Well, I just finished reading it (been reading since 0200 this morning, stopping only briefly for lunch and about an hour of sleep) and it was pretty good.

Spoilers:

Harry Potter returns to Hogwarts and finds that rather than a Quidditch tournament there will be a Triwizard Tournament instead. Nobody under 17 is allowed to enter but somebody enters his name and he gets chosen along with Cedric Diggory of Hufflepuff and two students from other wizard school.

Of course, Harry has more then just winning the tournament to think about. Why did somebody enter his name? Probably so he'd die (it's a very dangerous tournament). Plus he had a dream about Lord Voldemort plotting to kill him.

And on top of that, there's a reporter working for The Daily Prophet whom has been somehow learning all sorts of dirt about Harry and his friends and writing stories based on that which are primarily conjuncture and pure fabrication.

(Maybe I should write this next part small so people who haven't read the book don't have the entire thing ruined by me. If you haven't read the book, you shouldn't read the following paragraph)

In the end Lord Voldemort does return and tries to kill Harry but fails. However, he is not destroyed and with Cornelius Fudge refusing to believe that Lord Voldemort had returned it may be hard to prepare sufficiently. We'll have to wait for Book Five now.

As for the title change from Harry Potter and the Doomspell Tournament, I suspect that it was changed because of the anti-Harry Potter idiots. Naming the book "Doomspell" when it's already under fire for being "violent" and "occult" would be bad publicity. Clearly the Triwizard Tournament was orginially called a Doomspell Tournament. (The Goblet of Fire is what decides who's in the tournament, similar to the Sorting Hat.)

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

See: The Harry Potter Project

A Personal Opinion:
Book 4 didn't quite meet up to its overworked name in the news. My GOD, from half of what I read, I was expecting it to be holier than the freakin' Bible. So when a package arrived from Barnes & Noble on the 8th of July containing the 700-page book, this was not what I was expecting.

First chapter, great way to throw you off. No familiarity with old characters, just new ones. I wasn't even sure if I was reading Harry Potter. What was this? No Hogwarts, no Dursley household, no Ron or Hermione, and above all, no Harry Potter. So I read on. Eventually we get around to finding out what's really going on. It's one of Harry's almighty dreams. Well, because I was so caught up in figuring out what the hell was going on, I missed almost all the context of the first chapter itself and had to go back and read it again. I never read it like it was meant to be read so the book was ruined for me.

Too much change. I know J.K. Rowling was under a lot of pressure, but what drugs was she taking to keep her awake at night to write this? I could have waited 2 more years if it meant she would have made a better prototype.

As someone who could frankly care less about Quidditch, I was so hung up on all of reference to it, even if there had been comments in the news like "Quidditch fans will be highly dissapointed to find that there isn't much to do with the sport at all in this novel." My ass, there wasn't. The world cup, the entire tournament (book-long) making obscure references to it, long paragraphs about how much Harry missed it, and so on.

And more crap about the Ministry of Magic. I know it was all supposed to go with the plot, but I don't care how much Percy loved his boss!

Mad-eye Moody didn't serve as much of a teacher influence either like Professor Lupin did (I miss him greatly) and Severus Snape's personality didn't appear as venomous this time around.

But anyway, I was reading an interview with Rowling, and she was saying things about her experience with writing the end of the book, how she would get so scared that she would have to walk away. If I had known she meant scary like R.L. Stine's Goosebumps, I would have just dropped the book from the beginning. This brand of fear wasn't anything new. So what if someone died? It wasn't anyone we really cared about. His death wasn't even described much, just one paragraph long.

If Book 3 (Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban) had been 700 pages long, then that would have been readable This, however, didn't cut it.

Mild spoilers below

Goblet of Fire is the middle book of the seven-book series about the boy-wizard, Harry Potter. It is long. Much longer than any of the previous three, partly because it is a more complex story on many levels. But also because, as the author admits, she had a touch of writer's block and lost her way a bit while writing it, and then was hounded by an artificial deadline. On the complexity thing, JKR is developing the story lines, vocabulary and plot details in line with the developing capabilities of her protagonist. Previous books (1, 2, 3) were simple stories with only a few simultaneous plot lines, almost all of which were wrapped up at the end of each book. With GoF, we see more long-term plot lines opening up, few of which reach a conclusion with the end of the book.

In particular, the climax of the book resolves nothing, raising far more questions than it answers. So with GoF, JKR appears to be starting in earnest upon the main story line of the seven-book series. Up to now, the books have been mostly scene-setting, with short, simple stories building the scenery upon which the real action now starts to unfold.

As a book, I do not especially like GoF. It drags too much. Certainly there are things I like about it. I love (and hate) Rita Skeeter and her quick quotes quill. I like the way JKR uses the pensieve to show us some scenes from the past, and fill in some of the background and history of Voldemort's previous reign of terror. The ending is terrific, a real page-turner. Even now, years after it was first published, I find it hard to put the book down when re-reading those final chapters. But I tend to find myself dipping into this book, avoiding the slow bits and selecting the best scenes, much more than with any of the other HP books.

