Everyone has that one big cultural touchstone they missed out on. I have friends who shrugged off Pokemon, or Star Wars, or the Marvel Movies. They just never got on the train with everybody else and now they feel weird and out of the loop whenever those things come up in conversation. My pop cultural blindspot is Harry Potter. But not for any longer. To celebrate the release of the next chapter in the Harry Potter canon, I have decided to go back and watch all the Harry Potter films, none of which I have seen before. I’m hoping that by the end of this series, I’ll be magically changed into a fan of this series. And right now, that’s looking pretty likely.
This week, we hit the halfway point and shit gets real.
Ok, we’re up to two hours and thirty seven minutes this time, which is a disappointment. The series fell off the friggin’ wagon, lengthwise.
But we start the actual movie in a creepy room in a creepy house. In the creepy room, It appears that Pettigrew and David Tennant are meeting with some sort of embodiment of Voldemort himself. Yes, I know David Tennant’s character has a name, but fuck you, that’s David Tennant and I’m gonna call him David Tennant. There’s also a big snake in the room. Because of course there is. Voldemort assigns Tennant to some sort of important mission, but before we can get any more information on that matter…
Harry wakes up from the nightmare/vision he was having in a bed at Ron’s house. Ron is also there (yay, Ron) as is Hermione (yay, Hermione). The dialogue implies Harry’s been staying there for a while, so does he live there now? Because I’d be shocked if Papa Dursley allowed him to live with him anymore after Harry murdered his sister last movie.
Suddenly, Ron’s dad comes in and tells the three to come with him and the rest of the family, because they’re leaving for a thing. On the way, we meet a new face, Cedric Diggory.
He seems like a nice, likable, amiable young man, which means he’s 100% gonna die by the end of this movie. Come on, movie series don’t just introduce randos to be buddies with the main character halfway through unless they’re being set up as sympathy martyrs. And perfect, flawless Cedric Diggory is screaming his eventual fate so loud, I’m shocked the movie didn’t also explain that he’s one week away from retirement.
But enough about Captain Dead Meat, let’s get on with the plot. The group all arrive at a boot on a hill, which someone instructs them to grab. They do, and we learn that the boot is what’s called a portkey. A portkey is an object that, when grabbed, acts as a crude teleporter. This is like the twelfth method of wizard transport we’ve been introduced to so far. Was Floo Travel not feasible in this situation? Or the family flying car? Or the Knight Bus? Or the wizard train? Or…
Whatever, so our gang has arrived at the International World Cup of Quiddi– aw fuck. Fucking Quidditch? Again? Ok, whatever, fine. At least this scene taught me that there’s a dude named Cornelius Fudge, which is fucking sublime.
Also we get this holographic magic Leprechaun Mascot, which feels vaguely anti-irish?
Ordinarily, I’d let shit like this pass, but this IS the series where the banks are literally run by hook-nosed money goblins, so I dunno.
We get a marginal amount of Quidditch, but before the cup can really get underway, A bunch of Voldemort supporters attack the event and begin blowing shit up and killing people. So, like, this scene is just portraying a terrorist attack on a major sporting event, right? I’m not saying that’s an especially good or bad thing, it’s just really interesting to me. But it does raise a question:
Everyone else at this event is ALSO magic, right? Because they sure aren’t doing a whole lot of fighting back. Mostly just running and screaming. But they are all wizards. With wands. Theoretically, attacking any group of wizards with magic should be like trying to hold an NRA meeting at gunpoint, right? Also, who the fuck is running away in fear from these motherfuckers?
I’m sorry, that shit is ridiculous. Even if the pointy hats weren’t enough to make me giggle (which they definitely are) the dime-store skull masks would be. They look like if Skeletor joined the KKK. They look like traffic cones celebrating the Day of the Dead. They look like the Halloween costume a child throws together from the bits of old costumes left over from last year. Ok, ok, I think I’m done.
So in the chaos, Harry is–
They look like if you tried to build a haunted house in a teepee.
Sorry, I had one more.
In the chaos, Harry is knocked unconscious. He awakens to watch one of the magic-terrorists blast some sort of evil mark into the sky. It’s kinda creepy.
