By Chris Campo
And we have made our way to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the fourth Harry Potter film in my series of reviews leading up to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which hits cinemas in just a few weeks. I have had a blast so far experiencing these films for the first time. Sure, the second one may have not wowed me, but the third one sure as hell did. I didn't know what to expect going into The Goblet of Fire, especially now that there's a new director, Mike Newell, and the third film is something pretty hard to top. But I still pressed play on the Blu-Ray very hopeful... and I was very surprised...
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, for a change, doesn't begin with Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) at his Aunt and Uncle's house before leaving for Hogwarts. Instead, we open with a dream of Harry's, featuring an unspeakable evil one cannot imagine will ever be of any relevance to the plot (but, maybe it is), but once Harry does get to Hogwarts, Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) announces that Hogwarts will be the home of Triwizard Tournament, and that three champions will be selected to participate using the goblet of fire. Through a series of mysterious events, Harry Potter is selected to compete, despite being underage, and while this is all going on, Harry and his two best friends Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) must also face the extremely daunting task of asking out someone for the approaching Yule Ball.
This film is currently tied with Prisoner of Azkaban as my favourite in the series. It plays out very differently from the last movies, taking on a new structure that's oddly similarly to a young adult novel such as the Hunger Games, only better. New comer Mike Newell may not bring as much captivating style as Alfonso Cuaron did, but he juggles shifts in tone and story just as well. I'm not trying to say that this film has no style, it certainly does and it pops off the screen, it's just not as stylistic. Goblet of Fire also features the tightest screenplay in the franchise thus far. The story is fun, challenging, and paced very well, and I was welling up with tears towards the final act, which is the first time so far in this franchise.
The scene that made me tear up was something that I feel was being worked towards over the past films, and it earns it. For the first time, the saga has reached a significant turning point. It is in the final act, so I won't spoil it, but it was easily the most satisfying moment this series has seen yet. It's not the only thing in the film that works, though. I also found myself very intrigued by both the Triwizard and the Yule ball plots. The Triwizard Tournament offered some absolutely thrilling action sequences, and the Yule Ball offered some of the funniest sequences. I was a little worried both these aspects would be too young adult-esque, but they both fit in with the story and offer a lot to the film.
The performances here are still excellent, the main three are as loveable as ever and are oozing with charm. They are truly the perfect cast for these movies. Side characters also get more to do, which was nice to see, but some were sidelined, and for the better. This is the first time where Draco Malfoy doesn't have a whole lot to do, yet it was a nice change of pace. Newcomers also shine with an unexpected appearance from Twilight's Robert Pattinson as Cedrick Diggory. He offered a lot, even though he doesn't shine as bright as someone like, say, Daniel Radcliffe. We're introduced to yet another new Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor in Alastor Moody, and I found my elf, for the most part, enjoying this character, and especially his design.
As for flaws, there's only really two, so this should be quick. Early on in the film it is established that Ron has some sort of grudge against Harry for being picked in the Triwizard Tournament. It's very abrupt and isn't really expanded upon, with Ron suddenly becoming all pissy, and I didn't quite buy it. Plus, the issue is resolved very shortly after, so it feels pointless. Another flaw is late into the finale of the film, where there's a last minute reveal or plot twist. That itself is not a flaw, but I feel it was way too similar of a twist to the previous movies, and it shouldn't surprise anyone. Halfway through the film I guessed what it was. That disappointed me a little.
