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Harry Potter Retrospective: Part 4: The Goblet of Fire

Bone of the father, unwillingly given.
(Wormtail removes a bone from the grave of Tom Riddle Sr)
Flesh of the servant, willingly sacrificed.
(He cuts off his own hand)
Blood of the enemy, forcibly taken.
(He slices Harry’s arm with a blade, drawing blood)
The Dark Lord shall rise again!

Blimey, that’s strong stuff. This, my dear reader, is considered by critics and fans alike, to be the best one. It’s got dragons, it’s got Mad Eye Moody, it’s got Doctor Who, it’s got Trigger out of Only Fools and Horses, it’s got Michael Gambon’s inexplicable Oirish accent, it’s got sexy Bulgarians, it’s got French jailbait, it’s got the long awaited return of Voldemort, it’s got him off Twilight, it’s got Harry in a bath, it’s got the Tri-Wizards Tournament, it’s got Hermione in an evening gown and best of all, it’s got sod all Quidditch. From Mike Newell, the director of FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL (yup, really), It’s only THE GOBLET OF FIRE.

Excluding the first movie for obvious reasons, this was the most anticipated Potter adaptation. And it didn’t disappoint. Unless you wanted to see the Quidditch World Cup, then it was a huge let down. They have tons of build up, in fact the first fifteen minutes is Harry, the Weasleys and whats-his-face from Twiglet or whatever its called banging on about it. Krum this, the Irish that, I hear Krum eats a billion Weetabix, I hear Krum’s got nine arses. Krum Krum sodding Krum and Quidditch out the wazoo. We see them camping out before the big match, we see them going to the big match, we see them leaving the big match… but not the match itself. Well thank Bertie Botts for that, because you may have noticed the previous inductions contain a total lack of Quidditch based content. I don’t dislike the sport, there’s just more interesting elements to the films. For example…

Brendan Gleeson as Mad Eye Moody is a revelation. As far back as BRAVEHEART, Gleeson has been the reliable journeyman actor and supporting player. Over time, and through constantly understated and generous performances in HUGE films like TROY, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE II and GANGS OF NEW YORK, his star has risen. So seeing him cast as the universally loved Moody meant that his big time recognition was finally nigh. And boy, does he go to town with this part. Mad Eye is a former Auror (dark wizard hunter) and bears the scars and wounds of battle. He has a wooden leg, his face has more cuts than George Osborne’s last budget (suck on my satire) and his eye… well. He has a magical false eye that whirls around, can see through the back of his head and seems to have a life of it’s own. It makes him the most visually striking character yet to appear and shares some surprising similarities with the lovely Lupin. They both wanna help Harry improve his skills outside of the curriculum, have a chequered past and are very endearing to their pupils (although technically he only has one pupil. AVVIT!). And they both harbour a secret identity…

As with the previous films, more new characters are introduced. Two of the most under used are the Barty Crouches, Jr. and Sr. Played by David Tennant and Roger Lloyd Pack respectively, neither gets enough screen time in my view. Sr. had the potential to be one of the more tragic characters, almost driven mad with guilt at sentencing his own son to life in Azkaban and and tearing his family asunder. Alas the complex relationship between he and his son is not fully explored, though that’s understandable with the amount they had to cram in (the novel is as large as the three preceding it combined). Tennant’s Barty Jr. is a laughably pantomimic villain, snarling and lapping his tongue like a frog trying to catch a fly. He’s enjoyable, and I totally didn’t see the big reveal between him and Mad Eye coming. I won’t spoil it, but it was wonderfully put together, from a narrative structural point of view as well as brilliantly rendered special effects for the ‘change.’ Still, any time Tennant wants to use his tongue is fine with me.

