diamond geezer

 Sunday, November 20, 2005

Screen 4: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (12A)

What do you mean, you've not seen it yet? There again, the book's been out for five years and I'd never bothered to read that. Wouldn't want to spoil the suspense of seeing the film version for the first time, would I?

It's action action (nearly) all the way in the new Harry Potter film, which has a rather darker tone than the previous episodes in the canon. Director Mike Newell clearly faced quite a challenge to condense 636 Pottery pages into 157 minutes of celluloid, and the screenplay therefore rattles along with barely a wasted scene. No comedy kickoff at the Dursleys, no dashing around in the magical backstreets of London, very little boarding school japery and, most surprisingly of all, not a single Quidditch match played.

The main plot of the film concerns the highly improbable 'Triwizard Tournament' - much like a normal school exchange visit except that these foreign stereotypes (giggly French schoolgirls and close-cropped Bulgarian meatheads) come to stay for a year rather than a fortnight. But Hogwarts seems rather a long way to travel merely for three brief challenges spaced out at three month intervals, particularly given that only one champion per school takes part in the events. The first dragon-baiting task is the most spectacular, complete with aerial broomstick battle, while the ensuing underwater treasure hunt is a bit wet and the final 'killer hedge maze' rather a letdown.

JK Rowling nods at events in our muggle world with the inclusion of a terrorist attack at an international sporting extravaganza and also the appearance of a particularly slimy journalist, played with aplomb by Miranda Richardson. In fact you can spend much of the film spotting famous British actors, like Barry from Auf Wiedersehen Pet, Miss Jones from Rising Damp, Owen from the Vicar of Dibley and even Hattie Jacques' sitcom brother. And heavens if that isn't the brand new Doctor Who lurking in the shadows (oh, and if you didn't see the Time Lord's post-regeneration mini-drama on Children In Need on Friday, do watch it here because you missed a treat).

But the most enjoyable part of the film, unexpectedly, was the romantic interlude. Adolescent stirrings bubble to the surface for the first time when everyone has to choose a dancing partner for the Yule Ball. The event may be an emotional disaster, but the endearingly gauche reactions of the three main characters had our audience entranced. All in all a highly enjoyable cinematic experience, in which Harry comes of age and the film franchise reaches its halfway point. Expect the next episode in 2007, by which time (who knows) JK Rowling may just have got around to revealing how the whole thing ends.

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