Warner Bros. // 2005 // 157 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Chief Justice Michael Stailey // November 21st, 2010
Dark and difficult times lie ahead.
Screenwriter Steve Kloves (who crafted all of the cinematic adaptations save for Order of the Phoenix) and director Mike Newell decided early on to strip JK Rowling's massive fourth year adventure down to its primal Harry elements and craft a taught English thriller. Yes, a number of characters, subplots, and truly classic moments from the novel were abandoned, but the heavy handed restructuring pays off. Whereas Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was a quiet, emotionally tense coming-of-age tale that built to a fever pitch, Goblet of Fire strips away that subtlety and goes right for the jugular.
From the rampaging Death Eaters at the Quidditch World Cup, to the rebirth of Lord Voldemort in human form, there's little time for our heroes to breathe. And that's what makes it the strongest self-contained chapter in the franchise. First frame to last, everything that happens during Year Four is tied to the Tri-Wizard Tournament, and even though much of the rich exposition has been boiled away, the structure remains sound. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) is unwittingly thrust into the role of hero, alienating the support of his friends and amplifying the determination of his enemies. He's been setup and must play the game through to the end. There is no easy out and no one to protect him. That'll force any kid to grow up in a big hurry.
Judge Jennifer Malkowski does a magnificent job analyzing the film in her review of the original DVD release, and I won't burden you much further reflection. However, I will point out magnificent performances turned in by Brendan Gleeson as Mad-Eye Moody (still my favorite character in JK's universe), Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort, and Michael Gambon as Dumbledore. And let's not overlook Daniel Radcliffe giving everything he has (and then some) with this film. His acting may never earn an Oscar, but his commitment to the character is award worthy.
Again, the real reason you're reading this review is to discover whether or not the Ultimate Edition is worth your money. As I said with respect to Prisoner of Azkaban, if you're upgrading your Potter films to Blu-ray, go for it. Otherwise, hold onto your original DVD. There just isn't enough here to support the investment. You'll find the same 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer and Dolby 5.1 Surround tracks (making little use of the ambience, save for the dragon challenge), and the original DVD features (minus the video game demo and DVD-ROM timeline) -- Deleted Scenes, Featurettes, Interviews, Trailers, and Interactive Games. The only new material is part four in the franchise-spanning documentary, focusing of the series Sound and Music, five broadcast television specials created to promote the film's theatrical release, a 44-page booklet, trading cards, and a lenticular cover (which the original two-disc DVD edition also had).
My mission is not to harp on Warner Home Video for their marketing strategies. They are doing their best to get fans (both new and old) excited about the final two films, and all the more power to them. My concern is that you, as a consumer, are being sold something you don't need. The new multi-chapter documentary (what I've seen of it so far) is fantastic and definitely worth your time and attention. But breaking it up into pieces and tossing in EPK-driven TV infomercials (which is really what they are) does not make this release "ultimate" in any way. Use that money to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in IMAX.
Guilty! The studio's Imperio curse is wasted on the wise consumer.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 2.40:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 157 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Deleted Scenes
* TV Specials
* Interactive Games
* Trading Cards
* Lenticular Cover
* Official Site