‘Goblet of Fire’ brings darker tone to ‘Harry Potter’ series | TahoeDailyTribune.com

‘Goblet of Fire’ brings darker tone to ‘Harry Potter’ series

Howie Nave

Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint), Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) try to find out about the mysterious event that's supposed to take place at Hogwarts in "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire."

OK, right from the start, this is the darkest “Potter” movie in the franchise. Death is the theme and there’s a contract out on Harry. There are times when “Goblet of Fire” borders close to horror. The cast has grown up quite a bit and so have their circumstances.

Our 14-year-old wizard has sprouted from a bespectacled geek into a mature young man full of complexities that would rival Sybil’s multiple personalities. In short, the age of innocence has ended at Hogwarts for our young students. Puberty has sunk in, so the conflicts with one another are just as intense as the evil that lurks around them.

Director Mike Newell (“Four Weddings and a Funeral,” “Mona Lisa Smile”) probably could have stretched things a bit more, given the dark nature of the fourth volume, but he sure came close enough in this, the third sequel. The entire movie has this gloomy overtone to it, and one wonders why there’s rarely ever any daylight seen in this fantasy world.

The cast members, although still in their young teens, have matured quickly – especially Hermione (Emma Watson). It’s no wonder that Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and Ron (Rupert Grint) are a little snippy with one another. But wait. What’s this? Harry has someone else in mind for his heart? And she’s not a “regular,” either. Hermione seems to be thinking outside the box when it comes to matters of the heart, too.

It soon becomes quite obvious that those older and wiser wizards that we have grown to like (or dislike) are not given as much screen time here as in past episodes. I was disappointed that Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) was all but shut out of this movie, as was Minerva McGonagall (Maggie Smith). Even Rubeus Hagrid (Robbie Coltran), clearly one of Harry’s closest acquaintances, is out of the loop this time around – maybe because the kids are older and not quite as trusting with the adults as they are with fellow students closer to their own age. Just like in real life, I guess young wizards are becoming more and more skeptical of trusting authority figures.

Every year at Hogwarts we are introduced to a new group of characters, but this fourth year I was wondering, where do they put everybody up? There’s the very seductive girls from France known as the Beauxbatons, who arrive via a flying, horse-drawn carriage. The little vixens clearly have Ron’s attention. Then there’s the very stoic-looking Durmstrangs from Bulgaria, who have caught Hermione’s eye. I think they work out at Gold’s Gym, because they have little expression and seem to be way into themselves.

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One of the most annoying characters since Jar Jar Binks (from that other franchise known as “Star Wars”) is Rita Skeeter (Miranda Richardson). She’s this over-the-top, scandal-hungry journalist who I wish would have been given the magic wand treatment to just disappear or have one of those dragons feast on her as an appetizer. Maybe in the next sequel?

And then there are the spirits who inhabit the Hogwarts castle. They seemed so playful in the other installments. Now it appears as if some of them have matured as well, and are more forward than ever. Are ghosts usually this suggestive? When Harry Potter is in this huge hot tub with nothing more than soap bubbles covering him up, there seems to be a familiar female ghost who wants to see just how much Harry has developed. Like I said earlier, this is definitely a more grown-up adaptation than the other installments.

Each movie seems to have grown progressively darker and more intense, but this one by far tops all with the appearance of Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes). With the emergence of Voldemort, we are reminded once again that this is the evil character who killed off Harry’s parents. Harry’s nightmares about Voldemort’s return, of course, are nothing new to J. K. Rowling’s gazillions of readers out there. Potter, after zapping away his powers, must now face him – if he isn’t killed during the conclusion of the interschool Triwizard Tournament for the coveted Quidditch World Cup. The layers upon layers of storytelling can be daunting to those not familiar with the novels. One thing is for certain: You’re either a fan of the franchise or you’re not. There seems to be no middle ground when you mention the words “Harry Potter.”

As with the other movies, “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” is a lengthy feature. With a running time of 157 minutes, “Goblet of Fire” is the second-longest “Potter” flick, just behind “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” which clocked in at 165 minutes. Although the “Potter” pictures have grossed almost 3 billion dollars worldwide, each subsequent sequel has taken in less at the box office. Because of the darker nature and, so far, the only one in the franchise with a PG-13 rating, the take from this movie may be the smallest when all is added up. Worldwide theatrical grosses for the past three are as follows: $974 million for “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” $879 million for “The Chamber of Secrets” and $749 million for “The Prisoner of Azkaban.”

The special effects are quite good, and that skull in the sky with the snake coming out of its mouth at the beginning only hinted at what would soon follow. Although not my favorite of the lot, it’s still worth checking out to follow the path that our young wizards will take next. Unfortunately for us, that journey won’t be until the year 2007, when “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” takes flight.

– Howie Nave is host/manager of The Improv Comedy Club inside Harveys and reviews films for seven radio stations throughout northern California and Nevada. He co-hosts the morning show on Tahoe’s KRLT radio and you can see his film reviews every Friday morning on KOLO ABC TV Channel 8 and weekends on KMTN television in South Lake Tahoe.