“Hogwarts isn’t safe anymore.” After three years of werewolves, 50 ft. snakes, and encouraging eleven-year-olds to burn off their eyebrows, it takes an ex-convict to finally say what we’ve all been thinking. What finally pushed it over the edge? An annual event in our academic calendars that we all either highly anticipated or miserably dreaded: Track and Field Day. Except with a little more je ne sais wizard.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire finally skips over the introductory material, assuming we’ve got the gist of it by now. It’s another year at Hogwarts but the castle feels more crowded than usual. Hogwarts is hosting the Triwizard Tournament, a year-long event that chooses one champion from each of the three schools (you didn’t think Hogwarts was the only one, did you?) to compete in various magical challenges. The minimum age to apply for the competition is seventeen. Even so, at just fourteen, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) becomes the unexpected fourth champion when the Goblet of Fire spits out his name – and there’s no point in arguing with a temperamental cup that spits fire. Harry must face three deadly challenges because no one has time to add safety clauses to a 400-and-something-year-old tradition. But behind the dragons and man-eating plants something sinister is brewing. Unlike in past years Harry, Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione (Emma Watson) have no time to deal with dark wizards and their vile intensions because they are simply too busy being baited, drowned, bullied, and embarrassed – it’s all part of what the rest of us would call “high school.”
Director Mike Newell finds a way to balance impossible feats of wizardry with a quirky world and casual teenage romance. It’s a combination of terror, amusement, and mortifying awkwardness. The Goblet of Fire finally feels like the Harry Potter universe is starting to find its niche in the cinematic world. Whereas the previous Philosopher’s Stone, Chamber of Secrets, and Prisoner of Azkaban all tiptoed into the magical world, The Goblet of Fire accepts it for what it is: weird and totally awesome. Sometimes people get turned into ferrets – it’s no big deal. Occasionally a ghost will flirt with you in the bathtub – a casual Wednesday night. What’s most shocking about The Goblet of Fire isn’t the wizarding world: it’s Harry’s wild adventures within that world.
Along with the tournament theme and the two boys with sheepdog haircuts, The Goblet of Fire introduces a whole new concept: fear. Harry’s been in sticky situations before but none of them had that I’m-definitely-going-to-die quality about them. Is there drama? Yes. Should Harry have left a note? No. Harry’s fear is palpable when his greatest enemy yet takes full advantage of his weakness, stares him in the eye, and chases him around a graveyard zapping killing curses.
In the wake of this panic and terror we get another first for the cinematic Harry Potter world: the feels. Yes it’s true when little Harry stares into the Mirror of Erised at the dead parents he will never know you feel sorry for him. But we haven’t had an in-the-moment, life-changing, tragic event. Until now.
The Goblet of Fire was the best Harry Potter movie to date because it sets the stage for everything to come. It sets up the plot by producing firm anticipation for the inevitable intensity of movie 5. Basically said, when The Goblet of Fire concludes, shit hits the fan. Action, effects, rampant hormones, and friends who can’t stay “friends” for more than a week amount to an 8/10 for The Goblet of Fire.