Wait a tick…What’s that falling out of a tree? It’s got a chin bigger than Hagrid’s dad and a fringe floppier than Hagrids man boobs, it can only be R-Patz. Yep, TWILIGHT’S own Robert Pattinson is Cedric Diggory. This is pre-glittery vampire angst, so you might catch a smile or two, and you know what? He is dashing in a Rudolph Valentino kinda way, if Valentino sounded like every rugga bugger loitering around Twickenham high street every other Saturday. “Oh, yah. Have you heard a-byte this new Tri-Wizard Torrrrrnamant? It’s gonna bea rally rally good, yah?” The ladies love him though, as within minutes of his arrival, both Hermione and Ginny are exchanging glances which, although subtle, clearly connote ‘I would PLOOOOUGH that,’ hinting at the hormonal desire to come in this film. He’s a pleasant enough character, but like the other two entrants in the Tri-Wizard tournament, Bulgarian brickhouse Krum (Stanislav Ianevski) and French fancy Fleur (Clemense Poesy), he doesn’t get to develop much. But they all have a purpose, which is to stir up amorous feelings in our heroes.

Krum, (who is eighteen, mind) takes Hermione (Fourteen, Krum. She’s fourteen) to the Yule Ball, much to the irascibility of Ron. Young master Weasley himself is besotted with two ladies. Hermione of course (and who can blame him. I mean… I mean good lord!) and Fleur. In the books, Fleur is half Veela, a sort of siren-like seductress. So Ron’s attraction to her could be seen as partly magically enhanced. Here though, there is no mention of that. So Ron’s crush is entiiiiiiirely physical. Ah, young lust. Harry himself begins to feel his wand twitch, in the direction of the beautiful Cho Chang, played by Katie Leung. Their timid, semi-courtship is apropos of Harry in general; awkward, well meaning but doomed. Plus she’s asked to the Ball by Cedric The Chinmeister, so Harry and Ron make do with the Patil sisters, Padma and Parvarti (played by Afshan Azad and Shefali Chowdrey). Both boys are pining for other ladies and end up being terrible dates for the poor girls, who decide to go off and listen to Jarvis Cocker. And rightfully so. While watching this, I couldn’t help but think ‘Guys! Come on! Look who you’re with!’ I was hoping Austin Powers would turn up and convince them to see sense. Twins, Basil. Twins…

Hormones though, are the least of Harry’s problems, because the darkest, most disturbing sequence in the whole series so far is how HPATGOF will climax. At the conclusion of the final task, Harry and Cedric find themselves transported from inside a maze to an eerie graveyard. While Cedric takes in his surroundings and presumably considers getting the Pimms out, Harry twigs where they are. He calls for Cedric to get away, but is struck with a crippling pain in his scar which can only mean one thing; The Dark Lord approaches. Cedric bravely raises his wand to confront the figures in the mist, but the last thing he ever see’s is Wormtail clutching what looks like a skeletal baby Paul Daniels. A voice hisses ‘Kill the spare!’ A flash of green light and Cedric Diggory is the first child fatality in the Harry Potter series. Harry is pinned up against a statue and can only watch the following events in abject terror. Wormtail drops the ghastly shell of Lord Voldemort into a cauldron, and begins his terrible ritual.

Bone of the father, unwillingly given.
(Wormtail removes a bone from the grave of Tom Riddle Sr)
Flesh of the servant, willingly sacrificed.
(He cuts off his own hand)
Blood of the enemy, forcibly taken.
(He slices Harry’s arm with a blade, drawing blood)
The Dark Lord shall rise again!

The bone, flesh and blood are all cast into the cauldron, which bursts into flames. Voldemort is curled up grotesquely, suspended in a mid air foetal position. He grows larger, his spine rippling into shape, his skin shifting and crawling to fit his grizzly new form. It is reminiscent of the body horror in the works of Chris Cunningham. All sinew and dreadful flesh. A cascade of black forms around him and he is cloaked as he stands before us, newly composed, devised from the blood of his greatest enemy. He opens his eyes and stares into the lens, into the eyes of the audience, his pupils milky white before they find their darkness. And he is here, Lord Voldemort has returned.