In keeping with the increased complexity, GoF is much less about Hogwarts and the year as a chronological progression of quidditch matches, lessons and night-time adventures and much more about relationships, moral choices and self-discipline. Rowling starts to give the lead characters a bit more character in this book, and finally tackles boy-girl relationships directly. Previous books have only hinted at it, but in GoF we can see them bubbling just below the surface throughout, and occasionally breaking through into the main story line. I think the introduction of the other wizarding schools with their completely different cultures is wonderful. Beauxbatons appears to be a feminine culture, whereas Durmstrang is clearly more masculine.

Girls and boys

The girl/boy thing is not just allegorical between the two other schools. JKR introduces it specifically with the chapters on the yule ball. This sequence makes it plain that the relationships between the various students will play a steadily increasing role in future books. And not only the students—look at Hagrid and Olympe Maxime. At fourteen, however, Harry and Ron are completely unaware of any sexual motivations. But Hermione is not. JKR knows that girls mature earlier than boys.

And with Hermione's growing self-awareness, we start to see that Ron is jealous of Hermione's partner. He is barely aware of the feelings gradually forming and growing in his heart, but from the outside, we can see that Ron is jealous of her partner, and Hermione quite enjoys seeing his jealousy.

Surprisingly, perhaps, Ron becomes the main focus for emotional development. JKR plays a little game with us, first giving us the clear and unambiguous plot line that Ron is jealous of Harry and his fame, but all the while building the emotional tension between Ron and Hermione.

Harry himself remains more enigmatic. We see that he remains shy around girls, witness his attempts to win a partner for the Yule ball, and his stumbling shyness whenever he sees the beautiful Cho Chang, yet he is much more confident around Hermione, probably because he does not think of her as any kind of love interest. "Hermione, you're a girl, aren't you?"

Harry, it seems, has a pre-adolescent view of love. He has little sense of sexual love... up to now. Instead, he expresses his love for his friends through deep and loyal bonds of friendship. Once more, I think JKR is exploring different kinds of love. The love Harry has for his parents; for his godfather, and for his friends is so deep, yet not what we immediately think of when we discuss the love a teenager feels. In later books we see how this deep, Platonic love triggers Harry's ability to fight off dark forces, and ultimately, I suspect we will see how Harry's powerful Platonic love, magnified by sexual love will be the undoing of Voldemort.

Moral choices

Apart from the undercurrents of sexual tension, this book seems to be laying the ground rules for moral choices that Harry and the gang will face in future books. JKR manages to portray a world in which a group of violent, amoral terrorists gained a strong foothold, and used that foothold to impose their white supremacist views on more 'civilized' members of society.

She appears to be asking how we should behave in a world where criminals, and notably some violent terrorists, are at liberty and show no restraint. We see people who are accused of murder, torture and forcing others to do immoral acts against their will. We then see how the Wizarding authorities deal with those people. The authorities impose a kind of shoot-first-ask-questions-later Police State, using techniques—including murder without trial—barely less cruel than the terrorists they seek to capture and punish. JKR shows us this through Harry's eyes, and she forces us to wonder if the authorities are any better, morally speaking, than the terrorists.

In the real world, politicians will sometimes use the phrase, "there are no magic wands to wave over this problem…" JKR appears to be showing us that even with magic wands, the moral issues do not go away. And besides, where magic wands exist the bad guys also have them, and are prepared to use them to do even more damage.

There are lessons here for children—and adults—growing up in the modern world. JKR does not shy away from these complex and difficult moral issues, but works out the arguments for and against, and tries to show her young readers that there are moral imperatives beyond the short-term need to capture and punish suspected criminals. She tries to show us that the attitudes we take with us when dealing with criminals and their crimes are more important than the tools at our disposal.

Luckily for the good guys, fortune smiled on the wizarding world, and Voldemort disappeared after attacking the Potter family. His supporters quickly stopped their anti-social activities, 'normal' society emerged once more, and all the difficult moral choices disappeared. However, Dumbledore and others are aware that if the Death Eaters found a rallying point, they would be back soon enough. Once more, this mirrors the real world, where casual violence is never far from the surface of a large section of the population.

It looks like she is setting us up for a different way to beat the evil of terrorism, but that remains to be seen in future books.

Speaking of moral choices. I have noticed that there are many references to low-level corruption in this and subsequent books. People doing each other favours; ministry officials obstructing the course of justice to help their friends, and receiving favours in return. I'm not sure if Rowling is showing that even the good guys can have flexible morality, or whether she is trying to inject a note of realism into the books by people scratchng each others' backs. I think probably, she is just showing that Harry is becoming aware of this moral flexibility as he gradually matures.

In other reviews I have given a plot summary. I'm not sure I can do that for GoF. The book opens up too many plot lines to successfully summarise them.

Furthermore, as I indicated above, this book is less about the chronological progression of the school year, as about the developing relationships among the various characters we meet. There are, I suppose two main plot lines.

Serious spoilers below

The first is the growing unease among Dumbledore and his friends that Voldemort is growing stronger, and is unrolling some kind of evil plan. A plan that involves Harry in some not very nice way.

