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Year Four at Hogwarts spells yet more trouble for Mr. Potter when he is unwittingly chosen as a competitor in the Triwizard Tournament: an international event consisting of a series of life-threatening challenges.
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Harry, Ron and Hermione spend the end of their summer attending the exciting spectacle that is the Quidditch World Cup. Unfortunately, the large number of wizards enjoying themselves seems to attract the Death Eaters (followers of Lord Voldemort), who turn up to spoil the party which follows the game. They set fire to tents and send everyone fleeing for their lives. Harry gets trampled in the panic to escape and wakes to see one Death Eater casting a spell towards the sky. A huge skull appears with a snake sticking out of its mouth like a tongue: the Dark Mark, a terrible portent of Voldemort’s imminent return.
On Harry’s return to Hogwarts, it is clear that this year is going to be very different to previous years. A flying horse-drawn carriage arrives carrying a group of female students from French wizarding institution Beauxbatons and a ship emerges from the lake bringing tough Bulgarians from Durmstrang. They are at Hogwarts for the Triwizard Tournament. One student from each of the three schools takes part in the competition and three dangerous challenges stand in the way of them becoming the champion. Things get even more interesting when, after the three representatives (Fleur Delacour, Viktor Krum and Cedric Diggory) are chosen by the Goblet of Fire, another scrap of paper flies out with a fourth name: Harry Potter. Although he is under-age and claims he didn’t put his name into the Goblet, a Ministry of Magic official states he has to compete. So, along with three life-threatening tasks to contend with, Harry is also in danger from the anonymous person at Hogwarts who entered him into the tournament.
The film does tend to suffer because of the sheer size of the book from which it was adapted. Events tend to whizz by at break-neck speed and you wish it would slow down so you had more chance to savour everything. It seems rushed, as if too many things are trying to be squeezed in, and at over two and a half hours, it’s not as if they were squeezed too tightly. The first fifteen minutes of the film consist of 150 pages in the book. The Quidditch World Cup and the attack by the Death Eaters is fast-paced and is over much too quickly, especially seeing as this is the only bit of Quidditch the audience gets in this film.
A lot of the regular characters get a vastly reduced screen time. Professor Snape is only seen in a few scenes; his punishment of Harry and Ron for talking is hilarious but would definitely be frowned upon in a Muggle school nowadays. Professor McGonagall, Hagrid and fan-favourite Sirius are also criminally under-used, the latter only getting a voice-over and a semblance of his head in a fireplace.
A highlight of the film has got to be the brilliant Brendan Gleeson as new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher Alastor ‘Mad-Eye’ Moody. He provides both sinister and comic moments with equal flair; good examples are the scene where he teaches the class about the Unforgivable Curses and the scene in which he turns Draco Malfoy into a ferret (Professor McGonagall: “Is that a student?” Moody: “Technically it’s a ferret.”)
The film is full of exciting action scenes and impressive special effects, thanks mainly to the nature of the Triwizard Tournament. The dragons and the huge maze are especially remarkable, however, being transferred from book to screen does mean that some fans are going to be disappointed that certain elements are absent. There’s something in particular that’s missing though; it lacks the charm of the earlier films. And it is unfortunate to follow the Prisoner of Azkaban, which set a high benchmark for the series. Nonetheless, it is a successful film in terms of its focus and efficiency, and it has been well-adapted, which was no simple task.