It’s no wonder why Harry Potter’s classmates hate him. He’s famous for an incident during which he never played an active role, is a teacher’s pet beyond any semblance of respectability, and at the end of the day, is a bit of a bumbling idiot who tends to stumble his way to greatness on an annual basis rather than step boldly into the face of death and charge head on to deal with his admittedly numerous and ghastly problems. Even so, with such an epic story revolving around him and a plethora of great movies obsessed with cataloging his every move, it’s hard for those of us of the muggle persuasion to not pull for the guy despite his shortcomings as a protagonist.
When I look back on the books, which I am, admittedly, more than a decade removed from reading (I remember when this was the newest book in the series, kiddies), The Goblet of Fire has always stood alone as my favorite and I expected the movie to do the same. Naturally, there’s a big difference between hundreds of pages of text and a two-and-a-half hour film, but for the most part, director Mike Newell (who takes his one and only crack at the Potter series here) pulls it off swimmingly like a gillyweed-ingesting Triwizard champion might hope to do. Goblet is noticeably darker than its predecessors, even if it isn’t quite the “paranoid thriller” that Newell was shooting for, and the setpieces are grander and more majestic, the acting from the leads and the all-star supporting cast is sublime (Brendan Gleeson in particular shines as the deranged Mad-Eye Moody), and Patrick Doyle’s score is arguably the best of the entire series, flying musical circles around John Williams’ original attempts like a Firebolt wand before its well-kempt dusters are singed by a horn-tailed dragon.
I applaud Newell for avoiding the, at this point, frivolous opening sequences featuring Potter’s beefy muggle relatives and shooting straight for the point; with a three-part tournament, two new visiting schools, and the rebirth of the series’ main antagonist, there’s a lot to get to here. At times the movie must spring across too much ground leaving plot holes for the unread Potter fans who skipped the book in favor of the silver screen, but that still doesn’t stop this from being easily the best entry in the series up to the point of its 2005 release (and possibly the most rewarding of all eight). Perhaps that wasn’t particularly hard for Newell and crew to pull off given the source material, and the epic cinematography and stirring score make the total package seem a bit more polished than it really is, but of all the Potter films, this one is probably the one most worth revisiting more than a decade later.