In a scene about an hour into the film, MadEye Moody (Brendan Gleeson) asks Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) what his strengths are. Harry isn’t sure how to answer. And given how much time the previous three films have spent building the world of Harry Potter, perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that it lost sight of fully shaping and developing the titular character.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire seeks to rectify all wrongs, shoving away exposition and world building for a gripping story and a deeper focus on developing establishing characters. This is in large part because the films have finally entered the territory where the books became much more substantial.
So who is Harry Potter? What defines him in a character? What separates him from any other hero in any other story? In order to understand this, it’s worth briefly mentioning the outline of the story. Harry returns for another year of school at Hogwarts to find that the famous TriWizard tournament is being held at Hogwarts. While he expresses no interest in participating, his name comes up in the drawings, and soon he finds himself forced to compete against three other individuals for everlasting glory.
His conduct in the tournament is what separates him from the other competitors and allows the film to define him as a character. Even when faced with insurmountable odds or up against great danger, Harry always tries to do the right thing, however hard his impulses tell him to do what is wrong. This shapes his struggle as a character, his desire to seek out and rectify wrongs and his propensity to land himself in trouble.
But this time, trouble finds him in the form of the three core challenges of the TriWizard tournament. These three setpieces, while providing for some strong action sequences, give the film a good sense of pacing, serving as much needed breaks between the dense narrative. These moments serve as much better integration of the world building instead of number of divergent scenes from the previous films.
For here, the real meat of the story is not the tournament itself, but the developments surrounding the world as the deceased Lord Voldermort’s followers, the Death Eaters, begin to become more bold, making the Ministry of Magic begin to enforce themselves on Hogwarts in order to protect the students that might come under attack from The Death Eaters, specifically Harry Potter.
It’s this conflict that will help reshape the series and take the rest on the series to the next level. For here politics begin to shape and hue the world as a response to the fear of an impending attack. And not all the hostility is aimed at the enemy, internal squabbling and a difference in how people should be treated begin to arise in the threat of a looming evil force.
These elements help the Harry Potter series evolve into one of the most gripping and compelling stories of the last decade. The last act still suffers from the typical malady of these films, being about ten minutes longer than it needs to be. Yet on the whole, Harry Potter and the Goblet of fire helps the series reach into its maturation, moving beyond the limitations of its predecessors and coming into its own.
© 2011 James Blake Ewing