The fourth entry in the Harry Potter franchise is the first to get itself a PG-13 rating, reflecting the fact tht the stories themselves are getting darker, and dealing with heavier subjects. It also sees a new director behind the camera, Mike Newell, who continues the world-building of the series, embracing the visual aesthetic that Cuaron brought to the series.
Along with all the familiar returning faces, led by Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson are appearances by Robert Pattinson, David Tennant, Brendan Gleeson, Miranda Richardson and Ralph Fiennes taking on the ultimate villain of the series, Voldemort. We also get the supporting familiar, and enjoyable performances by Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, David Bradley, Michael Gambon, and Robbie Coltrane.
After a terrorist attack by the Death Eaters at the Quidditch World Cup, Harry (Radcliffe) are aware that things are getting dark, and are giong to be trying for them and the wizarding world. But the whole of Hogwarts gets distracted by the Tri-Wizard Tournament, that allows the three magical schools to enter into a competition, with a championship cup being the prize.
Despite not being of age, Harry’s name somehow gets drawn, and finds himself in over his head, once again, and relying on friends and teachers to help him. We are introduced to new magical ideas, and tokens, meet new characters, including ex-Auror Mad Eye Moody (Gleeson) who has taken over the role of Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher.
While Harry tries to figure out how to deal with the three trials of the tournament, there are other things at work, including his, Hermione’s (Watson) and Ron’s (Grint) hormones, as they all have begun to notice, and be noticed by the opposite sex.This causes some grief for the three main characters as we see how things could, should, and will play out as they grow older.
The story is darker, as Voldemort has returned, and Harry has been maneuvered into inadvertently helping. This, of course, means the story is going to end on a darker note. Things aren’t going to be the same for anyone anymore. There is a death that hits too close to home, and the growing strength of the Death Eaters, and Voldemort is going to be a threat to everyone.
Newell not only builds on J.K. Rowling’s story, adapted by Steve Kloves, he embraces the visual style of storytelling that has become part and parcel of the franchise, and our characters, and the actors, are the better for it.
We are discovering layers to the characters (and those bringing them to life), and the stories are becoming more involved, even as they are wrapped up in what feels like a standard fantasy adventure. But it’s the characters, the arcs, and the moments that elevate the story, and the film.
This is a series of films that have continued to get better as the franchise grows, building on what has gone before to deliver an even more powerful story. The visuals are fantastic, the stories are growing, and I’m still happy to go along for the ride.
Next time we dive into Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix!