Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Ultimate EditionOverview -
When Harry Potter's name emerges from the Goblet of Fire, he becomes a competitor in a grueling battle for glory among three wizarding schools - the Triwizard Tournament. But since Harry never submitted his name for the Tournament, who did? Now Harry must confront a deadly dragon, fierce water demons and an enchanted maze only to find himself in the cruel grasp of He Who Must Not Be Named. In this fourth film adaptation of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, everything changes as Harry, Ron and Hermione leave childhood forever and take on challenges greater than anything they could have imagined.
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
Harry Potter is more than everyone's favorite boy wizard -- he's a cultural phenomenon of unmatched proportions. The original book series by J. K. Rowling has sold over 325 million copies worldwide, spawning the film series, at least five video games and over 400 other Harry Potter-branded products. The film franchise itself ranks as highest grossing book-to-film series of all time, having earned (as of this writing) $3.5 billion worldwide, beating even The Lord of the Rings film trilogy (which has grossed $2.9 billion). If that's not magic, I don't know what is.
This fourth film in the series finds Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) inadvertently selected to be a competitor in the Tri-Wizard tournament, a dangerous competition usually reserved for older students. Challengers arrive from other academies across the globe, while budding love seems to spring up at every turn, with Harry, Hermione (Emma Watson), and Ron (Rupert Grint) all stumbling through the awkwardness of adolescence to sweet and sympathy-inducing results. But pulsing in the background is the ever-felt presence of evil on the rise. Conspirators have finally manipulated events to re-open the world to Voldemort -- a staple, unseen villain in the series, responsible for the deaths of Harry's parents and the scar across his forehead.
As always, the most engaging aspect of this fourth film in the series is the absolute pitch-perfect casting of each character. The actors all bring their own personalities to the table and deliver performances that capture the nuances and mild complexity of well-developed children's book characters. The three teenage leads ground themselves in realistic emotions, despite all of the underlying magical shenanigans. Each one rings true as a teen lost in a world where they're unable to express their feelings for fear of rejection. The supporting cast is also top notch, although most of the players appear to hit one note in the plot before being whisked off into the background. For people who haven't seen the other films, the barrage of literally hundreds of characters may be daunting, as the pace of the film doesn't leave much room for introductions or recaps.
Thematically, the kids at Hogwarts have certainly grown up. There's a cynicism and foreboding doom hovering over every head, which really helps to build pressure in the plot. Voldemort is such an impending black hole in every character's life that his eventual appearance is seeped with an impressive sense of doom. Of course, the excellent Ralph Fiennes has a big hand in this, managing to craft a fierce hatred behind his bulging eyes.
Overall, I enjoyed the dark tone of this film -- it certainly makes the series a bit more accessible for adult audiences. But like 'Prisoner of Azkaban,' it doesn't mesh perfectly with the film's more kiddie-fare elements. For every tense moment where Harry fights a dragon or a swarm of underwater creatures, there's a counter-moment with comical glimpses of image-shifting badges, colorful smoke trails, and slapstick consequences to the misuse of magic. I understand these are key components of this fictional universe and fan favorite scenes from the books, but the result is a film that feels conflicted about its identity. It retains the things that made the earlier installments soft and whimsical, but adds in so much darkness that there seem to be two completely different tones fighting for dominance.
Having said that, I loved the Tri-Wizard tournament scenes (the horntail, the demonic mermaids, the hedge maze), quieter developments with Harry's awkward pursuit of love, and the sudden encounter with Voldemort. I was enthralled when Harry was put through the paces, and I found myself leaning forward whenever the film drifted away from dances, popularity contests, and high school antics. There's a kinetic energy to the emotionally and physically harsh moments, and happily for me, these are more prevalent in 'Goblet of Fire' than ever before.
In short, 'Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire' is my favorite installment in the series -- there are some amazing scenes here that truly thrilled me. And while I found the film's inconsistent themes and lack of focus distracting at times, fans of the series will likely vibrate in their seats at every turn as they enjoy its particular blend of darkness and whimsy.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
In an effort to avoid repeating myself, I'll suggest you read what I wrote about the packaging in my 'Prisoner of Azkaban: Ultimate Edition' review.
