I haven't read the books.
Well, that's not exactly true. I have read the end of the last two books; the question, "Who dies?" usually needs an immediate answer .
I haven't read the books mainly because I don't want them to ruin perfectly fantastic movies for me!
I might as well give fair warning that the rest of this review contains "spoilers," but if you read this blog and haven't seen the movie by now and don't want to have it spoiled, well, I'm over you.
I won't recap what takes place --you, dear reader, should already know what happens-- I'll just mentioned the things I liked best in as chronologically of an order as I can.
The caretaker preparing his evening tea seemed like such an ordinary way to start the story, a sharp contrast to how the other films began. It was refreshing.
Who here thought George (or was it Fred?) called the old boot a Porky? I did, and it wasn't until late into my second viewing that I realized he was saying Port Key. I understood Cedric when he said that the Tri-Wizard trophy was a Port Key during my first viewing, but I didn't make the connection between that and the boot. This was the first time I've ever really had a problem with the accents in the HP films. Closed-captioning can work wonders when watching movies like Shaun of the Dead or Layer Cake (or most any other British film for that matter). Another accent problem that threw me for a loop was Cho's Scottish (?) accent. What's a Cambodian girl doing with a Scottish accent? This whole "British-Melting-Pot" thing is getting out of hand!
Beyond the "Porky-problem" I thought the shot of Ginny running up to the boot in silhouette came across really nice. "The curiousity of youth is boundless," was probably what director Mike Newell was saying with that shot.
The Weasley tent at The Quidditch World Cup: cool. The Quidditch World Cup arena: also cool. Rogert Ebert said it made the Senate chamber in Star Wars look like a conference room, and I have to agree with him there. From what I understand, the Weasley's seats weren't in the nose-bleed section in the book, but the fact that the Malvoy's and Weasley's seats were in completely different areas emphasizes class differences, and made a whole lot of sense. Don't hold this against me, but I thought Draco looked rather sharp in that suit he was wearing. Couldn't they come up with a better line for Lucius than the "If it rains..." bit?
Moving on, the Beauxbaton and Durnstrang entrances (carriage, ship, butterflies, tumblers et al) were impressive. It wasn't until my second viewing when I noticed that Fleur's sister was the young tumbler who cartwheeled in behind the other girls. What can I say about the Durnstrang lads? Never trust a man from a former Soviet satellite? Did you notice that evil-Moody didn't confirm nor deny that he put Harry's name in the Goblet of Fire?
Dumbledore losing his cool with Harry after the goblet spat out his name! Wow! That was something I didn't expect. Would the scene have been written that way if the first Dumbledore, Richard Harris, was still alive? Give Michael Gambon some credit, though. He pulls out subtle elements of authority, fear, and tenderness in his performance that make the movie all the better for it. The movie's adult cast are, as always, excellent. Gary Oldman's face in the fireplace embers was a fantastic effect! I don't know who I should feel sorry for, Rupert for having to participate in the dance training scene, or Maggie Smith for having to teach him how to dance. I love Alan Rickman as Snape. There is a certain humor that comes with his slimmy-edged characterization (his treatment of Ron and Harry while they were talking in class was hysterical). Dumbledore's reassuring words about Snape during Karkaroff's arraignment, plainly-spoken as they were, gave me shivers because, yes, I know what happens at the end of the latest book.
I loved Harry's reply to Ron that he rather face a dragon than go to the Yule Ball. The whole scene wasn't quite as painful to watch as I thought it would be. Although throwing in a wizard-rock band wasn't exactly easy to listen to. They were playing the last dance song in my theater before the movie, and that, straight out, was painful! I thought Hermione's dress was very nice, but the lady behind me at my second viewing called it "really ghastly" or something like that. I'll admit, it did look a little like a bad bridesmaid dress, didn't it? And where was the sharped-dressed Draco Malfoy in all of that? He was probably there in the book, but I didn't see him in the movie. Poor Harry, getting yelled at by Hermione and not having a clue as to why.
Dragon-slaying: cool ("What are you doing here, Miss Granger?"). Underwater adventures: cool, again ("I've killed Harry Potter!"). Maze-madness: also cool ("For a moment there I thought you were going to let it get me." "For a moment there, so did I.").
There have been many moments in these movies, and the books, where Harry is pretty much a bystander to the action. Voldemort's resurrection is one such scene. Sure his blood is "forcibly taken," but for a short time, Harry has nothing to do with the scene as Voldemort chastizes the Death Eaters. I have to say that Ralph Fiennes performance is frightening in several different ways. The duel itself was very cool. I loved how when the magical beams collided, they dripped power like molten-steel. Great visual.
When Harry brings back Cedric's body, Mike Newell's experience as a director of movies based on emotional relationships stands out. Harry crying over Cedric's body may be interpreted that he's crying over Cedric's death, but it can also be seen as him crying over the fact that, for one brief moment, he was with his parents again. Remember his excitement in the last movie when he believed his father saved him, only to learn that it wasn't his father, but himself? Amos Diggory, who couldn't be more prouder of his son at the start and briefly at the end of the maze adventure, showed heart-wrenching emotion you only see when a father loses his son. Magic has nothing to do with love of a child. This film was as much of a father/son story as it was a magical-fantasy.
In the end, I give Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the best movie of the series so far, a grade of A.