Not to fawn too heavily on one side in the next-generation format wars, but how cool is HD-DVD? Well, if for nothing else, the HD-A1 and HD-XA1 players from Toshiba are all region-free. And while Warner Brothers has been slipping over themselves and teasing American consumers with a release of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, British customers have gotten full penetration, and can pick up the fourth Potter film now. So I went onto Amazon UK and picked up my own copy, and Iï¿½m going to presume that the disc will be the same when it comes out here, whenever that will be.
Adapted for the screen by Steven Kloves, who has done the work for all the films to date, and directed by Mike Newell (Four Weddings and a Funeral), the fourth film is by far one that helps signify the end of one chapter of the lives of Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint), and the transition into another. Hogwarts is the setting for a competition of wizards from rival academies, and one of the activities includes a dance, which serves as a device for the kids to evolve into young adults during the course of the film. And Newell is well-versed in capturing tender moments between characters in a film, so it gives him a chance to work from something thatï¿½s within his wheelhouse.
Another thing that makes the film enjoyable for me personally is that after three other films, this one seems to return to its roots. Maybe that is due to the British director that rules the set, but the characters seem to employ more of the nuances that J.K. Rowling would think to employ in her books. And older characters like Dumbledore (Michael Gambon, Layer Cake) and McGonagall (Maggie Smith, Gosford Park) get a chance to talk is less regal terms and more on human ones.
Granted, I havenï¿½t talked about the story too much, other than the competition, but the other thing that plagues the competition is the understated threat that is the return of you know who, a.k.a. Lord Voldemort (played by an unrecognizable Ralph Fiennes, Red Dragon). And the filmï¿½s balance between advancing the story and the characters in it make Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire the best film in the series to date, and makes everyone who watches it look forward to what the last half of the franchise holds cinematically.
Iï¿½m going to presume that the technical details will remain the same for the ï¿½US releaseï¿½ and tell you that the 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation for the film is sharp and vibrant. However, there are a couple of noticeable scenes where the black level seems to crash a little bit. During the scene where Hagrid is talking to Maxime, her costume lacks any form or detail. Also, any other scenes where the sets were lit by candlelight just donï¿½t look as sharp as the other scenes in the film do. But these scenes are minor gripes on an overall impressive picture.
After riding on the fence on just what score to give this disc, I decided to take a chance and give Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire the full monty when it comes to sound ratings, and itï¿½s on a very short list of reference discs for HD-DVD. The score sounds crisp and clear, low end fidelity is used when needed, and surround activity is present throughout and immersive during the whole process, and the underwater scenes during the second task are proof positive of that. It might not be as thundering as Batman Begins or Superman Returns, but itï¿½s active and mellow during the same time.
The disc seems to retain the same extras as the SD version of the film, with the In Movie Experience being the big difference. The twins who play the Weasley twins are the ï¿½hostsï¿½ for this, and it doesnï¿½t cover too much of substance, as some of the footage in the other supplements is recycled for this. There is some blue screen footage that is shown compared to some of the finalized material, and loads of interview footage with Newell and the kids in various stages of the feature. Groups like wardrobe and production design get their screen time on this, along with the ILM gang to discuss the visual effects. Itï¿½s not too bad, but donï¿½t go looking for a wealth of information on the film by this too. Moving on, there are ten minutesï¿½ worth of deleted scenes which mostly focus on the Yule ball (and even include a full-length song from it) and itï¿½s understandable to see why they were killed. There are separate looks at each of the tasks of the tournament, and what was done in the production to get them to look the way they did. A good conversation with the child stars (and moderated by Newell friend and Love, Actually director Richard Curtis) lasts about a half hour and covers not only the fourth film, but the other three, while a separate segment with other members of the cast covers this for another fifteen minutes. Separate looks at the transformation of Voldemort (finally including some interview footage with Fiennes) and how the Ball came together are included too. And you can enjoy the trailer for the last extra on the disc.
This may not be as extensive or exhaustive as far as other Potter films go, but Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is a disc that might inspire a lot of people to go out and tip the scales one way or another in a format war that is distracting and tiresome. Feel free to go to your preferred UK e-tailer (or US seller of import discs) and pick this one up, you wonï¿½t regret it.
Special Features List
- In Movie Experience
- Deleted Scenes
- Making of Featurettes
- Reflections on the Fourth Film