Here I wanted to mention a few more things that I didn't mention in that review about what makes 'Prisoner of Azkaban,' and 'Goblet of Fire' different from the first two Ultimate Editions. No, I repeat, no director's cuts or extended cuts of the film are available. Many people were buying these sets to get a different, never-before-seen version of the film . Now WB is just recycling old discs and slapping them in new packaging.
I've already talked extensively about how much the new packaging annoys me, but I did want to mention that these sets are actually a tad bit taller compared to the first two sets. This creates even more of a problem with uniformity on your shelf. The first two sets had a nice embossed slipcover that simply slid down over the book structure and made it all perfectly presentable, but this new taller packaging complete with cheap-o-gram, I mean hologram, is just ridiculous.
The trading cards included here are for Alastor "Mad-Eye" Moody and Ronald Weasley. The new Sound and Music booklet is full color and 44 pages long.
The Blu-ray edition of 'Goblet of Fire' is presented with a crisp 1080p/VC-1 transfer (identical to the previous Blu-ray) that showcases every pebble and crack the film has to offer. While it isn't quite as jaw-dropping as ' Order of the Phoenix,' it looks a hair better than 'Prisoner of Azkaban,' tops 'Chamber of Secrets,' and easily outclasses 'Sorcerer's Stone.' By further comparison, it makes the standard-def 'Goblet of Fire' DVD an absolute waste of shelf space.
Black levels are solid, colors are vibrant, texture detail is astounding, and the naturalistic CG creations are gorgeous. One look at a scene like Dumbledore's opening speech will leave you marveling at the tiny candles, the intricate weaving of the costumes, and the elemental detailing of rain, stars, and rocks. Then there's the battle with the horntail dragon, where leathery wings, crumbling stone, wood and rock at the base of the stadium are all on vibrant display -- I could go on and on for pages just talking about the technical treats in this scene alone.
The source is pristine -- there's no artifacting, noise, or problematic crush visible. Some of the film's more colorful CG looks a bit more artificial in high-def than it does in standard definition, but I was surprised to find that other CG effects actually looked more believable. The horntail, the underwater squid creatures, and the exterior shots of the school have a big impact and inject a welcome earthiness into the illusion. Shots of Hogwarts look phenomenal (especially the long tracking shot leading to the Owlery tower) -- if you so desired, you could count every brick on every building.
Darker scenes are still a bit soft compared to brighter exterior shots, but it's a negligible difference that doesn't undermine the showcase scenes in the transfer. All in all, 'Goblet of Fire' looks remarkable in its stateside high-def debut, falling just shy of a five-star video rating.
Just like the 'Prisoner of Azkaban: Ultimate Edition,' 'The Goblet of Fire' comes complete with a newly minted 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. And just like 'Prisoner of Azkaban's new track this one excels in just about every way imaginable. It's a boisterous, thundering soundtrack that has even more LFE output that its predecessor because of the relentless action, dragon chases, and Quidditch matches taking place. From the screams of the crowd as Harry dodges fire from the Horntail to the soft, menacing growl of Voldermort every type of dialogue, loud or soft, is completely intelligible through the center and front channels. As Harry races away with the Horntail in hot pursuit, directionality works wonders, creating whoosh sounds that travel around the soundfield with fluidity and purpose. The rears are lively and engaged with the roars from excited crowds watching the Tri-Wizard tournament. All in all, the newly produced DTS-HD Master Audio experience is really the only reason someone might want to pick up these sets.
- Creating the World of 'Harry Potter' Part 4: Sound and Music (HD, 54 min.) – Actors and members of the cast talk about how music affects each of the 'Harry Potter' films and how the music really sets the scene for the movie. At the beginning they show some scenes from the sixth film in split screen as we see the orchestra playing along with the movie and how it all went together. They also show sound effects happening in split screen with the actual movie. After the lively introduction this brand new documentary dives into how the music and sound effects drive the story and the emotion being captured on screen.
- In-Movie Experience (HD, 157 min.) – This first appeared on the HD DVD for 'The Goblet of Fire.' It’s been carried over as a PiP track that plays along with the film. It’s hosted by the Phelps boys, who play the Weasley twins in the movie. People who saw this first on HD DVD know what to expect. You see scads of behind-the-scenes imagery along with how some of the special effects evolved from their crude beginnings. Overall, it's an entertaining romp for 'Potter' fans, and it's nice to see it carried over here.
