'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows' countdown: Remembering 'Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire'

As we prepare ourselves for Friday’s opening of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows–Part 1, EW continues looking back at the making of the film franchise. Today, let’s take a close look at the fourth entry: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Goblet was always going to be a nightmare to adapt. J.K. Rowling’s fourth Potter tome is 300 pages longer than Book 3, and over twice as long as Sorcerer’s Stone. It begins with an extended prologue at the Quidditch World Cup, and then the overstuffed plot kicks into high gear when the Tri-wizard tournament begins. There’s mermaids, dragons, Bulgarians, teeny-bopper romance (complete with a prom-like wizards’ Yule Ball), an encroaching sense of paranoia, and the first full appearance by Voldemort. In Goblet of Fire, Rowling was in full-tilt worldbuilding mode, revealing more elements of her magical Potterverse than ever before. “It’s fiendishly intricate,” screenwriter Steve Kloves told EW’s Jeff Jensen in the November 11, 2005 cover story. “It resists adaptation.” Warner Bros. even considered — shades of things to come! — splitting Goblet into two movies.

Enter Mike Newell, the journeyman director of Four Weddings and a Funeral and Donnie Brasco. Like Azkaban‘s Alfonso Cuaron, Newell might’ve seemed like a left-field choice to make a boisterous fantasy romp, but Potter producer David Heyman explained to EW that Newell was actually his first choice to direct Sorcerer’s Stone. “[Heyman] had the following thought: Harry Potter’s British; perhaps the artistic sensibility translating him should be British too.” Although Newell turned down the original job, he took the gig for Goblet, figuring that he could bring a note of realism to the film’s portrayal of British school life. Regarding the first two films, Newell noted: “I felt the children were rather…oh, Stiff. My view is that children are violent, dirty, corrupt anarchists.”

Goblet accelerated the evolution that began in Azakaban from adorable-moppet kiddie interaction into hormonal teenaged drama. Daniel Radcliffe told EW his character “is going through that puberty crap. You know: the first crush. Of course, when it’s your first crush, it’s not just a crush — you looove her.” The “her” in question was Cho Chang (Katie Leung), Ravenclaw fifth-year and braincrush for a generation of shy high school lit geeks (or anyways, for this shy high school lit geek). In Goblet, though, Cho’s quite a bit more interested in a glamour boy athlete with the glamour boy name Cedric Diggory, played by a handsome glamour boy named Robert Pattinson who you might have heard of a few million times in the last couple years.

But Goblet was an evolution in another way, too. The movie begins in a rather jaunty tone that has more in common with the Chris Columbus films than with Azkaban. By the end, though, it’s gone to a far darker place than Cuaron’s movie. For Goblet ends (SPOILER ALERT!) with the terrifying abrupt death of Diggory, and before the audience has even quite recovered, Voldemort is reborn. (And what a Voldemort! Ralph Fiennes claimed to have used Hitler as a reference point in his performance, and the baddie’s snake-like nostrils were rendered with can’t-look-away freakishness.) Radcliffe described the shift in tone: “[Harry's] life is taken out of his hands. Hogwarts isn’t a safe place for him anymore.” Kloves was even more philosophical: “[Goblet] is the hinge. This one closes the door on everything that came before and sets the stage for a new kind of Potter experience altogether.” Sure enough, Goblet of Fire was the first film in the franchise to garner a PG-13 rating.

You could say that Goblet of Fire is the middle child of the franchise…which might explain why it came out looking like a bit of a mess. EW critic Owen Gleiberman compared the film unfavorably with Prisoner of Azkaban, noting that the overstuffed plot “unfold[s] in a stagey, all-magic-all-the-time zone interrupted by functional clunks of reality. Newell, unlike Cuarón, jams sequences together like bricks of LEGO, without giving the story an emotional flow.…The biggest disappointment of Goblet of Fire is that Harry’s first romantic stirrings, stoked by his new celebrity status as a Triwizard competitor and also by the suddenly dolled-up appearance of Hermione (Emma Watson) at a Hogwarts ball, are every bit as self-contained as the action.” While praising individual sequences (like the kinetic face-off with the dragon), Gleiberman noted a simple troubling fact about Goblet: “The film peaks a little too soon.Goblet of Fire earned a B- from Gleiberman, the lowest grade EW’s given any Potter film. (So far. We’ve got our eye on you, DH:Part 2!)

