Long awaited “Harry Potter” bewitches

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Jasmine Narang contributed to this article.

On Friday, November 18th, the much anticipated fourth installment of the Harry Potter Series, “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” was released to eager muggles everywhere. The first film to be directed by Mike Newell, this film had a different feel from the first three released. Unlike Christopher Columbus’ mausoleum like renditions of the text, so true to the book as to be excruciating and Alfonso Cuaron’s more emotionally focused third film, this film managed to be both darker and more humorous in content. This was the first to garner a PG-13 rating due to violence and scary sequences. As those familiar with the books well know, as each novel is released, Harry grows and matures and many of the situations become significantly darker in content than their predecessors.

The balance of darkness and humor was perhaps the most compelling element of this film, enabling the audience, who was already quite familiar with the story, to find a new level of entertainment. Harry finds himself immersed in new challenges as he is unwillingly entered into the perilous Tri-Wizard Tournament. The special effects are especially potent in making the fantasy world Rowling has illuminated in her books a visual reality.

The maturing young actors playing the lead roles are clearly settling into their parts though ironically, their characters are growing more awkward on film as they attempt to deal with the common problems of adolescence. Harry, who is in desperate need of a haircut in this film, finds himself enamored of Cho Chang, meanwhile the suggestions of romantic tension between Ron and Hermione are evident.

Unfortunately, the film fails to develop the characters introduced in this story such as Victor Krum, Fleur Delacoeur, Cedric Diggory, and Cho Chang. The characters seem to be flat and are given very limited film time in which to be understood by the audience. In this sense, the film is best for those well acquainted with the book as those unfamiliar with the stories might be left in need of footnoting in order to appreciate the dramatic suggestions of the plot. Fans of Draco Malfoy will likewise be disappointed at his minimal presence as one of Harry’s arch nemeses.

By contrast, some characters dynamically enhance this presentation of Rowling’s story. Ralph Fiennes, of “The English Patient,” convincingly and gruesomely portrays He Who Must Not Be Named (otherwise known as Voldemort). “Mad Eye” Moody (Robbie Coltrane), with his all seeing roving eye, and Rita Skeeter (Miranda Richardson) armed with her frisky, lying pen, contribute tremendous personality to the film and make up for limited screen time with strong acting that truly captures the essence of the characters.

Generally, this film received positive reviews and is the best film adaptation of a Harry Potter story yet. With a more human element, this film is set apart from the others and sets high expectations for the fifth in the series, “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.”

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