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Your intrepid reporter was at the multiplex last night for the first midnight show of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I and my two forty-something companions, Robin and Les, raised the average age of the crowd considerably. Everyone else seemed to be young enough to have been a kid when the first Harry Potter book came out in 1998. It's hard to believe that this publishing and cinematic phenomenon has only been around for 8 years. For those of you who have been living on Pluto, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is the film version of the 4th book in the seven book series. The 6th book came out this year. Since the films are following the books by about three years, we won't see film #7 until 2010 or so, at which time the principal actors will be in their twenties.
For the very few who have not read the Harry Potter books, The Goblet of Fire tells the story of Harry's 4th year at Hogwart's School for Wizards. The book clocked in at 752 pages so some cuts had to be made for the movie which, in any event, is quite long at 157 minutes. The traditional opening chapter with Harry locked in his room at the Dursley's house has been cut and the film begins with Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and his two best friends Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) on their way to see the Quidditch World Cup with the rest of the red-haired Weasley family. Presaging their larger roles in books 5 and 6, Ron's siblings, the twins, Fred and George (James & Oliver Phelps) and Ginny (Bonnie Wright) spend a lot more time onscreen. This is ok since Fred and George are the most amusing things in The Goblet of Fire. Also arriving onscreen, is Harry's new love interest Cho Chang (Katie Leung) and, of course, a new defence-against-the-dark-arts teacher, MadEye Moody (Brendan Gleeson). The Quidditch World Cup ends in chaos when it is attacked by Lord Voldemort's (Ralph Fiennes) henchmen, the Death Eaters. These include Lucius Malfoy (Jason Isaacs), Wormtail (Tomothy Spall) and Barty Crouch Jr. (David Tennant). When the kids finally arrive at Hogwarts, they find that they will be joined this year by students from two other schools, a Bulgarian boys school and a French girl's school. The reason for this is that the famous Triwizard Tournament is taking place where one student from each school is chosen by The Goblet of Fire to compete for "eternal glory." Three students (Robert Pattinson, Clémence Poésy, Stanislav Ianevski) are chosen, as usual, but then the goblet fires out one more name, Harry Potter. Well, most of you know what happens so I won't continue. The rest of the film follows the three events of the tournament, interspersed with a lot of teenage angst as the kids start to notice the opposite sex.
The Harry Potter movies are following the same trajectory as the books, which is to say that they get better as they go along. Once you read all the books you can appreciate the fact that J.K. Rowling has plotted out the story arc for all 7 books so that they can be taken together as one plot, building toward a final confrontation between Voldemort and the one person he is unable to kill, Harry Potter. I am already looking forward to the next in the series, The Order of the Phoenix. That book really rocks. The Goblet of Fire has a new director after Christopher Columbus did the first two and Alfonso Cuarón did the third. This time, Mike Newell, the well-known director of Four Weddings and a Funeral takes the helm. He does a very good job. The Goblet of Fire is definitely the best film of the series so far. Each book gets a bit darker and more complex than the one before it, and the movies are following suit. The Goblet of Fire really moves along and you don't notice the length as the film packs in the action both in the Triwizard Tournament, and in the halls and dorms as the students try and find dates for the prom. The group of three friends(Harry, Ron and Hermione) starts to get stirred up and expanded. The sexual tension between Ron and Hermione begins in earnest as we see them, and Ron and Harry fight and make up. By now, I feel like I've know the characters and the actors who portray them forever. It's nice to be able to watch them grow up on the screen. They are now 15 or 16 years old. Of the three, unfortunately, Daniel Radcliffe seems to be the most limited in acting ability but he still pulls off Harry Potter with ease. But Emma Watson and Rupert Grint have really expanded as actors and they are a joy to watch in The Goblet of Fire. It's also a joy to revisit the usual collection of great British actors who play the teachers at Hogwarts, Michael Gambon, Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane, and Alan Rickman. They are joined by Brendan Gleeson (Troy, Cold Mountain, Gangs of New York) who plays MadEye Moody. He really steals this movie and I'm glad he'll be back for the next film. The "MadEye" is great. Ralph Fiennes, another fine British actor, has been added to the cast to play the key role of Voldemort.
The Goblet of Fire is quite exciting. The plot is really revving up toward The Order of the Phoenix where we get pitched battles between wizards. This film starts concentrating more on the battle between good and evil and less on the students' school work. As Hermione says to Harry, "Everything is going to change now, isn't it?" Yes, it is and we get to watch it happen.