Audiences responded to Goblet of Fire a bit differently, delivering the franchise’s biggest opening weekend to that point: $102.7 million in North America. The film went on to earn $896 million worldwide, the biggest global gross of the year. (That’s an improvement of over $100 million from Azkaban. Maybe people just dig mermaids?) I can remember walking out of the theater at the time feeling a bit disappointed. Goblet was always going to pale in comparison next to Azkaban, but I don’t think anyone expected just what a curious genre-mash Newell was going to make out of Goblet. (I happened to watch the movie again this weekend on ABC Family’s Harry Potter marathon, and it’s a little bit remarkable just how much better the episodic storyline plays with commercial breaks.)

In some ways, Goblet was doubly cursed when it hit theaters. Besides having to compete with Cuaron’s singular vision of Azkaban, the film arrived a few months after the bleak, tragic Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince arrived in bookstores, so the broad comedy sequences seemed a little bit silly. Personally, I’d call the Yule Ball one of my favorite sequences in the movie franchise: the awkward dancing, the Wizard-rock band, the arrival of Hermione in her ball dress (arguably, the scene that turned Emma Watson into a fashion icon). Goblet of Fire is a mishmash as a movie, but in its curious mixture of goofy romance and bleak paranoia, it’s a good summation of the franchise’s overall evolution from “Wow, look at all those moving stairwells!” to “Wow, look at all that death!”

PopWatchers, what are your favorite memories of Goblet of Fire? Do you think it was accidental that Harry and Ron both have much longer hair in this movie, or was that a serious artistic choice? How did you feel about Brendan Gleeson as Mad-Eye Moody? Is it strange seeing Robert Pattinson playing such a happy-go-lucky kid, now that we’ve seen him in moody-glowy-vampire mode?

More Harry Potter:
‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’ countdown: Remembering ‘The Prisoner of Azkaban’
‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’ countdown: Remembering ‘The Chamber of Secrets’
‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’ countdown: Remembering ‘The Sorcerer’s Stone’
EW’s ‘Harry Potter’ Central

Comments (57 total) Add your comment
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  • Lisa Simpson

    I agree that the parts of the movie are greater than its sum, but it’s still a better movie than the first two. The acting by the three leads is better, and Brendan Gleeson is so much fun (and a little scary) as faux Mad-Eye Moody. And we get David Tennant!

    • Mr. Holloway

      “the parts of the movie are greater than its sum.”

      Perfect way to describe it.

      Some of the action scenes (especially Harry vs. the dragon) are fantastic, and the graveyard sequence with Fiennes is incredible. Gleeson was also a really good addition to the franchise. Still, everything didn’t quite gel together to make a great movie because there was A LOT going on. (That’s not to say it wasn’t entertaining.)

  • lola

    Did they do this type of article for “prisoner of azkaban” yesterday? I couldn’t find it

  • Eve

    This was at the time, my favourite book, and the book sort of made me want to punch people in the face. It wasn’t bad per say… but honestly? Honestly?! You even managed to make DAVID FREAKIN TENNANT look bad.

  • Felix

    Possibly my least-favorite Potter film. They had too much book to work with, and what they made was a disjointed mess. Important characters like Fleur Delacour and Victor Krum get maybe one line of dialogue apiece, the Rita Skeeter subplot is totally abandoned halfway through the movie, the cool monster-filled maze is replaced by lame “moving hedges”….shall I go on? Their biggest crime was not showing the Quidditch World Cup. When they showed the build-up to the event and then cut abruptly to the aftermath, the theater filled with angry yells and murmurs. We all knew the movie was already a loss.

    • Katja

      Totally agree, especially about the World Cup. I know they were short on time, but wth was all that build-up for, only to cut to them hanging out in their tent after the match?

  • HG

    GOF is my least favorite HP movie. They cut out so much that I loved from the book (The Weasleys at the Dursleys, the freaking Quidditch World Cup, Winky, Dobby) and replaced it with cheap, unfunny ‘comedy’ scenes like Ron’s ogling of the Beauxbatons girls (isn’t Beauxbatons coed in the novels?) and Madame Maxime eating food out of Hagrid’s beard (uh, wtf?) The dialogue was corny and awful (“I’m not an owl!” from Hermione, “Oh my God! I killed Harry Potter!” from Neville) and don’t get me started on the length of Harry and Ron’s hair. They looked like girls. Ron especially. Yuck. Speaking of yuck, don’t get me started on Moaning Myrtle’s bathtub escapades. Ghost rape is not funny. Ever.

    Best thing about the film of GOF for me was Voldemort. Ralph Fiennes’ Voldy is simply perfect.
    Oh yeah, and Daniel Radcliffe’s bathtub scene (minus Moaning Myrtle) was quite a turn-on for 11 year old me.

