY  and 102 DALMATIANS )
Editor: Mick Audsley (ORIENT EXPRESS, EVEREST , INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE , and the upcoming THE PERSONAL HISTORY OF DAVID COPPERFIELD )
This is my honest opinion of: HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE
Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) has been suffering from nightmares lately about a deformed Voldemort talking to Peter Pettigrew (Timothy Spall) and another man (David Tennant) murdering someone. He awakens back to reality with the Weasleys to spectate on the Quidditch World Cup. However, the festivities are cut short when followers of Lord Voldemort attack. Despite all this, Harry and his friends Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) return to Hogwarts and it’s time for the Triwizard Tournament, a dangerous contest pitting three magical schools together with their own respective single champions. From Hogwarts, Cedric Diggory (Robert Pattinson), Victor Krum (Stanislav Yanevski) from Durmstrang Institute, and Fleur Delacour (Clémence Poésy) from the Beauxbatons Academy of Magic. But just when the names are finished, an unprecedented fourth name is brought forward: none other than Harry Potter himself, who didn’t even submit his name in the first place. Stuck competing in the tournament, it is confirmed that whoever put Harry’s name in as a candidate is no friend of his.
And as feared, we’re reverting back to lesser writing. Damn it…
Okay, so maybe it’s not that bad, as there are a few positives worth mentioning. For one thing, the Wizarding World is now expanded on a level. Because of the introduction to the Triwizard Tournament, this universe now makes it clear that Hogwarts isn’t the only school of witchcraft and wizardry. There’s the Quidditch World Cup, so we know entire countries compete between each other in this sport, which is really cool. We’ve known of the other areas surrounding Hogwarts, like Hogsmeade, but very little outside of a pretty specific radius. This shows that we can go places in this universe.
I give credit that these games lead their way to a great deal of visual eye candy. The dragon egg scene is pretty exciting, though I wish the action was a little more fast paced. The firebolt broom is supposed to be the fastest broom on the market, but comparing its speed to the Nimbus 2000, it doesn’t look much faster. Still, it’s about as close to a live-action How to Train Your Dragon that we’re ever going to get. Plus, the CGI on the dragon is quite amazing. Definitely the underwater rescue scene had some great moments. All of the different spells the contestants use in order to stay underwater for an extended period? Borderline genius. Harry grows gills and his feet become like scuba fins, Krum turns his head into a shark, Cedric uses a bubble mask (didn’t see Fleur), that was creatively cool. Oh, and I absolutely adore how the mermaids move. Their body designs aren’t anything special, nor their use of a trident as their weapon of choice, but what sets them apart so uniquely to me is that their caudal fin that vertical like a shark’s, making them move like one. I think if a mermaid is going to be evil, they should always move like that. Only the hedge maze is a bit underwhelming, though the natural darkness does give a ghostly, haunting feel to it, so it’s not without its redeeming qualities.
I’ll complain about the French girls and their introduction in Hogwarts later, but the Bulgarians had an awesome intro. Taking their staves, smacking the ground with sparks coming out, acrobatics and flips, that was cool stuff. The comedy kind of worked too. Neville helping Harry and thinking he killed him when the potion that makes Harry have gills doesn’t work as quickly as expected and then he goes, “Oh no! I’ve killed Harry Potter!” His expression was priceless. As well as Brendan Gleeson getting in touch with his insane side. He really plays like a cartoon weirdo, one second making a lethal spider jump around a classroom on everyone’s head and face, but then go right to torturing it, and then killing it. Also, his turning Draco Malfoy into a ferret and bobbing him up and down like a yoyo, I about died of laughter. Again, this does nothing to make me take him seriously considering how impactful his role it in later films, but as it stands, this is a lot of fun to watch.
<<<SPOILERS – highlight to reveal>>> [ I gotta hand it to Ralph Fiennes, he made for a great Voldemort. I mean, really, he’s hamming it up and not exactly caring about being a legitimately intimidating bad guy, constantly mugging at Harry, but he’s a lot of fun in how he revels in his own insanity. ] <<<END SPOILERS>>>
But, as I said, this movie isn’t really all that good either, so let’s tackle the negatives.
Does the Wizarding World not believe in smooth travel? Between Portkeys, enchanted cars, knight buses, and the Floo Network, no fast form of travel seems to be easygoing. Sliding from fireplaces, covered in dust, soot, and ash, or belly-flopping onto the hard ground, or crashing into homicidal trees, or chaotically distorting reality with awkwardly bad humor, can anything just be a simple teleport and land on your feet? Just saying, the smoothest forms of travel seem to be boats and horse-drawn carriages. Not exactly going from zero to sixty these methods. Oh, the train. The train seems to the only form of fast and easy travel, but it’s not teleportation.
While I complimented the movie’s ability to take us somewhere that isn’t strictly Hogwarts, there’s a reverse-side to the coin: we don’t actually get to explore much of it. We’re teased the Quidditch World Cup, a gigantic, gorgeous looking stadium, flashy dancing fireworks, dramatic introductions to the players, but we don’t actually get to watch the match, which is a huge disappointment. Actual adults or older students playing hardcore Quidditch? Everyone knows that professional sporting is more intense than anything in a high school. We didn’t have to see the entire thing, but showing the professionals doing their thing would have been awesome to watch.
I suppose it was too much to hope for that Harry would continue to be a good character following how well he was written in AZKABAN. He’s pretty bland this time around, yet again. No more defiance, no more sarcasm, no more of anything that made him assertive, or vulnerable. Sure, we get glimpses of Harry singing with the Weasleys, and <<<SPOILERS>>> [ at the end when he’s crying over Cedric’s death at the hands of Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), but even that doesn’t mean much as Cedric isn’t a well-written character either. ] <<<END SPOILERS>>> It’s just such a crying shame that AZKABAN was such a milestone for Harry and his personality development and that the same care wasn’t put in to this sequel. Here, he’s just fighting with Ron or complaining and snapping at people. He’s never been that kind of person, even when faced with situations even more stressful. Like, oh say, being blamed for everyone getting petrified?
