Harry Potter Retrospective Part 3: Mike Newell

Our look back at the Harry Potter franchise continues with Mike Newell and The Goblet of Fire!

Because the fourth film was actually put into production prior to the release of Prisoner of Azkaban, a new director needed to step in for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Mike Newell (Four Weddings and a Funeral) was selected, and became the first British director to take on the beloved franchise (not surprising, Goblet is the only film in the franchise thus far to win a BAFTA).

Newell and scriptwriter Steve Kloves (the unsung hero of this franchise) had the audacious task of adapting the first truly long book in the series, and their stated goal was to transform the novel into a “bombastic thriller.” While there was speculation of splitting this film in two, Producer David Heyman and Newell agreed everything that didn’t directly relate to Harry and his manipulation by Voldemort in the graveyard at the end of the film should be cut.

Goblet of Fire also continues the shift of the leads from child actors into adolescent stars, and this is truly the start of ‘Harry Potter: The Teen Years.’ As Newell stated in an interview, “”The Potter kids are going to have to do stuff they haven’t done before and one of those things is really bloody act. We couldn’t rely on them being cute,” (speak for yourself, Ron is adorable!). I think it’s safe to say this approach paid off.

I enjoy all the scenes that continue to develop Hermione and Ron’s relationship, which of course culminates in the Yule Ball. That scene in particular is satisfying for all of the main cast, and really drives home the development of the characters into teens. Harry and Ron behave just like many other boys at their first big dance, and their foolishness only frustrates the more mature Hermione. The film also integrates humor well, and Newell makes the smart decision to make it character-based, and not slapstick-ish, an improvement over Cuarón’s handling of it.

The amazing casting continues of course, with the Irish actor Brendan Gleeson stepping in to the role of Alastor “Mad-Eye” Moody, one of my favorite screen adaptations of a character (I never cared much for Moody in the books, but Gleeson plays him with such cantankerous joy I can’t help but love the film version). Miranda Richardson is a fine Rita Skeeter, and well, as annoying as she needs to be. As a huge Doctor Who fan, I love going back to watch David Tennant’s appearance as Barty Crouch, Jr., full of demented malice and unchanging loyalty. And Robert Pattinson, stripped of his sparkly aura, does a fine job as Cedric Diggory.

However, the biggest addition to the cast is Ralph Fiennes’ Voldemort. Becoming the main villain for the rest of the series, this was an important role to get right, and without stepping too much into Yates’ films, I love how he has let Fiennes amp up his performance with each installment. What’s great about Voldemort is that he’s not a flamboyant villain, but understated and powerful.

GOF may actually be my favorite film in the series, as I love the broadening of the world by bringing in students from other schools. The Triwizard Tournament provided the best action sequences in the film to date (in watching this past weekend, we remarked how awesome this one would have been in 3D). Each challenge was well-adapted, and gave a nice framework for most of the film. The final scene, Harry’s first meeting with Voldemort, provides a tense climax, and definitely makes the audience feel like the whole story is progressing (especially compared with the preceding film).

This is also the first appearance of dragons in the films, and the effects team does a fantastic job bringing them to life, especially when compared to Buckbeak from POA. Sadly Goblet is the last glimpse we get of Quiddich until Half-Blood Prince. I enjoyed all of the Quidditch sequences in the franchise,and I always wish there was more. But then again, I could watch a whole series just based around Quidditch.

As I said, this is certainly in the running for my favorite film in the series, and I think Newell not only solidified the transition of the series into maturity, but vastly helped the young actors develop, paving the way for the latter half of the franchise.

Tomorrow, we wrap up our retrospective with the David Yates and the Order of the Half-Blood Hallows, Part 1!

*No dragons were harmed in the writing of this post.

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  1. Pingback: Harry Potter Week! | Filmhash

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