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The evil Lord Voldemort finally steps forward to threaten young Harry Potter in the fourth instalment of JK Rowling's saga. Mike Newell directs half of Britain's actors and several gigabytes of CGI
"Do you think we'll ever have a quiet year at Hogwarts?" muses Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) to his best mates Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) in Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire. They both shake their heads. You can rely on JK Rowling's Harry Potter books and their film adaptations to really put their hero and his friends through the wringer. It's not a nice world they inhabit - there's jeopardy at every turn, with the evil Lord Voldemort intent on finishing what he started by murdering Harry. Kids and adults alike seem to love it. Aren't we a miserable lot?
If the Alfonso Cuaron-directed previous instalment (Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban) notched up the grimness of the series, here the British director of Four Weddings And A Funeral and Donnie Brasco takes another step into doom and gloom.
Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire changes the formula of its predecessors, and the book (which is very hefty in this case), by skipping over any business with the Dursleys, and, after a brief, creepy prologue, gets right to the first set piece - the Quidditch World Championship, which is like Glastonbury crossed with the Superbowl. It's here the Death Eaters, the followers of Voldemort, make their presence felt, their Dark Mark dominating the sky. However, the threat of Voldemort and Co seems to take back seat when Hogwarts is chosen as the setting for the Triwizard Tournament.
By this fourth instalment in the franchise, you pretty much know what to expect. Despite the changing directors, continuity is provided by such figures as Rowling - who has close script approval - producer David Hayman and production designer Stuart Craig, and also through the three child stars and the presence of such actors as Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane, Shirley Henderson and so on in supporting roles. Here the set pieces come courtesy of the Triwizard Tournament (there are dragons, mer-people and a giant, scary maze).
All these elements add up to an experience that is solid and reliable. The films may never quite nail the experience of reading the books, where your relationship with Harry is more intimate, but they have a good old go at recreating the elaborate world and lore, even when they're forced to hack down the source material.
Where the films really benefit is from the adult actors they corral, and here it's Gleeson who's especially good value. In terms of direction, Newell handles the thriller and special effects elements well enough, and he does an especially nice job of handling a key part of this instalment - teen romance, complete with all of its embarrassment and awkwardness.
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