Mambaonline’s film reviewers go head-to-head in two remarkably opposing reviews of the latest Harry Potter film. Which will you agree with?

Review 1

When I think about the latest film installment of the Harry Potter series I tend to think about The Hardy Boys. You know, those two brothers (Frank and Joe) who go around and solve mysteries/murders, get involved with drug cartels, that sort of thing? I hate those guys.

I’ve probably only ever read two of their novels but two was more than enough to convince me to never read them again. The problem? Of the two that I read, and this was years ago, the structure of the second book was exactly the same as the previous one and the Hardys (ol’ Frank and Joe) didn’t actually solve anything.

It may sound crazy but the Hardys, far from being great detectives, were actually just punctual and on time. The structure would have them on a series of adventures, hardships, tests and trials and right at the end they would find themselves captured by the villain. He would then proceed to tell them his whole diabolical scheme; the Hardys would escape and then take credit for the villain’s stupidity.

I don’t hate Harry Potter but, with the Goblet of Fire, the film versions of the best selling books have taken on somewhat of a Hardy Boys approach to structure, and the series has begun to grow old in my eyes.

In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter finds himself entered – without his knowledge – into an inter-school wizardry competition, the Triwizard Tournament. Underage and under prepared for the challenge that lies ahead Harry, as usual, turns to his pals for assistance. Unfortunately, the trials of puberty reveal that the once three-strong group of Harry, Hermione and Ron may not be as tight as they once were. And, with Lord Voldemort gaining more power as each moment passes… difficult times lie ahead for Mr. Potter.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire gives us the same execution of that setup as its predecessor (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban). And, now that I think about it, the same could be said for installments one and two as well. The plots all have an extremely similar structure. At the start of each film, Harry has a run in with Voldemort (in some form), life returns to some form of normalcy at Hogwarts and right at the end Voldemort returns (in some form), only to be defeated by Harry – who normally has no idea what he’s doing.

Formula is the main problem with this Potter film. Instead of getting into the meat of things (a.k.a. Voldermort) you have to sit through an assortment of teen problems from the three main leads. These are interesting to watch and are by no means terrible but in the greater scheme of things they don’t really serve any major purpose. We know the characters and any development they needed to go through could have been done in half the time. Screenwriter Steven Kloves needs to shake things up a bit more.

Another issue I have is with Harry himself. Let’s face it; he’s a pretty rubbish wizard. You’d think that after being at wizarding school for four years he would at least have some grasp on his field of study. I realise he isn’t meant to be doing magic outside of class but you’d think that after three intense run-ins with Lord Voldermort he would throw himself into some training of sorts. Perhaps prepare himself a bit more. But, sadly this isn’t the case. As Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire progressed I became more and more despondent and dissapointed with his performance (as a wizard – not Radcliffe’s). It sounds silly, but he really just wings it most of the time. That’s fine for the first three movies but by the fourth installment I want to see some direction, some grasp of his destiny.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is a lot more entertaining than any of the adventures I read involving the Hardy boys but the series and its creators should be aware that they are slipping into a predictable formula. It is extremely apparent in this film and I hope that it doesn’t show itself again in the next.

The magic definitely has begun to wear off for this reviewer.

Christo Oberholzer

Review 2

Let’s get right to the point. I’m pleased to report that Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the fourth instalment of the filmed adaptation of the popular book series is the best yet committed to celluloid. While many franchises tend to diminish in quality as each sequel is produced, the Harry Potter films have achieved the remarkable feat of improving with every outing.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire takes many liberties with its source material, cutting great swathes of the plot and eliminating entire subplots. That it does so with little loss of the story’s integrity and energy is impressive. Unlike the previous films, and the J.K. Rowling books, Goblet of Fire jumps right into the action; we’re re-introduced to Harry, not at his suburban ‘muggle’ home as usual, but rather as he attends the Quidditch World Cup.

Many fans will be annoyed that this sequence is given short shrift – the scenes serving to economically fulfil their role in the larger storyline. Admittedly, the film does suffer from the fragmented and rapid-fire opening, but once it gets going, it moves along smoothly and effectively.

The rest of the Goblet of Fire is set at Hogwarts, as Harry and his mates start their new year of magical schooling, the highlight of which is the famed inter-school Triwizards tournament. Although not old enough to take part, Harry is mysteriously and irrevocably picked to be one of the competing wizards, setting off a chain of events in which he little control. Of course, as any reader of the books knows, and most would expect, it all concludes with the young man again confronting his evil nemesis Lord Valdemort.

The film’s realisation of the challenges facing the young wizards is well executed, exciting and often inventive. Whether it’s Harry’s battle with formidable fire-breathing dragons or his diving into a lake filled with bizarre mer-people, the special effects and action sequences keep the audience thrilled. But what makes this episode stand out from the others is not these frenetic sequences but rather the appeal of the character’s personal dilemmas and quiet dramas.

Take Harry’s confusion with the etiquette of asking a girl to the ball, his rejection by many of his schoolmates, or Hermione’s frustration at Ron’s inability to notice her as an attractive young woman. These all create dynamics and tensions between the trio, largely missing from the plot-driven and simplistic previous chapters. It’s moving (and the result of great storytelling) for us to realise that the three characters whose adventures we have followed across four movies are maturing into more complex people.

It’s here that the three lead actors come into their own. All are solid and commendable, but Emma Watson impresses again with her layered rendering of Hermione. There’s less of the teachers, but they’re all given moments to make their mark, and Brendan Gleeson’s ‘Mad­Eye’ Moody, with his spastic artificial eye, is fun to watch. Even Alan Rickman as Severus Snape, who has little actual screen time, still makes an impact on the audience with a few choice moments.

There’s been much hype about the darkness of this film and its suitability or lack thereof for a younger audience, and it’s not unfounded. Goblet of Fire is at times very intense – not so much because it offers

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