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Warner Home Video presents
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)

"Dark and difficult times lie ahead, Harry. Soon we must all face the choice between what is right, and what is easy."
- Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon)

Review By: Joel Cunningham  
Published: March 07, 2006

Stars: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson
Other Stars: Robbie Coltrane, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Gambon, Brendan Gleeson, Jason Isaacs, Gary Oldman, Miranda Richardson, Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, Timothy Spall
Director: Mike Newell

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of fantasy violence and frightening images
Run Time: 02h:36m:35s
Release Date: March 07, 2006
UPC: 012569764538
Genre: adventure


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A B+AA B+

DVD Review

The perils of the wizarding world pale in comparison to the terrors of sweaty-palmed teenage romance in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the fourth and, continuing a trend started with Prisoner of Azkaban, best yet in the series of films based on J.K. Rowling's unheralded series of children's books that perhaps you may have read mention of in one of those alternative weeklies. British director Mike Newell takes over for, and emulates the slightly rougher, improvisational style of Alfonso Cuarón, who made the previous film feel like an actual movie, rather than the stiff, ripped-from-the-page Chris Columbus interpretations.

Potter films must serve two masters, the casual fans who sees the films and the obsessive who has read all the books over and over (my dad) and perhaps listens to the audio book on a running loop (my dad) and sits next to you on the couch pointing out how this or that scene was different in the book (certainly not talking about my dad). Goblet of Fire certainly posed a challenge. Put it this way: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was about 300 pages long, and produced a 152-minute film. Goblet is 720 pages, and the movie is but five minutes longer. Snip, snip! Returning screenwriter Steve Kloves has done a wonderful job paring down an epic story into a lean, mean magical thriller.

Unfortunately, I think that might mean the thing moves at such a breathless pace that those who haven't read the books will have trouble figuring out what's going on exactly. But it's clear enough. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione (Emma Watson) are in their fourth year at the wizard's boarding school, Hogwarts. This year, rather than Quidditch matches, the school is hosting the Triwizard Tournament, an ancient international contest involving visiting students: a bunch of burly guys from Durmstrang, including flying champ Viktor Krum (Stanislav Ianevski), and the lovely ladies of Beaubaxtons, including the enchanting Fleur Delacour (Clémence Poésy).

One champion is to be selected from each school to take part in three tasks that will test all their magical skill. Applicants must be 17 to put their names into the titular goblet for consideration, and Harry plans to watch from the sidelines. Which of course means something sinister is afoot, as the goblet chooses four champions: Fleur, Viktor, Cedric Diggory (Robert Pattinson) from Hogwarts... and Harry Potter. Headmaster Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) is unsettled, and fears whoever tricked the goblet into selecting Harry may be connected to He Who Must Not Be Named, and if I go into explaining who that is to the rare individual reading this who does not know, Steve Kloves shall soon be adapting my review into a 157-minute movie.

Needless to say, Harry must compete, and the tasks he faces (a fight with a dragon, and undersea rescue mission, a trek through a treacherous maze) are fearsome indeed. But Newell and Kloves, who have done a fine job letting these characters grow emotionally even as they grow before our eyes, put as much weight into our scarred hero's other challenges. There's his tiff with best pal, the oft-ignored Ron, who thinks Harry secretly snuck his name into the goblet in an attempt to win more glory. Even worse, there's Harry's fluttering flirtation with schoolmate Cho Chang (Katie Leung); asking her to the traditional Triwizard Yule Ball is a task in and of itself.

For the first time, really, all the characters feel like genuine characters. The dynamics between Ron and his large family, which includes twins Fred and George (James and Oliver Phelps) and sister Ginny (Bonnie Wright) seem natural; no longer do they appear in a corner of the screen just because they were in the book. Harry, especially, seems to have an inner emotional life, and is no longer moved around by the machinations of the plot.

The inventiveness of Rowling's world once again comes alive onscreen. The three Triwizard tasks are outstanding set pieces of suspense and visual effects, and a grim graveyard climax, featuring the not unexpected return of a terrible villain, is intense and rather violent, and earned the series its first PG-13 rating. These are always lavish, big-dollar productions, and this time, there are no rough edges that really stick out.

It's fun to see the actors growing up with their parts. Radcliffe keeps getting better; Grint and Watson tend to be a little broad for my tastes, but I'm attached to them, and I think they've really come into their own. The massive cast of top British actors expands by degrees (I think they've got them all now) with the addition of Brendan Gleeson as Mad Eye Moody, the hardcore new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, who has a magical glass eyes that can swivel to see out the back of his head and who teaches the students about the "unforgivable curses" that He Who Must Not Be Named used to use on his enemies. We see little of the smashing Miranda Richardson, who plays acid green-penned gossip columnist Rita Skeeter.

