Harry Potter and the Globet of Fire

Directed by Mike Newell
Screenplay by Steven Kloves
Novel by JK Rowling
Genre: Adventure/Fantasy/Mystery/Thriller
Rating: PG for fantasy violence and frightening images
Duration: 157 mins

Harry is in his fourth year at Hogwarts which opens its doors to host the international Triwizard Tournament. Although officially under aged, he is named the 4th champion to compete in the tournament and faces the greatest challenge of his life.

The Harry Potter books and their film adaptations are secular stories. In Goblet of Fire, Christmas is celebrated in a secular way in the Yule Ball. There is no mention of the main reason for the season, Jesus Christ himself. Professor McGonagall even describes the evening as one of “well mannered frivolity.”

Nevertheless, there are Christian and moral values that can be gleaned from this film, and Harry Potter, the atypical hero who still suffers moments of being the underdog, can be a point of reflection for Christians committed to live Gospel lives.

The Narrow and Difficult but Right Path
In Matt 7:13-14, Jesus recommends his disciples to take the narrow gate and difficult path rather than the wide gate and easy path. Professor Dumbledore towards the end of the film tells Harry, “Tough and difficult times lay ahead Harry. Soon we must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy." Dumbledore sums up what Harry has been doing all along in the film.

Harry consistently chooses and does the difficult and right, not the easy. During the tournament, Harry continually faces the choice between winning and ensuring the safety of the others. He consistently and courageously chooses the latter.

From the very start, Harry shares with fellow competitor Cedric Diggory, about the first task – dragons are involved. In the second task, Harry ensures that all hostages come up from the lake, and rescues not only his hostage Ron but also Fleur’s siste, at the risk of his own life and the certainty of not winning. To everyone’s relief, he is rewarded by the judges for his “outstanding moral fibre.”

Faced with further moral dilemmas in the third task, Harry again acts on his conscience, giving priority to the welfare of others instead of self. He runs back to Fleur and signals help as she is swallowed up by the creeping labyrinth, and later saves Cedric in the coiling roots of the maze. Even as they face the cup, Harry insists that Cedric touches the cup at the same time as him so that they both will be winners.

Harry’s honest and humble declaration, “I don’t want eternal glory,” is evident in his actions throughout the film.
Beyond spells and portions, Goblet of Fire is a film that can teach viewers about compassion, courage, self-sacrifice, humility, friendship, honesty, loyalty, and doing the right thing despite the risks to self. We see Harry maturing into an older boy, gaining self-confidence as he learns to think for himself and make important decisions.

Accompanying this maturity, Harry and his friends also have to deal with the growing pains of teenage angst and the awkwardness of young crushes. Yet romance is also in the air for their giant friend, Hagrid who is amusingly smitten in this film.

From Dumbledore we gain further insights as he warns Harry, “Curiosity’s no sin Harry but you have to exercise caution.”
While magic serves as framework in this fantasy, it is portrayed as a skill rather than a power. The greatest power, one that overcomes evil, is love. Dumbledore explains to Harry, “Love is the ultimate protection,” referring to the critical moment when the spirits of Harry’s parents help him during the battle with Voldemort. (This scene could invite discussion with children on the community of saints especially during this month of November.)

The film’s rating of PG clearly indicates its suitability for older children as young impressionable minds may be terrified by some scenes especially the final battle scene when the Dark Lord, Voldemort regains his body and is seen as his evil self by audiences for the very first time. A darker story than its predecessors, Goblet of Fire has deaths at the beginning and the end. It could be too frightening an adventure for younger children, with the added complexity of Rowling’s usual twists and turns of characters of good guys turning out to be bad guys,

Regrettably huge chunks of the original book were not included for the film adaptation; most noticeably the Dursleys, Mrs Weasely, and Hermione’s campaign to free house elves from slavery. Nevertheless, Dumbledore expresses author Rowling’s stand against prejudice and discrimination in his speech at the end of the Triwizard Tournament, “We come from different places and speak in different tongues but our hearts beat as one.”

The spectacular sets and effects of Goblet of Fire makes the fantasy almost a reality. Those who watch it will not be disappointed in being entertained. It is a film which will make you laugh, tremble, shiver, and possibly even cry. Hopefully it will also inspire – to always do the right and difficult rather than the easy.

(published in the CatholicNews Nov 2005)

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