Y’know, I’ve given it a lot of thought, and I think I might be ready to convert to the dark side. I mean, yeah I gotta wear an outfit that looks like a decaying Jack-In-The-Box mascot, but come on, that logo is metal as fuck. Like, that’s a snake coming out of a skull’s mouth. Fuckin’ rad, man.
After Wizard-ISIS are gone, Harry regroups with the others, where Ron’s dad explains that they are Minions of Voldemort, called “Death Eaters.” That’s… uh… that’s fucking dumb. How do you eat death? Who would want to if you could?
How does the application process go on one of these?
“Lord Voldemort, I would like to serve you as a Loyal Minion.”
“Fuckin’ sweet. Look, step one is you gotta wear this.”
“Um, do I have to? Because, I totally want to serve you, my dark lord, but I’d rather NOT look like the grim reaper of gnomes if that’s possible?”
“Nope, outfit’s part of the whole thing. No outfit, no deal.”
“Ok, fine, I guess I can live with the outfit.”
“Excellent. Now welcome to my Death Eater army!”
“I’m sorry, what? We’re called what now?”
“…Like, one who eats dea–”
“No, no, I got it.”
“Oh good, I wasn’t sure for a minute there. Also, you have to get a tattoo of a snake mouth-fucking a skull.”
“… I feel like you’re just fucking with me at this point.”
“Look, I’ve spent the last 14 years as either a ghost or a skeleton baby, I gotta keep myself amused somehow.”
“At least we get dental.”
So back to the actual movie, Harry and pals head off to Hogwarts again, where they discover that something special is happening. This year is the Tri-Wizard Tournament, in which Hogwarts and two other wizard schools compete in a friendly little rivalry.
Cool to know there are other wizard schools, I bet after this movie we’ll never hear from them again. We also meet the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. His name is Mad-Eye Moody and his turn ons include being all creepy and shit. Oh, and we get to see the titular Goblet of Fire, which is a method of choosing participants for the tournament.
Any student over the age of 18 may put their name in the goblet and it will eventually spit out one name from each school to be entered into the competition. Harry’s too young to participate, so I guess tough shit on that front.
Next, we are off to Defense Against the Dark Arts where Moody decides to demonstrate the so called forbidden curses in class, on a living thing (a spider) just so the students can “see what they do.” This seems insane. I mean, correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure the police academy doesn’t have a class entitled “shooting kittens with high powered rifles just so you can see what happens”.
After that, it’s finally time for the goblet to pick the tri-wizard champions. So we get our two champions from the other schools, namely Russian dude and french chick. Then Cedric Diggory becomes Hogwarts’ champ so he might as well be etching his epitaph into his tombstone right about now. But the Goblet picks a fourth champion: Harry Potter. Harry definitely didn’t put his name in the Goblet and no one’s sure why it picked a fourth champion. I’m just assuming the other schools are pissed that Hogwarts has just doubled its chances of winning, but that’s not the real issue here.
No the real issue is that this is definitely part of an evil plan. Harry knows it, the teachers know it, everyone seems to know it. So, this is an easy one to solve. Just disqualify Harry. He’s too young to participate, the rules clearly forbid it, and someone is obviously manipulating the events so Harry will be involved for some dark purpose. So they’re just gonna disqualify him, right? No? They’re gonna pretend like they can’t because reasons? Okey-dokey.
After, Harry gets a message from– Sirius? Aw sweet! Fuckin’ love Sirius.
Sirius talks to him via fireplace and warns him that competing under these circumstances will be incredibly dangerous and to be extremely careful. But when Ron enters, Sirius is forced to disconnect the call. Aw, I wanted to get more Sirius. I hope he and Lupin are still together, I like those crazy kids.
Ron asks who Harry was talking to, but Harry denies talking to anyone. Ron says that he “must’ve been hearing voices” to which Harry responds “wouldn’t be the first time.” No Harry, last time YOU were the one hearing voices. And that voice turned out to belong to a giant fucking murder-snake that was sneaking around paralyzing people so maybe stop giving Ron shit, huh?