- 'Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire': Behind the Magic (SD, 49 min.) – Ben Shepherd takes us on a behind-the-scenes tour of the 'Harry Potter' set. He shows us inside Leavesden Studios where most of the production and filming takes place for the 'Harry Potter' series. Most of the big special effects sequences that take place during the Tri-Wizard tournament are explored. We're shown how CG sequences are created in the computer, we're shown many of the different parts of the set, and actors getting makeup put on them for certain scenes.
- 'Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire': The Adventure Continues (SD, 24 min.) – More of a promotional piece with interviews from the cast and crew talking about how awesome they think the movie is and how it's the best 'Harry Potter' movie to date. They talk about the plot of the movie and how it moves the mythology of the overall 'Harry Potter' story forward.
- 'Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire': Dark Matters, New Masters (SD, 13 min.) – More snippets from the film with more promotional interviews from the actors. This one focuses more on the dark nature included in the movie.
- Students Sing the Hogwart's Hymn (HD, 50 sec.) – Dumbledore leads the students of Hogwarts through a sing-a-long with the hymn of Hogwarts.
- Harry Misses Cho (HD, 20 sec.) – A deleted scene where Harry tries to talk to Cho without success.
- Karkaroff and Snape at the Ball (HD, 2 min.) – A deleted scene that contains some wizard tomfoolery and magician makeouts in the stagecoach parking lot. Also Karkaroff confronts Snape.
- Debating Crouch's Murder and Clues (HD, 1 min.) – Deleted scene where Ron, Harry and Hermione discuss the mystery surrounding Crouch.
- Trailers (HD) – A few theatrical trailers and teaser trailers are also included.
- Tri-Wizard Tournament: Dragon Challenge (SD) – A short interactive game where you use your arrow keys to navigate yourself around the tournament.
- Harry vs. the Horntail: The First Task (SD, 6 min.) – A short look at the Harry's fight against the Horntail dragon. They talk about how they created it, and how they used the source material in the book.
- Meet the Champions (SD, 13 min.) – A short featurette about the actors who play the three other champions competing in the tournament with Harry.
- Tri-Wizard Tournament: Lake Challenge (SD) – Another interactive game like the above "Dragon Challenge."
- In Too Deep: The Second Task (SD, 10 min.) – Just like "The First Task" special featurette this one talks about the underwater scene and all the CG that was used.
- Tri-Wizard Tournament: Maze Challenge (SD) – The last interactive game of the trio of games you can play.
- To the Graveyard and Back Challenge (SD) – An interactive game where you face Death Eaters in the graveyard first person shooter style.
- The Maze: The Third Task (SD, 6 min.) – A featurette that talks about creating the maze, what kind of CG went into making it, and what kind of stunts they had to do.
- He Who Must Not Be Named (SD, 11 min.) – A short featurette about how this is the first time we end up seeing Voldemort as a physical, real person.
- Additional Scenes (SD, 10 min.) – All the deleted scenes that are located on the Blu-ray special features disc are located here.
- Preparing for the Yule Ball (SD, 9 min.) – They talk about the costumes and how they were supposed to dance during the scene. A very EPK-style featurette.
- Conversations with the Cast (SD, 30 min.) – More group interviews with Richard Curtis as he has a roundtable with the actors.
- Reflections on the Fourth Film (SD, 14 min.) – Actors talk about their time on the 'Potter' movies. More of a nostalgic featurette.
Other than the new audio, which sounds similarly just as good as its original audio, and the brand new hour-long documentary there are no other reasons to keep purchasing these sets. I hate to say it, but when it comes to collectors editions they've got to get the packaging right, and switching it up like they have is completely unnecessary and infuriating to fans and customers. Cap that off with the fact that nothing substantial has been added, like an alternate cut of the film, and you've got a few sets that have essentially been repackaged and sold for a quick buck. The first two Ultimate Editions showed intent on WB's part to create a wonderful set of editions for the fans of the films, and now they've completely backed out on doing that, hoping that a few trading cards and booklets will suffice. Shame on WB for already ruining their Ultimate Edition line with two less than stellar releases.
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