Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (12A)


Fire and brimstone

This fourth film, adapted from the JK Rowling novel, continues the mood initiated by the previous and best of the sequence, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, which imported something of the night into what was threatening to become, under Chris Columbus's rule, a kingdom of the bland where the four-eyed boy was king. In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the director Mike Newell and his cinematographer Roger Pratt have kept the colour palette dark, draping Hogwarts in a pall of Gothic gloom and cranking up the tension to new levels of tautness. This isn't just a new chamber of ghouls; this is a confrontation with unregenerate evil and murder most foul.

What's more, in a series notable for its transfigurations and metamorphoses, Harry Potter has himself changed into something new and faintly terrifying: an adolescent. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) is now 14, and the veils of innocence around his schooldays are being stripped away. Peer-pressure is a hazard even among wizards-in-waiting, and the irrational stock market of social popularity governs Hogwarts as much as any other school. Ever the reluctant celebrity, Harry is even being doorstepped by the tabloids, in this case by a scandalmonger named Rita Skeeter (Miranda Richardson), who's chasing the wave of anti-Harry sentiment coursing through the school corridors. "Potter stinks" is the badge everyone's wearing at the moment, and even his best friend Ron (Rupert Grint) is turning his nose up at him.

The reason for this antipathy is founded on a misperception. Hogwarts is to host the Triwizard Tournament, wherein a contestant from each of the three most prestigious magic schools must brave mortal dangers to win the coveted Triwizard Cup. Hogwarts' own Mr Popular, Cedric Diggory (Robert Pattinson), has been selected to represent the school by dint of the Goblet of Fire - imagine a flame-grilled version of the Lotto balls. But then the Goblet mysteriously spits out the name of a fourth competitor: no prizes for guessing who. Harry didn't submit his name to the contest, and protests that he didn't want to compete in any case. This cuts no ice with his Hogwarts peers, who believe our hero is motivated by vanity, hence the campaign of bad-mouthing launched against him. Sometimes it's tough being a boy wonder.

The perilous obstacle-course that makes up the tournament will involve dodging dragons, swimming the depths of a murky lake and navigating a fiendish maze, though these tasks look like a cakewalk compared with the personal challenge facing Harry: he must find a date for the Yule Ball. The series has been rather coy in dealing with romance so far, and doesn't altogether overcome its shyness here. Harry asks the lovely Cho Chang (Katie Leung) to the ball, only to get a regretful knock-back (her card is already marked). More intriguingly, he later gets to frolic in a foam bath with a transparent sprite (Shirley Henderson); not quite the erotic initiation he hoped for but better than anything I remember at 14. As for Ron, he's failed to pick up the signs that Hermione (Emma Watson) might be secretly smitten by him. "Boys!", she howls in disbelief, a succinct expression of just how far advanced of her doltish pals she is. But the film finds comedy in their backwardness. When Professor McGonagall (Maggie Smith) gives a lesson in waltzing, she picks Ron for her demonstration partner. "Place your hand on my waist", she instructs him. "Where?" he asks in stiff alarm. At such moments Harry and Ron look less like junior wizards than the natural heirs of Jennings and Darbyshire.

These are the best moments in a film that never finds a settled rhythm or narrative fluency. As usual, there is a too-strident emphasis on the big set-pieces, such as the Quidditch World Cup that kicks off the story, the drawing of names from the Goblet of Fire (only Fifa could match it for portentousness) and the shenanigans of the Triwizard Tournament. Newell handles this unfamiliar material competently enough, but the film never picks up any true momentum. "I love magic!" cries Harry in delight. Problem is, this isn't magic, it's special effects, and rather tinny ones at that.

I liked the emergence of Sirius Black (Gary Oldman), his face outlined on the coals of a crackling fire, and there's an elemental spookiness in the face-off between Harry and his arch-enemy Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), but for most of the time the film, with its reaction shots of awed or anxious expressions, is telling us about wonderment rather than providing it.

There remains another stumbling block. The trouble with Harry is Radcliffe, whose expressiveness has developed not a whit. He has become the lame duck of the cast, an impression compounded by his proximity to the burgeoning confidence of Watson and Grint. Warring elements of self-doubt, resourcefulness and daring require a greater vivacity than this young actor can muster.

This latest Potter offers incidental pleasures, such as Brendan Gleeson's Professor of Defence Against the Dark Arts - a goggle-eyed Ancient Mariner with a false leg - and Alan Rickman's ever-reliable turn as the whey-faced Dickensian scold Professor Snape. And, while reports of its scariness have been exaggerated, the film opens up vistas of dread and disquiet that may make the next episode the most compelling yet.

Arts and Entertainment
Wonder.land Musical by Damon Albarn


Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment


film review
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
    10 best statement lightbulbs

    10 best statement lightbulbs

    Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
    Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
    Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

    Dustin Brown

    Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
    Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
    Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

    Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

    Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
    John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

    Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

    'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
    Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

    Forget little green men

    Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
    Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

    Dying dream of Doctor Death

    Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy