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Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Ultimate Edition DVD Review

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire movie poster Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Theatrical Release: November 18, 2005 / Running Time: 157 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Mike Newell / Writers: J.K. Rowling (novel), Steve Kloves (screenplay)

Cast: Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley), Emma Watson (Hermione Granger), Robbie Coltrane (Rubeus Hagrid), Ralph Fiennes (Lord Voldemort), Michael Gambon (Albus Dumbledore), Brendan Gleeson (Alastor "Mad-Eye" Moody), Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy), Gary Oldman (Sirius Black), Miranda Richardson (Rita Skeeter), Alan Rickman (Severus Snape), Maggie Smith (Minerva McGonagall), Timothy Spall (Wormtail), Frances de la Tour (Madame Olympe Maxime), Pedja Bjelac (Igor Karkaroff), David Bradley (Argus Filch), Warwick Davis (Filius Flitwick), Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy), Robert Hardy (Cornelius Fudge), Shirley Henderson (Moaning Myrtle), Roger Lloyd Pack (Barty Crouch), Mark Williams (Arthur Weasley), Stanislav Ianevski (Viktor Krum), Robert Pattinson (Cedric Diggory), Clémence Poésy (Fleur Delacour), David Tennant (Barty Crouch Junior), James Phelps (Fred Weasley), Oliver Phelps (George Weasley), Katie Leung (Cho Chang), Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom), Bonnie Wright (Ginny Weasley), Devon Murray (Seamus Finnigan), Jamie Waylett (Vincent Crabbe), Josh Herdman (Gregory Goyle), Afshan Azad (Padma Patil), Shefali Chowdhury (Parvati Patil), Angelica Mandy (Gabrielle Delacour), Eric Sykes (Frank Bryce), Jeff Rawle (Amos Diggory), Adrian Rawlins (James Potter), Geraldine Somerville (Lily Potter), Jarvis Cocker (Band Lead Singer)

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For much of its runtime, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire feels like a break from regularly scheduled programming. Admirably and crucially,
the fantasy film series and the bestselling J.K. Rowling book line that inspired it have managed to make each outing a distinctive one. Still, there are certain hallmarks to be observed and arcs charted as orphaned wizard-in-training Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and his best friends Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) hone their magic while learning valuable life lessons.

Goblet of Fire somewhat sets aside the standard curriculum at the youths' storied boarding school for something new and different. That new and different thing is the Triwizard Tournament, which is being hosted at Hogwarts in Harry's fourth year there. The event welcomes two international institutions to the premises, from each of whom one Champion will be selected to compete (hence the "Tri" in "Triwizard"). The students don't know exactly what the competition will entail, but most are eager to find out. A ground rule, however, eliminates most from contention; only 17-year-old students (i.e. those in their final years of schooling) will be allowed to compete.

The titular Goblet of Fire has a surprise in store for Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) and all those anticipating the Triwizard Tournament. Fourth year wizard Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) finds his hands webbing to aid him in the underwater challenge of the Triwizard Tournament.

From many hopeful submissions, the titular Goblet chooses Fleur Delacour (Clémence Poésy) from France's refined Beauxbatons, Quidditch icon Viktor Krum (Stanislav Ianevski) from Bulgaria, and Hogwarts' own head-turner Cedric Diggory (Robert Pattinson, iconic Twilight vampire Edward Cullen). Then, the Goblet spits out an unprecedented fourth champion, none other than our scarred, bespectacled 14-year-old protagonist. Harry claims he didn't submit his name, making his selection a contested enigma, but one that is upheld.

Most of the movie deals with the quest for the Triwizard Cup, a perilous three-part challenge that throws life-or-death situations at all four players. Every stage is a mystery, beginning with snatching a golden egg away from an assigned ferocious fire-breathing dragon and proceeding to take things underwater.

Studies at Hogwarts are not entirely neglected, however. Supplying abundant flair is the students' newly-arrived Dark Arts professor Alastor "Mad-Eye" Moody (Brendan Gleeson), a frighteningly blunt and disfigured ex-Auror (apprehender of Dark wizards) who minces no words as he teaches the three Unforgivable Curses, complete with horrifying demonstration. Regularly sipping from his flask, Mad-Eye takes an unmistakable interest in the tournament and Harry's involvement in it.

Alastor "Mad-Eye" Moody (Brendan Gleeson), Hogwarts' newest Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, isn't monkeying around as he demonstrates unforgivable curses on a conjured spider. After much discussion, Dark Lord Voldemort finally assumes a human form (Ralph Fiennes), give or take a nose.

The first film in the series to forgo a Muggle world introduction and Dursley family appearances, Goblet of Fire opens with a nightmare vision of an old caretaker stumbling upon some dark, secret doings. It seems like our welcome to the darker, more mature, PG-13 rated Harry Potter.
And while there is more menace yet to come, most significantly in an arresting and odious climax, there is also a lighter Harry Potter and a more adventurous Harry Potter to encounter first.

The levity flows in a prolonged central sequence involving the Yule Ball, a Christmas Eve dance speaking to high schoolers everywhere. Hormones seem to awaken, as everyone worries over who to ask to the dance and how. Harry's eye is caught by Cho Chang (Katie Leung), but she's already going with Cedric. The feelings between Hermione and Ron grow more conflicted over ill-timed invitations. She winds up going with Krum in a twist that erases his idol standing for Ron. Even giant gamekeeper Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) picks up a love interest in Beauxbatons' enormous headmistress Olympe Maxime (Frances de la Tour). Besides deflating hopes and dashing expectations, the formal dance offers an appearance by a rock band whose unspoken literary name brought litigation against Warner Bros.

The Yule Ball appears to be the most extended lighthearted sequence of the series to date. But it is at ease with the sense of humor that pervades the franchise and here finds Ron's goofball twin older brothers (James and Oliver Phelps) at their most entertaining. Comedy also arises in newly-introduced Daily Prophet yellow journalist Rita Skeeter (Miranda Richardson) who delights in exaggerating Harry's Triwizard drama. Moaning Myrtle (Shirley Henderson) also resurfaces for a strange, diverting bath with Harry.

In between this comic light and dramatic darkness lies adventure. The Triwizard Tournament brings an athletic competition feel to the film. That had been present before in Quidditch scenes, but not to the extent of Goblet of Fire, which is practically the highly-charged wizard equivalent of a triathlon. The competition calls for set pieces and the film delivers them from fiery flight in the skies to sea floor hostility (from unconventional mermaids). The excitement of those two phases turns into fear for the final stage, a living maze that deals the series' most shocking death to date and gives an unsettling human-like body to the newly-empowered Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes).

In all three of these forms (teen comedy, spectacular sports, supernatural horror), Goblet of Fire is nothing less than captivating. For those coming to the movie without reading the books, there is more than meets the eye here (as clues repeatedly suggest with some subtlety) and that along with the graveyard finale adds to the aftertaste you fear the Triwizard Tournament might alone not provide.

The three, er, four wizards vying for the Triwizard Cup prepare for their final challenge, which Dumbledore announces as a living maze.

Excluding the just-opened Deathly Hallows, Part 1, Goblet of Fire has the second highest user rating at IMDb of the first six Potter films, standing a whole 0.3 points above third place sharing Half-Blood Prince and Order of the Phoenix. A slight bit of consensus can be derived from that, suggesting that this fourth installment is one of many fans' favorites. I don't question that; I think Goblet ranks in the series' better half, although whether it will stay there after the two-part conclusion remains to be seen. Interestingly, like the other highly esteemed chapter (Prisoner of Azkaban), Goblet of Fire is directed by someone who's only made one film in the series. Mike Newell (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Donnie Brasco) may have been as unlikely a selection as Alfonso Cuarón, but like Cuarón, he pays off, bringing a fresh set of eyes and new sensibility that help keep fatigue and stagnancy out of sight without undermining consistency.

Five autumns after its theatrical debut, Goblet of Fire became one of the two latest installments given the Ultimate Edition treatment from Warner Home Video. The movie's original Two-Disc Special Edition DVD, the series' first to be a premium-priced option, has been discontinued, leaving late first-time buyers to choose between widescreen and full screen versions of a movie-only disc and this thick new 3-disc set (ignoring the ridiculously voluminous secondhand market). Blu-ray customers have a more even choice between a fairly loaded disc and the 3-disc BD version of this new set.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Ultimate Edition DVD box art -- click to buy from Amazon.com DVD Set Details

2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Film Closed Captioned; Disc 2 Extras Subtitled in French;
Disc 3 Extras Subtitled in English SDH, French, Spanish, Japanese, Portuguese
Release Date: October 19, 2010
Three single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9s)
Suggested Retail Price: $39.98
Thick Embossed Cardboard Box with Lenticular Cover, Digipak, Hardcover Book,
and Envelope of Two Character Cards
Also available on Blu-ray Disc ($49.99 SRP)
Still available as Widescreen, Full Screen 1-Disc DVD ($14.97 SRP)
and 1-Disc Blu-ray ($24.98 SRP)
Previously released as Two-Disc Special Edition DVD (out of print)

VIDEO and AUDIO

No doubt identical to its original release, this DVD's 2.40:1 feature presentation leaves room for improvement, but not much. The picture stays pretty clean throughout, with only the rare bit of minor grain and compression woes. Having seen the film in IMAX, my 5-year-old memories are strong enough to tell me that this doesn't have anywhere near the detail and power of large format exhibition. But no remarkable faults emerge in the transfer.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is more impressive, delivering a great amount of atmosphere and aural excitement all around. Again, this doesn't have the impact of a genuine IMAX sound system, but it's about as robust and satisfying as any DVD's 5.1 mix.

The set-top game version of the Dragon Challenge is much like the Triwizard Tournament's first stage: avoid the horntail dragon and get the golden egg. What spell do you cast on a giant spider? Act fast or die in the Maze Challenge.

BONUS FEATURES

Discs 1 and 2 are identical to those offered in the film's original Two-Disc Special Edition. Accordingly, Disc 1 is fully devoted to the film itself and Disc 2 arranges its bonus features by land. Three of its sections offer a link to the three-part "Triwizard Tournament" set-top game, modeled closely after the film. The Dragon Challenge has you evade the horntail and get the golden egg. The Lake Challenge has you navigate the waters, avoiding obstacles and dealing with creatures. Though nicely designed, both leave something to be desired. Either you pick up the subtle clues and find it too easy or you don't and you're just guessing frustratedly.

Finally, the most difficult Maze Challenge lets you play as a student of one of the three schools, using spells to deal with giant spiders, Dementors, and the like. A total puzzle at first, it improves once you get the hang of how to deal with each creature, but it's still kind of plodding and aimless.

If this was filming in the winter, then Robert Pattinson is seen here around twilight in "Meet the Champions." Gillyweed doesn't cut it for Daniel Radcliffe; he needs the occasional hit of oxygen while filming his many underwater scenes. Ralph Fiennes must wear bright green motion sensors on his face to render "He Who Must Not Be Named" noseless in postproduction.

Two featurettes are found in Dragon Arena. "Harry vs. the Horntail: The First Task" (6:05) considers the dragon task almost completely with regards to computer-generated visual effects and design. "Meet the Champions" (13:00) follows around actors Robert Pattinson, Clémence Poésy, and Stanislav Ianevski as they wake up early, get their hair and makeup done,
evaluate their costumes, film their scenes, eat, and pass the time with card tricks. It's a good human interest piece showing us more of some of the film's most significant cast additions and the practical side of film acting.

The only non-game listing in The Lake is "In Too Deep: The Second Task" (9:46), which covers the demanding giant water tank work done by Daniel Radcliffe as well as the digital effects needed to bring the underwater sequence to life.

The Maze holds two more featurettes. "The Maze: The Third Task" (6:47) covers the making-of the final challenge with cast/crew comments on the location's dramatic value complemented by more effects talk. "He Who Must Not Be Named" (11:06), of course, deals with the climactic introduction of Lord Voldemort in his new form. Ralph Fiennes and others sound off on the character's nature and what went into his unsettling reborn appearance.

The section also contains "To the Graveyard and Back Challenge", another game that you're taken to after beating the three others in succession. The first part of this is simply hitting "Enter" to strike down Death Eaters as they appear. The less fun second part involves guessing in which direction Voldemort's snake Nagimi will attack. I gave up after several failed plays.

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Reviewed November 19, 2010.



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