Thursday, April 06, 2006

DVD Review: Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire

(image curtesy of

With the success of the Harry Potter books, it is not a stretch that the movie version of these popular books will keep on coming every other year like clockwork. The lastest entry of the boy-wizard franchise, “Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire”, played in our local cinemas on 17 Nov 2005 to a fairly successful box-office collection due to the legion of fans of both the previous films and the book series. The fourth installment of the currently 6 book series, “Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire” sweeps the stage clear for the entry of a much darker sensibilities in the tone of the stories. The change in the tonal feel of the series fairly reflect the aging core group of readers who first discovered the adventures of this boy-wizard and his cohorts in Hogwarts School of Wizardry.

Much has been written about this movie (I didn’t write a review of the movie when I watched it last year but other reviews are available here) and many have came out to say that this is the best movie of the franchise to date. While I agree that the fourth movie was much darker than the previous 3 movies, I kept having the distinct impression that this particular cut of the movie seemed a bit rushed and erratically paced. The action scenes with each TriWizards trials moves the movie along with little help from the action happening in between which could easily be boiled down to how Harry prepares for the next challenge. To be fair to the filmmakers, they did have to condense a veritable tome length of 700 pages of the original material into the 158 minutes runtime of the feature film so there were quite a few finer points of the plot that had to be cut out.

Like the other Harry Potter movies, a special 2-disk DVD presentation of the movie was released to the market on 7th March, 2006. The DVD set comes in a 2-disk DVD set that was shipped in a cardboard sleeve similar to the one they used in the last DVD set. I have to say that I found the cardboard sleeve a bit redundant as it had the same info from the DVD case printed on it. I could easily throw these cardboard sleeves away and not miss anything important from the packaging so to me it felt a little wasteful of them to continue to ship with this packaging format. I have to say that I missed the packaging that they had for the DVD sets for the first and second Harry Potter films which were much more imaginative than the ones they had now.

Disk 1 of the DVD set contained the feature presentation accessible after the short signature menu screen that highlights the titular goblet in this outing. The picture and audio quality of this DVD set seemed considerably better looking than the somewhat grainy feel of the last DVD set. The light scenes look crisp and the darker scenes, while were more problematic than the brighter lighted scenes, was much better than my cinema experience which had me guessing what was happening on the screen. Like the previous DVD sets of this franchise, there was no audio commentary track available for this movie. With quite a few plot points dropped from the original material, it would have been interesting to hear how the process of choosing what stayed and what got cut happened. It could also be interesting to listen to the now very articulate main casts discuss about their experiences making the movie after making 4 of them.

Disk 2 was where the bulk of the special features of this DVD set were. The features were divided into four grouping represented by the three TriWizards trial and the Hogwarts Castle icon on the map-like navigation menu. Each TriWizards trial grouping started with optional mini games playable using the DVD remote. While these mini games were fairly simple to get through, there wasn’t any reason to recommend going through them as there were no rewards for successfully completing the mini games. It would have been better if they at least put in some DVD easter eggs that would be revealed after successfully completing the mini games.

The “Hogwarts Castle” icon brings the viewer to a collection of short featurettes that detailed the production of the movie and scenes in between the three action set pieces. The deleted scenes segment was located here under the “Additional Scenes” heading. Most of the deleted scenes were taken out because they interrupted the pacing of the film which I whole agreed. The full rock band performance scene which I am thankful that it was mercifully cut short in the film was also included here. The "Preparing for the Yule Ball" segment was interesting to watch in terms to how they planned and executed the scene. For the final segment of this grouping, "Reflections on the Fourth Film", viewers get to watch the three main actors of the Harry Potter series talk at length about their experiences with the film. While there were some repetition in some of the responses to the questions, it was an engaging session to watch and listen to these fairly articulate young actors.

"Harry vs. The Horntail: The First Task" featurettes traced the design and implementation of the CG dragon for Harry’s first trial. They also show that Daniel Radcliffe who plays Harry Potter did more of the stunts himself in this film outing as the film production favored more practical effects instead of the CGI replacements from previous films. Also available in this section is the “Meet the Champions” segment which charmingly introduces the other three competitors in the TriWizards tournament. This segment followed Stanislav Ianevski (Viktor Krum), Clemence Poesy (Fleur Delacour) and Robert Pattinson (Cedric Diggory) as they went through a typical day of shooting from start to finish. It was fun to watch these new comers to the franchise as well as the to see a bit of the behind the scene happenings on set.

The focus of the second featurettes, "In Too Deep: The Second Task", was Daniel Radcliffe preparation for underwater work done for the second trial. Instead of doing the scenes fully with CGI effects, they built a huge indoor blue screen water tank for the extensive underwater scenes that Daniel had to do. He also had to learn how to use scuba equipment as well as how to perform underwater without the breathing apparatus to complete the illusion that Harry Potter had grown gills for the lake challenge. It was a fairly revealing segment to watch for the lengths that the production was willing to go to create the special effects practically instead of relying on CGI special effects fully.

"The Maze: The Third Task" featurettes focused on how both practical and CGI components were combined to make the magical maze that Harry Potter had to traverse in the last trial seem more daunting and massive. This was a fairly entertaining segment to watch for the technical details of the magic that happens behind the special effects we see on screen. The final segment of the featurettes was “He Who Must Not Be Named" which also is my favorite segment of the whole 2nd disk of this DVD set. This segment highlighted preparation that went into bringing Lord Voldemort to screen. Easily considered as the Darth Vader of the Harry Potter set, they had to really work to make sure that Lord Voldemort’s first screen appearance would do the character justice given the importance of this character in the series. Played by an almost unrecognizable Ralph Fiennes, Lord Voldemort came through with flying colors in that what was shown on screen was as close to the way the character was described in the books. With so little focus given to the older characters in the special features in this DVD set, it was a refreshing segment to watch.

The 2nd DVD disk had additionally features that could be access using a computer DVD ROM drive but I did not get the chance to test them out. With the trailers for upcoming CGI animated films “Ant Bully” and “Happy Feet” rounding up the DVD set, the “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” DVD set is fairly easy to recommend as an addition to any DVD library irregardless if you like the books or not.

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