Overall, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire just may be the best Harry Potter so far, but I'm not confident enough to go that far just yet. It has laughs, tears and incredible action scenes, and like always, I'm looking forward to the next film. I'm halfway done with the series so I'm expecting nothing but the best from here on out, and please keep a lookout here on Directors Cut Movies so you don't miss our review of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
4 1/2 Stars
By Chris Campo
So I have been very surprised by the Harry Potter saga thus far. The first one legitimately blew me away, and even though I thought The Chamber of Secrets was a lesser sequel, I was still hopeful for the future of the franchise. This film is not directed by Chris Columbus, the director of the of the first two films. New blood has been brought to this franchise in the form of Alfonso Cuaron, who you may know as the man who brought us 2013's Gravity. Can a new director step up to the plate? Or will Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban be a disappointment? No spell is going to make me tell you, so you might as well continue reading.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban begins similar to the last two. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) is living with his Aunt (Fiona Shaw) and Uncle (Richard Griffiths), however this time they're being visited by his Uncle's nasty sister, Marge (Pam Ferris). Harry, however, is done putting up with them, and for the first time in his life he fights fire with fire, right before leaving for Hogwarts for the year. Upon leaving, he, of course, meets up with Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson), and while on the express, Harry is informed about a murderer on the loose named Sirius Black (Gary Oldman), who just may be responsible for his parent's deaths. The man recently escaped from Azkaban Prison, one of the hardest prisons to escape from, and is on the hunt for Harry, who vows to do whatever it takes, including fend off the horrifying Dementors surrounding Hogwarts, to defeat Sirius Black.
This is, without a doubt, the best of the series thus far. This is where I feel the series realized it's more than just a fun film series, and put some real effort and talent into it. Alfonso Cuaron blew me away with his work. From literally the opening shot I knew this was going to be different than the previous two. It's a more mature look into the Wizarding World, but never once loses the sense of awe and fun of the series. Every aspect of the filmmaking blew me away, and every shot could be a painting. I am sad that this is Cuaron's only Harry Potter film, but I am excited to see how future films will compare to this on a filmmaking aspect. I am scratching my head, wondering if there will be a better looking film in this series.
In terms of tone, The Prisoner of Azkaban nails it. It's by far the darkest of the first three. and yet it's also the funniest. This film gets scary. No, seriously. The first time we meet the dementors was a chilling, highly suspenseful sequence. Every time those damn things are on screen I was rather unsettled. This film isn't The Conjuring, so it won't cause nightmares, but it is nice that they cheapen the film with non-threatening monsters. I laughed more in this one than in the other two films combined. It's just funny, there's nothing else to really say, especially Ron, who stood out here far more than in the other films. The style on display is so fine tuned and it really sets itself apart from the earlier movies. It also changes the structure up, making it something other than just the same film over and over, much like Chamber of Secrets (and it's 20 minutes shorter).
The story here feels personal, Harry growing as a character, and so does everyone else. This is the first time I was wow'd by Alan Rickman's Professor Snape, and warmed by Dumbledore, who's been replaced by Michael Gambon. Every character seems to serve a purpose, and that's something I really appreciate. I especially liked how our heroes stood up to their bullies, like in a few cheer worthy moments where Draco gets humiliated. The main story with the titular Prisoner of Azkaban, Sirius Black, worked as well. Gary Oldman not only gave a wonderful performance as Black, but he was also a great character with a lot of layers. There is something introduced in the third act that felt like it came out of left field, but it sets up the final set piece, which was a wonderful sequence and ended the film on a high note. That one aspect that I wont spoil still felt a bit forced, though.
Speaking of that final sequence, the action in general is very well filmed. From the scene on the Bus early on to the very exciting Quidditch sequence, the action looks phenomenal and is just a ton of fun. And there's a lot of it, so the run time goes by in the blink of an eye. The special effects, as well, continue to improve. They're not perfect, but there are times where they look like they're from a modern day movie. But that Quidditch scene I mentioned looks leaps and bounds better than in the previous two. This film is just a joy to look at, and I may sound like a broken record, but I don't care. It's cinematic eye candy, and I loved it. There's a sequence in a hallway that just consists of two people talking, but it's shot in such a cool way, gripping me as thought it was an action scene or something just as big and grand.
Overall, this is my favorite Harry Potter film so far. It changed the structure and style of the previous films and stands out as not only a great sequel, but a great film in general. It looks amazing and the story is the most personal and fun yet. I am so excited to see where the series takes me next, although I'm slightly disheartened that Alfonso Cuaron won't return to the director's chair. I can't wait to watch Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
4 1/2 Stars