Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire
directed by Mike Newell
(Warner, 2005)

Harry Potter's no longer some innocent wizard in the making, no longer a boy bumbling through life with his Muggle relatives or an unknown quantity to his classmates at Hogwarts. The ubiquitous series of books and movies is growing up, too: the villains are getting nastier, the mood darker, the world surrounding Harry even less safe.

So it's no wonder the most recent film installation, Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire, comes at us darkly, with threats and a sense of unease bubbling nearer to the surface than ever.

Plus, we get to see the full brunt of Lord Voldemort for the first time -- and it's a face that'll give younger Potter fans some bad dreams.

Life at Hogwarts, in Goblet of Fire, gets a jolt of excitement with the arrival of the Triwizard Tournament. A trio of deadly challenges awaits the three young wizards whose names fly out of the Goblet of Fire, and fame forever awaits the winner.

Cedric Diggory is chosen from Hogwarts, and the names of two students from other wizard academies -- Fleur Delacour from the French Beauxbaton school and the mighty Quidditch champ Viktor Krum from Durmstrang (a nice little twist on the German Sturm und Drang) -- pop out of the cup.

But then, Harry's does, too. Question is, who submitted Harry's name for the dangerous contest?

First, they must battle fiery dragons. Check.

Then, they have to rescue treasures (loved ones) from the depths of the lake. Check.

And, finally, they must maneuver through a maze that may not only get them lost, but may cause them to lose their true selves in the process.

And within the maze lies Harry's greatest horror: Voldemort, back from the dead.

It will surprise no one who has even the most minimal knowledge of the Potter kingdom to know Voldemort won't do away with Harry (at least this time); the series of books already has moved on. But the price Harry and Hogwarts must pay reaches a new level of darkness.

That's not to say Goblet of Fire is concerned only with evil Voldemort in his full incarnation (like Death itself, with a nose marked only by two slits and the grayish skin of something left too long underground). There's growing up of a different kind to do, too, for Harry, Hermione and Ron. There's a Yule Ball to host for the visiting wizards, and the anxiety Ron and Harry feel at having to ask a girl to a dance is sly -- as is Hermione's acceptance of a date, and her assessment of her date's virtues.

Yes, our little wizards are growing up -- and their world is turning more threatening by the minute. Now, though, the Potter film series finally rings true for me. If it's going to threaten not only Harry's life, but the presence of any good in the world, then the menace better be palpable. Now, with Harry and his audience all getting older, better able to face the danger and to do battle, it is.

by Jen Kopf
31 March 2007

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