The censors must have had a rough old time with this one. That sequence is just so dark, so unrelentingly unpleasant, as are the following events, including Voldemort mocking, torturing and threatening to kill poor Harry, which he would have done were it not for some poorly thought out deus ex machina. While Potter and Voldemort’s spells clash, the ghosts of Voldy’s victims appear from his wand, distracting The Dark Lord and allowing Harry to escape. This is never fully explained, other than Dumbledore naming the occurrence. It’s a disappointing end to a truly compelling scene, but the quality of acting from Ralph Feinnes makes Voldemort’s debut an incredible cinematic experience, no doubt haunting kids for years to come and making parents question their judgement on letting their little ones watch any more of these films.

To end on a lighter note, one should really address the comedy in this film. It’s here that our leads, particularly Radcliffe, really get a grip on their comic timing. The exchange between Ron and Harry where Ron claims to have helped him is a joy. ‘I did help you! Don’t you remember? I told Hermione to tell you that Seamus told me that Parvati told Dean that Hagrid was looking for you! Seamus never actually told me anything, so it was really me all along. I thought we’d be alright, you know, after you figured that out.’ To which Harry responds, ‘Who… who could possibly figure that out? It’s completely mental.’ Radcliffe’s dead pan delivery and comic timing are an absolute pleasure here. Likewise his moments with Rita Skeeter (Miranda Richardson) as he defends himself against her tabloid hackery. ‘Hey! My eyes aren’t glistening with the ghosts of my past!’ One day Radcliffe will make a very good romantic lead, but better yet, he’ll be a very VERY good comedy actor.

I really must address one last thing. Something that should probably have been discussed in the previous induction, but there was too much to cover and it didn’t really warrant it, but he gets a lot more exposure in this film, so it seems right. How AWESOME is Michael Gambon and his baffling decision to make Dumbledore Irish? I love it. Richard Harris conveyed Dumbledore’s weariness and sweet nature with a soft, wheezy pronunciation. A grandfatherly voice that makes you want to curl up and eat some Wurther’s Originals. And then Gambon takes over and suddenly it’s ‘WELCOME TE FECKIN HARRRRGWORTS! OIM ALBUS FECKIN DUMBLEDORE, SO OI AM! FIDDLE DE FECKIN DEE!’ When Michael Gambon assumed the role after Harris’ death, he said that he would not try to impersonate his predecessor in anyway and that he would make the character his own. Fair enough. But nobody expected him to break out the Father Jack stuff. ‘DID YE ENTER YEH NEEEME IN DE GOBLIT O’FOIRE? ARE YE ABSOLUTELY SHERRR?’ Okay, maybe it’s not that bad. Some friends have even said it’s not that noticeable. And sure, in his quieter moments, it’s like listening to a HSBC advert. I keep expecting to hear the headmaster of Hogwarts tell me that in Thailand, its offensive to show the soles of your feet. But I confess to loving his non-sensical changing of a character’s nationality and I hope that in DEATHLY HALLOWS P2, during the King’s Cross scene, he greets Harry with a pint of Guinness while dancing around a pot’o’gold. The likelihood however, is slim.

‘Everything’s going to change now, isn’t it?’ asks Hermione rhetorically as she, Ron and Harry reflect on their latest year at Hogwarts. Harry’s stoic response of ‘Yes,’ does not just refer to the fates of the characters, but to the movies themselves. THE GOBLET OF FIRE marks a sea change in the series, as critics were now sitting up and taking notice. This film garnered far greater critical acclaim than those before it, and the praise would follow with the remaining films directed by David Yates. But as good as they would turn out to be, they didn’t have David Tennant’s tongue. Or Trigger.

John is a gentleman, a scholar, he’s an acrobat. He is one half of the comedy duo Good Ol’ JR, and considers himself a comedy writer/performer. This view has been questioned by others. He graduated with First Class Honours in Media Arts/Film & TV, a fact he will remain smug about long after everyone has stopped caring. He enjoys movies, theatre, live comedy and writing with the JR member and hetero life partner Ryan. Some of their sketches can be seen on YouTube and YOU can take their total hits to way over 17!