Unlike the other three films in the franchise, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire begins not with our hero, but in a mysterious old house in the middle of nowhere.
Voldemort is up to his old tricks again, along with Wormtail, his faithful slug of a companion, and new character Barty Crouch Junior, a shaggy, yet confident-looking fellow.
The dark wizard seems at his weakest in the first few minutes of this, the darkest film in the franchise so far, but as the unfortunate eavesdropping groundskeeper finds out, Voldemort hasn’t lost his knack for evil magic.
Voldemort alone is enough to keep Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger busy for a year, but coupled with the excitement of the upcoming Tri-Wizard Tournament and the onset of puberty, the gang at Hogwarts has its work cut out for them.
While Harry and Ron are hard at work trying to decipher the mysterious behavior of the female sex, the legendary Goblet of Fire sits in the great hall of Hogwarts. When the time comes, the goblet releases the names of the three students destined to compete in the Tri-Wizard tournament.
First chosen is Fleur Delacour, a gifted student of the Beauxbatons School of Witchcraft.
Second up is the robust and handsome Viktor Krum of the Durmstrang Wizardry Academy in Russia. The third and final contestant is Cedric Diggory, the incredibly brilliant and courageous Hogwarts representative.
Roars of approval follow, until attention shifts back to the Goblet, which suddenly spits out a fourth name to compete in the competition. Against all magical odds, Harry’s name appears on the chosen piece of paper.
The race is on as Harry crams all the wizarding knowledge he can into his adolescent brain. As the competition draws closer, the bonds of Harry’s friendship are tried with Ron, and a nosy reporter named Rita Skeeter is on a mission to spread as many juicy lies about Harry as she can in her column for The Daily Prophet, the official newspaper of the world of witches and wizards.
Of course, Harry is able to face each phase of the competition and just barely manages to achieve the objective of the game and survive, but the third and most mysterious phase of the competition proves to be the deadliest for Hogwarts and the beginning of the end for witches and wizards everywhere.
Under the direction of British director Mike Newell (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Mona Lisa Smile), Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is a delightfully dark and enjoyable adaptation of J.K. Rowling’s fourth book in the Harry Potter series.
Director Newell successfully continued the dark direction of the story set down in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, but he seemed to let the special effects close in on the actors’ breathing space.
Timeless actor Ralph Fiennes takes on the human role of the evil Lord Voldemort, but his performance could have been taken a step further.
The heavy make-up, designed to increase the image of fear, instead took away from what could have been a powerhouse performance that would have given Darth Vader a run for his helmet.
Despite these shortcomings, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire does exactly what it is supposed to do. It entertains, it thrills and it sets the stage as the dark times return to the world of magic.
Marta Rusek can be reached at email@example.com.