Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire (2005)

Rating: ***
Release Date: 11/18/05
Director: Mike Newell
Music: Patrick Doyle
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Robbie Coltrane, Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman, Warwick Davis, Gary Oldman, Miranda Richardson, Ralph Fiennes, Maggie Smith

The darkest "Harry Potter" film yet, both visually and thematically. Hogwarts becomes the host school for the annual Tri-Wizard competition, an extremely dangerous duel between three school's best students. Due the lethal nature of the contest, no one under the age of seventeen is eligible to participate, but strange magic is afoot and Harry's name ends up being chosen as the fourth contestant in the competition. The faculty are outraged, the students cry foul, and poor Harry is just terrified. After being convinced of Harry's innocence in the matter, the faculty decide to sit back and watch events unfold, hoping to find a clue as to who is behind the sinister deed. Over the course of the competition, Harry has to face dragons, merpeople, and the horror of asking a girl to the Tri-Wizard ball. The film is rife with horrific adolescent angst and trauma, and friendships are strained. And to make matters worse, Harry's nemesis, Lord Voldemort, returns to make his life miserable.

Definitely the longest and most boring film of the series, but at least the story isn't as convoluted and confusing as "The Prisoner Of Azkaban" (2004). While a lot of "stuff" happens, none of it seems particularly interesting or emotionally engaging. It's basically a collection of action set pieces that offer little to no plot advancement or character development. While the film is a feast for the eyes, it lacks emotional cohesion. The environments are beautiful and fascinating to behold, but visually dark and bled of any color to help give them a menacing edge. Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint are comfortable in their roles as Harry and Ron, but they feel as though they're just going through the motions. Michael Gambon does a fine job as Professor Dumbledore, and injects a bit of emotional depth and vulnerability into his stately character. Only Emma Watson shows any spark of life in the film as Hermione Granger, and her ballroom entrance is enchanting. The absense of John Williams' score sets a different tone to the film, and the closing credits song is one of the worst things I've heard in years. Who let such a thing happen? They must have been friends of the director. Like the previous films, this one suffers from trying to cram and condense the events in the book into a palatable two and a half hour outing, and for people who haven't read the books, the series is becoming less and less accessible.