Potter proved its longevity in 2005, with book six selling (and I have exact figures on this) one zillion copies, and the movie making more at the box office than the last two outings. In either media, it's clear people love this story, love these characters, and I think even purists will find little to quibble about in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (as for my stickler dad, well, that's why I got him the audio books for Christmas).

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: With no real extras on Disc 1, the lengthy feature has plenty of room to breathe. The image captures the rather de-saturated photography well, with deep blacks, good shadow detail, and muted colors. There's a bit of visible grain, but it doesn't distract. I noted no edge enhancement or aliasing to mar the presentation.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
English, Spanishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The DD 5.1 mix is very active, and both quiet moments (which feature the score in the rear channels) and the big action sequences are well served. Throughout, dialogue is clear and the front soundstage is very wide, but when you get into the set pieces, like Harry's battle with a dragon, all the channels open up with front to back panning and cool directional effects.

Audio Transfer Grade: A

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 29 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Red Ant Bully, Happy Feet
8 Deleted Scenes
1 Documentaries
7 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. 2 interactive games
Extras Review: It's nice to see the Harry Potter DVDs are maturing along with the series; Goblet of Fire has the best extras package yet. Still no commentary, despite an interview in which director Mike Newell claimed to have recorded one (he may have meant he simple taped an interview), but all told, there are eight featurettes with a running time of well over an hour, plus a few of the usual goodies for the younger fans who like to play clicky remote games. Note that the film is being released as a featureless single disc as well. I can't say if the bonus materials are worth the extra money you'll pay for the two-discer. Read on and see what you think.

Disc 1 holds none of the extras; everything is housed on Disc 2 this time. The menus are broken off into four separate areas housing different featurettes: Hogwarts, the Dragon Arena, the Lake, and the Maze. Hogwarts houses the feature fans will probably want to check out first, a collection of eight deleted scenes, totaling just over 10 minutes. Sad to say, none of them are that great if you're checking to see if your favorite bit clipped from the book was ever filmed (though there is, finally, a complete performance of the Hogwarts school song); most of them are just extra moments revolving around the Yule Ball (including a complete performance of one of the songs by the Wyrd Sisters band, which includes many members of Radiohead). The last few scenes, in which the trio of heroes speculates about strange events around the castle, were probably snipped because they gave away the game too early.

Hogwarts also houses a 30-minute interview with the young cast members. Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint reflect fairly candidly on their experiences over the last five years, and answer questions from host Richard Curtis. Eventually, some contest winners arrive to ask the stars one question each about making the movies. Though these are hardly hard-hitting interviews, it's nice to hear that the kids are having fun making the movies and have managed to stay normal and well adjusted throughout the process.

Preparing for the Yule Ball (09m:01s) focuses on the work that went into the big school dance (almost its own action sequences). The teen actors, of course, hem and haw about how it was embarrassing to have to learn to dance and what not. Reflections of the Fourth Film (14m:09s) serves as a nice sort of home movie of the shoot, as the younger actors sum up the experience of coming back year after year to play their parts. I like that the same actors have been coming back, even if they only appear in crowd scenes, as it gives the films a nice sense of history and community. We get to hear from some of these minor characters here, and everyone agrees they love their time of set (it seems everyone is kept around for as long as 11 months, in case they are needed for a particular shot). This section also houses the theatrical teaser, though it's billed as the full trailer.

The Dragon Arena, Lake, and Maze obviously correlate with the three tasks in the Triwizard Tournament, and the bonuses in each area reflect that. Each includes a featurette on how each task was accomplished, from Harry vs. the Horntail: The First Task (06m:05s), to In Too Deep: The Second Task09m:36s), to The Maze: The Third Task (06m:46s). All three provide a good look at what went into creating the effects sequences, from the CGI dragon in the first, to the lengthy underwater shoot (Daniel Radcliffe logged over 14 hours underwater over the course of three weeks) in the second, to the complicated practical effects used to bring the maze to life in the third. These are fairly standard, but interesting, "how they did it" segments, with a mix of interview and on-set footage.

The Dragon Arena also includes a Meet the Champions piece that allows you to get to know Robert Pattinson (Cedric), Stanislav Ianevski (Viktor Krum), and Clémence Poésy (Fleur Delacour), via interviews and some candid footage. Finally, the Maze houses He Who Must Not Be Named (11m:06s), a featurette on the development of the look for the flesh and blood Voldemort, featuring much praise of actor Ralph Fiennes.

And lest we forget that these are ostensibly children's films, there are also two interactive games to play with your remote. One allows you to compete in the three tasks (if only Harry had known the best way to defeat a dragon is to click the "enter" button), while in the other, you dash around a graveyard shooting spells at wizards who are trying to kill you. Er... but it's for kids!

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

Harry Potter is growing up, and the film series along with him. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is an intense, action-packed thriller that earns its PG-13 rating but nevertheless retains the charm of J.K. Rowling's beloved series of books. Finally, too, the DVDs are a bit more mature, with a nice selection of fairly substantial bonus material.

 


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