For the purpose of this review, let's divide the audience into the magical population -- those who have read the books -- and the muggles -- those who haven't.
If you are a muggle, you won't appreciate this. This statement may earn me quite a few raised eyebrows, so let me explain.
I am a self-confessed, truly dedicated Potter maniac. I wish I could transfigure things, if not people, and disapparate at will.
I managed to convince three muggles to join me for the movie. With baited breath I waited for the magic to begin on the screen and it did, and how!
The movie progresses straight from the dream to the Quidditch World Cup. The Dursleys, Dudley's encounter with the ton-tongue toffee and The Burrow have been completely excluded. The director has also done away with Ludo Bagman -- the head of magical games and sports -- and the house elves Dobby and Winky.
Percy and Mrs Weasley are nowhere to be seen, and Sirius Black appears in the fire just in one brief scene (the muggles around me were disgruntled).
The magical population may want to know: What about the dark mark episode in the World Cup if Winky is not there? Who helps Harry during the second task of the Triwizard Tournament?
Rest assured, these have been handled very well and Winky's absence goes almost unnoticed. The scene were Harry is chosen as the fourth champion is really spectacular. Daniel Radcliffe emotes very well. His eyes especially -- no I am not going to compare them to Lily Potter's :) (For the muggles: she's Harry's mother) -- reflects all emotions to the dot.
The movie meanders its way to the first task, the special effects, in one word, are breathtaking. Additions have been made: For instance, Harry and the Hungarian Horntail sort of have a flying... hmm, for want of a better word, chase.
In one scene Harry loses his Firebolt and holds on to one of the ledges while the Horntail is gaining ground -- truly a must-see. This was one of the few scenes the muggles around me truly enjoyed.
Rupert Grint as Ron steals the show in the Yule Ball sequences. Be it his irritation at wearing a lacey dress robe, the time when his faced is etched with jealousy when Hermione Granger dances with Viktor Krum, or the look of total indifference mixed with irritation when Padma Patil asks him whether he is going to dance with her or not, he is fabulously natural and naturally comic.
These scenes actually made the muggles smile slightly. They had me in splits!
The second task and the scene with the pensieve (Muggles: that's a device where a wizard can store thoughts) have been altered well without changing the context or the consequence.
By the time the movie reaches the third task, I notice that the muggle on my left is stiffling a yawn while the one on the right looks like he is in the middle of a divination lecture (Muggles: that's one magic subject even Harry doesn't like) and I couldn't quite get the expression on the face of the third in the dark.
The maze scenes are good and in accordance with the book. Harry plays the hero and saves Cedric from a morbid plant and they convince each other to take the cup together -- after all, it's a Hogwarts victory.
The rest is exactly like the book -- the cup is a portkey (I had a tough time explaining to the muggles the concept of objects that can be bewitched to transport people) and they reach the graveyard and Wormtail kills 'the spare' (read Cedric) and Voldermort (Oops, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named) rises again.
Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort is just awesome -- scary, evil, snake-like. Hats-off to the make-up guys and the actor.
Personally, I felt priori incantateum (Muggles: when two wands with related cores, like Harry's and Voldemort's, duel against each other, one wand forces the other to regurgitate spells it has performed) was trivialised, but nevertheless well done.
The muggles near me were wondering what on earth was happenning. Now I'll justify why I said muggles won't appreciate this movie. During the scene were Voldemort touches Harry (remember he could not do so without enduring pain in the previous books, thanks to the magical properties of his mother's love?), he says, "Now, I can touch you!"
The muggle on my left smirks and quips: "What's so great about it? He is tied to a pole!" Vaild point, mate, but you have to read the books to understand the nuances of the script.
Harry reaches Hogwarts again clutching Cedric's body and the rest, well, the magical popoluation knows while the muggles are not bothered anymore. Between sniffing the polyjuice potion and forcefully feeding veritaserum, the truth unfolds and the movie is over.
Some words on Dumbledore. The character in the book is supposed to be calm and is supposed to be an epitome of strength. However, the guy in the movie is flustered all the time and actually shakes Harry forcibly and asks, "Did you or did you not put your name in the Goblet of Fire?"
On another note, Cho Chang could have been prettier, Krum could have got more lines and Mad-Eye Moody could have been more scarred.
However between the could-have-beens and the alterations in script, the movie was very satisfying to watch. The muggles would have appreciated it better had they read the books.
Lavanya is an assistant human resource manager in an information techonology firm in Singapore.