But Harry starts prepping for the first contest of the tournament. Which he’s going to lose on purpose, right? You know, because someone is clearly manipulating the tournament so that Harry will continue to participate? And if he can’t be officially disqualified for some stupid reason then taking a dive would be the smartest possible move?
Whatever. Time for the first challenge, which is to retrieve an egg from a dragon. Quick question: they originally prepped this for THREE contestants, right? So where’d they get a fourth dragon? Wouldn’t they have to scramble to re-set up all the events now to account for an extra person?
But yeah, Harry has to deal with a huge monster dragon.
He does, and somehow avoids death. Plus, fun action sequence, so that’s cool. As a reward for beating the challenge, he gets a golden egg that will supposedly help him figure out what the next challenge will be. Unfortunately, the egg just seems to make a loud shrieking sound.
Eventually, while he’s not measuring himself for his own coffin, Cedric finds the time to give Harry a hint that he needs to submerge the egg in water to hear its message. Harry does so and discovers that the next challenge will involve spending an extended amount of time underwater.
But before we get to the next challenge, please enjoy this picture of Draco Malfoy just hanging out in a tree.
So for the second challenge, the wizards dive into the water, Harry using some gilliweed to breathe. Don’t know why people are watching this event, when the whole thing takes place deep underwater where no one can see what’s going on, but whatever.
It also turns out that the organizers kidnapped one loved one or friend of each contestant and stuck them at the bottom of the bay which seems DRAMATICALLY OVER THE LINE. Like, risking the lives of the contestants, I get that, this is Hogwarts, but the lives of just random people? That shit’s cold. Harry comes in second due to a technicality.
Oh hey, David Tennant’s dad, AKA the dude who wouldn’t let the teachers disqualify Harry because “rules” is dead. Sweet, time to DQ Harry now right? To avoid playing into the hands of a buncha evil people? Nope? *Sigh* Ok.
ON TO THE FINAL CHALLENGE!
Which is a hedge maze. Seems… seems like a downgrade from the last two. I guess hedges are pretty spooky though.
So Harry darts blindly into the hedge maze like a dumb fuckin’ dipshit, and gets buffered about by the hedges which… attack him? I guess? I’ll be honest, I was confused by this bit.
(By the way, if you’re ever actually in a hedge maze or a corn maze or a labyrinth, a good strategy is to pick a wall and continuously follow it. It might take a while, but it will prevent you from randomly backtracking and you’ll eventually reach the exit.)
Harry finds the other contestants, and winds up saving Cedric (only delaying the inevitable there, pal). They both reach the Tri-Wizard Cup at the same time, and Harry insists they grab it together, so they can both win. They do this, but… The cup is a portkey.
DUM DUM DUUUUUUUUUUUM!
So they both wind up in a super evil looking graveyard.
Peter Pettigrew shows up and straight up murders Cedric (shocker) before trapping Harry. Turns out the whole tournament was rigged for evil purposes. Who could have seen that coming except for LITERALLY EVERYONE, INCLUDING ALL THE CHARACTERS IN THIS MOVIE.
Also, can we take just a second to break down Voldemort’s insane plan? Because it is shockingly convoluted.
First, he needs to send someone to infiltrate Hogwarts, which, yeah, doesn’t seem too hard. Next, instead of just kidnapping Harry from there, he needs to magically rig the Goblet of Fire to chose Harry’s name and then hope against hope that he isn’t instantly disqualified. Then he is counting on Harry winning or at least completing all the challenges ALIVE. This includes, by the way, surviving an incredibly dangerous fire-breathing dragon. Harry then needs to come in first in the hedge maze. Not just finish, but finish first. What was Voldemort gonna do if he’d gone through all this, only for the motherfucking Russian Guy to just show up in the middle of the graveyard clutching the cup?
But never mind that because the plan worked. Pettigrew slices Potter’s arm, and drips the blood into a cauldron. He also cuts off his own hand into the cauldron in one clean slice which I’m gonna call bullshit on. Finally he dumps weird skeleton baby Voldemort in. And then the reaction starts. And…
I’m not making fun of this, this scene is legitimately great. It’s all the payoff you’d want from four movies of buildup. Plus, I am super down for the weird Nosferatu influences in Voldemort’s design. Dude’s creepy as shit.