There’s some serious problems with the tone too. One minute, we’re all hyped up for a Quidditch match, then we (disappointingly) cut to Ron gushing over a player and everyone having a good time, and then cut from that scene into, basically, a terrorist attack. There’s barely any transition into it and is a really jarring moment. And was Harry seriously surprised that the attack was by followers of Voldemort? It’s not like there’s many other forces out there that we’re introduced to worth caring about, so who else would be responsible?
What’s Ron’s problem in this movie? He’s never been so unlikable before. He thought that Harry put his own name in the Goblet? Why? Harry’s been the subject of a great deal of terrible things since the two of them first met three years ago. Harry may ignore rules sometimes, but not blatantly seek out fame and glory. Even if he did put his name in, there’s no real reason to believe that it would have called his name, or if he’d be allowed to participate anyway. If I know these things about Harry’s character, why doesn’t Ron? So much of his complaining and scowling just seems like an excuse to make Harry and Ron fight for no reason other than to hammer in that friends occasionally fight. Sure they do, but for better reasons than this. This whole situation with the Goblet should be more a matter of concern. No student under the age of seventeen is permitted to enter, Harry is fourteen here, and after the third name was called, his name being the fourth, which is most unorthodox, should have made Ron just as confused and concerned as Harry.
Now it’s time to tackle my biggest issue with the film and that’s… basically the set-up. Why does Harry need to compete in the Tournament? Okay, technically they say to let him compete to draw out the jerk-wad who is likely trying to kill Harry, but… what was the plan? No, seriously, what… … … was… … … the plan? What kind of security measures are being taken? I can understand the dragons not needing special precautions, as they’re dangerous beasts on their own and the bad guys don’t need dark magic to make them worse, but what about the underwater rescue scene? The mermaids seem to be their own people and not exactly nice. What if they were recruited by Voldemort, or the other threats that Harry ended up facing? What about the hedge maze with enchanted stuff trying to kill everyone? How do the teachers know that the dangers the Champions face are naturally of the maze? None of these contest obstacles were tampered with in any way, so on the surface, it just looks like Voldemort’s plan was entirely dependent on Harry winning the Tournament. Um… Tony?
I’m trying here, movie. I’m really trying to understand here, but… I don’t. What if Harry got himself disqualified in some way? Harry says that he’s not allowed to use a broom during the dragon egg contest, yet he did. So… what’s up with that? But more importantly, what if Harry simply lost and Cedric, Krum, or Fleur won? What then? Certainly, they’d be killed, but none of them would be Harry, who is vital to Voldemort’s resurrection. Dumbest scheme in Harry Potter.
How long until Harry stops being mystified by magic? This is his fourth year in the Wizarding World. At some point, one would think a proper adjustment would have taken over. For a movie that’s supposed to be a lot darker in tone, that darkness is pretty effectively ruined by a troupe of French girls sighing in unison as blue leaves… or butterflies… whatever they were, come flying out of their sleeves. This is SORCERER’S STONE crap right here, not belonging in a maturity-evolving story. Question, why did the ceiling in the dining hall go crazy and need Mad-Eye Moody to calm it down? I mean, a lot of the bad stuff that happens is explained later on, but this one… yeah, that seemed pretty random and pointless. Unless that was supposed to be foreshadowing, but that’s… lazy. And dumb. Why does Rita Skeeter (Miranda Richardson) keep saying that Harry is twelve years old? A quick fact check would easily put her under scrutiny later. I know journalists like her like to bend the truth, but it has to be truth that can’t be easily verified, if at all.
<<<SPOILERS>>> [ I remember a childhood friend of mine saying that Cedric’s death in the movie was really powerful. Hopefully, she’s only referring to the book, but under the pretense that she, and by extension other fans of the book and movie, I have to ask what made it so powerful. That would imply that Cedric was a character that got a lot of screen time and made an impact on the characters and story. The truth is, he doesn’t. What do we know about Cedric? He’s… handsome. He’s Hufflepuff and a nice guy. That’s it. And that’s boring. There’s nothing else about his character to warrant such a dramatic, hysterical-crying from Harry after he dies. He helped Harry with the clue from the egg? Because Harry told him about the dragons. That could have simply been a “I don’t want to owe you any favors” type of situation. It could be. It’s not like Cedric is developed enough for anyone to argue with me. We cry at a character’s death because we learn about them over the course of the story. We see where they started from, we see how they evolve, and at the time of their death, see how far they’ve come. During that time, we’ve invested in them emotionally as someone that we understand and relate to. We have empathy for them. Their death profoundly affects the story and changes the way we watch it a second time. Honestly, I’d be surprised if Cedric’s name is ever mentioned again in the franchise, so really, he’s just another body. ] <<<END SPOILERS>>>
Overall, it’s technically better than the first two movies, but it’s a pretty big step back from how good AZKABAN was. When this movie does something good, it’s pretty damned great. Some of the franchise newcomers give great performances and the Triwizard Tournament is a creatively visual marvel. But for every step forward, there’s three steps back. Harry himself is an underdeveloped character again alongside a few other thinly written characters, forced infighting between Harry and Ron, and ultimately, the story never truly adds up and is quite dumb, making this one of the dumbest of the Harry Potter films. I sincerely hope the book is better than this, but as is, the movie is not that good.
My honest rating for HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE: 3/5