    Also, David Tennant was hammy and obnoxious. Just like his Doctor. (I just don’t like David Tennant. Matt Smith’s my Doctor! Don’t kill me please!)

    I love Mad-Eye in the movies, although WTF was up with the googly eye patch?

    Deathly Hallows Part One looks spectacular and, from what I’ve heard from early reviews, is incredibly faithful to the book. Plus, loads and loads of shirtless Daniel Radcliffe. My husband is gorgeous.

    • Liz

      My favorite part of GOF book version is the Weasley’s at Privet Drive. It’s so brief but such an excellent reminder of the difference in the two worlds of Harry Potter!

      • Brittany

        That’s my favorite as well, everytime I read that part I can’t stop laughing!

    • mscisluv

      I am so glad someone else pointed out Harry & Ron’s hair in this movie. I too caught it on ABC Family this weekend, and their hair looked atrocious! Also, David Tennant is definitely “my” doctor, but I agree that he can be a bit hammy.

      • HG

        David Tennant is not my favorite Doctor (not even in my top 5) because he’s so hammy and obnoxious and annoying and rude.

  • Sara

    Yeah I hated this book and movie because they both felt so different from the earlier three and then the last three books were so great that GOF just sucks.

  • Ariel

    I watched this again recently with a Potter newbie (never read any of the books). Seeing it through his eyes, I realized that the movie actually does a rather good job of getting to the major plot points that are needed moving forward, while glossing over the details that aren’t crucial. (However, I still sorely missed Dobby, whose absence will make Hallows a bit confusing to those who only watched the movies.)

    • Karate Pants

      Being someone who has seen all of the movies at least once and hasn’t read the series, of the movies Half-Blood Prince is favorite followed by Goblet of Fire. But it’s nearly a tie.

  • Jenz

    I agree that it wasn’t as good as Azkaban, but as the beginning of your article pointed out, Goblet was a much harder book to adapt. If it’s on TV, I catch a few scenes. The most important–the arrival as Ralph Fiennes as Lord V in all his evil glory.

  • Dusty

    I’ve always really liked this one… Moody was great, I loved seeing the Tri-Wizard Tournament, & the ending is pretty heart-wrenching.

  • Carrie #2

    Oh, totally disagree EW! Goblet is my second favorite of the HP movies. It was a pretty bad adaptation, but this is one of those extremely rare times that I don’t care. I think this movie can be separated from the book quite easily and I think on its own it’s a great movie! That said, I think the last time I watched it I was too distracted by cracking up every time RPattz (franchise traitor!) came on screen to pay attention to whether I still liked the movie. But overall, I think Goblet is an ideal mix of action, romance, comedy (Ron telling Harry to “piss off?” Genius!) and drama even if it is an unfaithful adaptation.

  • Michelle

    I love GoF! It’s the first Potter film that was genuinely funny. I love it for the graveyard scene alone. Plus DAVID FREAKING TENNANT!!!

  • jodipo

    *shrug* I alwwys thought they did as well as could be expected with the massive amount of book they had to shove into a couple hour movie. What else should they have focused on exactly? And whats with ripping on the hair? thats what every boy that age had at the time.

  • Megan

    I enjoyed GoF…though I don’t remember my intial reaction after seeing it the theaters. I loved the addition of Brendon Gleeson, he’s terrific as Mad Eye Moody

    • Megan

      Also wanted to add that GoF is one of the favorite books. Out of the 7 books it’s probably 3/4 on my favorite list

  • Andrew

    This was the weakest of the films! It was too rushed! There were barely any conversations between the characters. It felt like someone was pushing a fast foreward button the entire time.

    • Liz

      I agree. There was just too much plot going on in the book to really adapt well. The graveyard scene was done well, Ralph Fiennes is the perfect Voldemort, and it was heartbreaking to watch Cedric’s dad when they portkeyed back to Hogwarts.

  • Meredith

    You just know Mrs. Weasley would never have let Ron and the twins have that long of hair. It’s not my favorite of the films, but I still enjoy it overall.

    • Flyer

      I disagree. A lot of teens (not just boys) experiment with hair length, as a form of self-expression, rebellion and/or just figuring out who they are. My nephew went from shoulder-length hair at 15-16 to a buzz cut at 17. Good parents know how to pick their battles.

      • @Flyer

        So true!

      • Katja

        But the point is, Mrs. Weasley wouldn’t have let it fly. :) I agree with that. Maybe she can’t do anything about it when they’re at school, but that woman is *in charge* when it comes to her household. And while she couldn’t do anything about Bill’s hair because he was grown and independent, she certainly nagged him about it. I see what you’re saying, Meredith!

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