The second is the school year, in which a four select students have to compete against each other by partaking in three arduous tasks, designed to test their knowledge of magic; their courage and resourcefulness.

Along the way we meet a number of new characters, including the auror, Alastor 'Madeye' Moody, the journalist Rita Skeeter, the ministry functionary Bartemious Crouch, the world-famous quidditch player Viktor Krum, the honest, loyal, good sport Cedric Diggory, the beautiful, but unattainable Fleur Delacour and others. We see dragons, mermaids and leprechauns and veelas. We discover corruption in high places and find out that some people are so ambitious they are prepared to put their own family aside, if need be. In short, we see a lot of the nastier side of the wizarding world. We see a fair amount of gratuitous violence and start to understand Neville Longbottom a bit more.

It all comes together in the final scenes, where, to cut a long story short, Lord Voldemort returns to bodily form and gathers his Death-Eaters around him to prepare once more to rise to power through violence and terrorism. Harry faces Voldemort, duels with him and manages to escape to tell the story.


Back to the Harry Potter project

Book three

Book five

Released: 2005-11-18
Genre: Adventure/Fantasy
Director: Mike Newell
Screenplay: Steven Kloves, based on the book by J.K. Rowling
Runtime: 157'
Country: United States/United Kingdom
Language: English
MPAA rating: PG-13

Cast: Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Emma Watson (Hermione Granger), Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley), Michael Gambin (Albus Dumbledore), Robbie Coltrane (Rubeus Hagrid), Brendan Gleeson (Alastor Moody), Robert Pattinson (Cedric Diggory), Stanislav Ianevski (Viktor Krum), Katie Leung (Cho Chang)

Synopsis: Teenage wizard Harry Potter is submitted to take part in a tournament beyond his skills as his nemesis, you-know-who, gains power. The major characters are growing up and wrestling with the emotional turmoil of adolescence.

Limited spoilers ahead

The book being well known to almost all who would watch the film, the risk of spoilers is low. However, I do claim an advantage in not having read the book and having seen the three preceding films in the series so I'm describing the film as it was presented to the public without being influenced by what it "should" have been like.

After an ominous beginning with nightmares and a terrorist-like attack on a major public event, Harry's name is entered into the Goblet of Fire, a magical contraption similar to the Sorting Hat, which decides who participates in a potentially deadly competition for seventeen year old wizards. Being outclassed and underqualified for the challenges, he will have to depend on much more than luck and the small set of spells he usually conveniently learns in class.

During the three challenges that make up the Tri-Wizard Tournament (or rather Quad-Wizard, as the fickle finger of fate and the long hand of Harry's enemies make it be), Harry has to display serious endurance and character as he is confronted with choices that can deeply affect both the outcome of the competition and his conscience. The other Hogwarts representative, Cedric Diggory, and Harry work together more than once and Diggory is remorselessly sacrificed by the author. The role of Severus Snape is limited while that of Albus Dumbledore is prominent.

Hermione has a crush on the Slavic good looks of quidditch star Viktor Krum, who represents his school in the tournament, and, being the female lead, is at the centre of a lot of misunderstanding. Harry and Ron fumble their way through (and eventually blow) a double date. By the end of the film, however, we've seen a lot more cooperation and emotional engagement of the characters. Teenage quarrels are entered into and are resolved both within the main plotline and outside it. Our heroes are growing up fast.

My review

I found Goblet of Fire to be far superior to the first three Harry Potter films. Characters are portrayed more realistically and are as awkward with budding love as they are confident with magic. Goblet, despite being much darker and deeper, also has more funny and interesting situational comic relief, including the delightfully naughty bathtub scene with a saucy Moaning Myrtle. There are also fewer easy answers and solutions, which makes it more suspenseful and attractive. It's indicative that the buzz of a packed cinema half full of kids had completely died down by the last quarter of the film. I don't throw the word "riveting" around lightly but it's fitting. This film has more heartstoppers and moral dilemmas than the previous three put together.

On a technical level the film stands very well. The special effects are at least as good as the other films, while the good directing renders the story more intensely and powerfully. The cinematography as well as the sets tend to be more grandiose and natural, and the indoor sets are danker and reinforce the notion (well, the truth) that the British are unaware of the concept of heating their living space. The acting of the young stars has also improved but one must note that some, especially Daniel Radcliffe, are outgrowing their roles and will probably have to be replaced for the next installation.

Although (or perhaps because) I'm not a Harry Potter fan--I've seen all four films because of other people rather than on my own initiative--I can recommend this film to a wider audience than the Harry Potter crowd. It stands alone quite well and can be watched and enjoyed without a knowledge of the book or the remainder of the series. Go see it. Though the book may have been rated worse than its predecessors, I think the hype over the film is comparatively justified this time. Note that the PG-13 rating is justified. I'd think twice about taking a six-year old to see it. Your mileage, of course, may vary but I got some pretty good mileage out of this film.

Film critic style rating, stars'n'all: * * * * (4/5 stars)

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