Also, best big bad we’ve had so far in this series. I mean, to be fair the last movies’ villains were, in order, a stuttery professor, a ‘break glass in case of emergency’ panel, and misunderstandings, so not the highest of bars, but still.
Ralph Finnes is hamming it up as a villain, but he’s doing so exactly as much as he needs to be. Voldemort mocks Harry a bunch before summoning his Death Eaters who… still look ridiculous. But importantly, among the Death Eaters is Lucius Malfoy. Voldey gives him shit for not helping Voldemort resurrect himself, to which Lucius replies that he looked for “any sign” of Voldemort’s return and “didn’t see any.”
Lucius, there were a lot of signs. Like, A LOT a lot. Every school year of your son’s education ends with a minion of the Dark Lord trying to murder that Potter kid, maybe pay a little more attention to your surroundings.
Anyway, Voldey gives Harry his wand and initiates a magic duel, intending to kill him one on one.
The fight goes about how you’d expect, with Harry struggling to keep alive. Fortunately, we have some ADR’d dialogue to explain why all the Death Eaters are standing around with their thumbs up their asses not helping murder the fourteen year old their boss is fighting. In the middle of the duel, a bunch of ghosts burst out of Voldemort’s wand to help buy Harry some time to escape. He does, and manages to get back to Cedric’s body and the Portkey.
He teleports back into the tri-wizard arena to thunderous applause. Until, that is, people notice he’s crying over a dead dude’s body. At that point, everyone is shocked and horrified.
I’m sorry, what? Are they actually SURPRISED someone died? Fucking really? What was the first challenge again?
But who would’ve thought someone could die during this, what a tragedy.
As people are aghast over Diggory’s demise, Mad-Eye Moody drags Harry off to his classroom to ask him about what he saw. Harry tells him and Moody starts flipping his shit. Dumbledore and Snape burst in and pin Moody down. He tries to escape but, having run out of polyjuice potion, he reverts back to his true self. That being… David Tennant! You know Tennant, I know that you didn’t expect Potter to return, but you coulda brought enough disguise potion to last longer than the minimum amount of time necessary. Like, if the tri-wizard tournament had a rain delay, you’d a been fucked.
It turns out that the real Moody had been trapped in trunk this whole time. Which is… how long exactly? Weeks? Months? Has Tennant been feeding him?
After that, we get the funeral for Cedric Diggory. Man, it’s so terrible that a kid died and Voldemort came back to power. It’s too bad they don’t have some sort of time travel device to go back and prevent all this. You know, some sort of device for TURNING back TIME. Cough, Hermione, cough.
But we’re at the end of the school year and the other two wizard school students pack up and lea– Wait, how long was this?
Like, not how long was the movie, how long was this entire series of events? Did the tri-wizard tournament take a whole year? Did these other students study at Hogwarts for that year, or did they miss a year of school to spectate the twelfth annual magic-murder-olympics?
Well, goodbye other magic schools, I’m assuming we’ll never hear from you again.
Really strong entry to the series. Plus it feels like the main plot has finally picked up after two movies of keeping the plates spinning. This one had a series of great setpieces and the best climax so far, even if it did follow the unfortunate trend of tossing Ron and Hermione to the curb. We also get some good character stuff, hinting at Ron and Hermione’s eventual relationship. Buuuuuuuuut, if I’m weighing in, I think I liked part 3 more.
Just a bit, but still. And a lot of that comes from character stuff. First of all, this film totally abandons the background plot of Harry’s potential turn to evil. Yes, I knew he was never going to, but they’d been seeding it for a while and to drop it with no resolution is disappointing. Also, the conflict between Harry and Ron felt incredibly forced and unnecessary.
Still a strong movie and for sure my second favorite so far, but not enough to unseat the recent champion.
Next week– well, next week I’m moving so I’ll be taking the week off, but in two weeks, we’ll come back with the start of the second half of the series. Let’s see how it goes!