Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

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If the title doesn’t ring any bells, if you don’t know which number in the series this is, there’s little hope that this film will hold any interest – although if you’ve managed to avoid the Harry Potter phenomenon this long, either you have no interest in anything that’s going on around you or you’ve been locked up in some far off distant land for the past few years.

Yes, it’s that time of year again. The latest film version of JK Rowling’s still insanely popular children’s novels about the young wizard at boarding school is ready for release. With the once young and innocent cast looking ever more grown-up, the Hollywood types behind this celluloid version of the franchise must be getting worried.

This is, after all, only the fourth in the series, and though there are a couple more books – and so a couple more films – left, Rowling seems to have slowed down the speed of her writing now that she is officially richer than the Queen. Pretty soon the films will have caught up.

Not only that, but pretty soon leads Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint will be far, far too old to continue playing schoolchildren.

This particular tale is set in Harry’s fourth year at Hogwart’s wizard school. He should technically be 14. Not only is actor Daniel Radcliffe already 16, but he looks rather older. Does this matter? Well, it means the films are becoming ever more unlike the books. The tall, muscular Radcliffe is hardly much like the rather small and weedy Harry that Rowling seems to envisage any more.

And if Rowling has yet to change the way she writes the character, those hoards of children and adults who have already read all the novels are increasingly going to come to see the screen Harry as little like the one from the page.

Yet though it may be diverging from the books, the film version of Harry Potter is at the same time going from strength to strength. Much as the first two books in the series weren’t really that great, at least in comparison with the more assured sequels, the first two films were, if we’re honest, really rather shoddy. They showed very little imagination, the special effects were dire, the child actors weren’t up to much, and the only thing that they really had going for them was being excessively faithful to the originals.

With last year’s outing, and change of director from hack Christopher Columbus to proper, talented director Alfonso Cuarón, the film franchise shifted into something more grown up, just as did its – formerly – child leads.

This time the director has shifted again, but they have once again opted for a proper, experienced man behind the camera rather than a talentless figurehead. Considering this is effectively an ensemble cast picture with a bunch of very well known British actors, they have opted for one of the best possible choices – Mike Newell, probably best known for Four Weddings and a Funeral.

As such, with Newell at the helm, although this may not be as visually assured and interesting as last year’s outing, the confidence of the director in handling his vast cast, featuring as it does some of the biggest names in British screen acting, ensures that this is a worthy addition to the franchise.

Even if Harry really is looking a tad big these days, he has yet to grow out of the public’s love.