Another year, another Potter and, to date, the last of the books I actually finished. After the fine precedent of Alfonso Cuaron's Prisoner of Azkaban, Goblet of Fire continues down the darker path and Mike Newell (the Four Weddings and a Funeral guy - not an obvious pick by any means) takes on the directorial reigns. It's interesting to note that, according to the fount of all movie 'knowledge,' the Internet Movie Database, claims Newell was paid ten times less than Christopher Columbus was for his crummy directing skills. It just goes to show that name, rather than talent, is everything in Hollywood. Curiously, I rather think the increasingly epic length of the books has helped, rather than hindered, the films. It's now essential to shape the narrative into a structure that suits film, rather than slavishly reproduce the books onscreen. Despite being from a book three times as long, Goblet of Fire is of similar length to the previous films and, continues the sharp upswing in quality that started with Azkaban and actually makes me look forward to the next one, rather than merely hoping for the best.
Given his staggering workload for 2005, John Williams had to pass on this episode and amazingly, the producers actually picked a worthy successor; Patrick Doyle. Further, it is pleasing to note that they have allowed Doyle to largely go his own way and not simply rehash what Williams wrote for the preceding episodes, indeed Hedwig's Theme features twice, all the other material is Doyle's own. Two new themes dominate, a dazzling one for the Triwizard Tournament and any heroics associated with it, plus a darker melody for Voldemort which features more at the beginning and end. Secondary melodies abound; an Irish jig and a percussive, grunt topped motif for the two Quidditch World Cup teams, two lovely waltzes, a love theme, (which partially suggests the Triwizard theme) for Harry in Winter, the sprightly Hogwarts' March (even if it does seem a little out of place where it's located on the album, plus threatens to become Julian Nott's delightful Wallace & Gromit main theme) and a nicely playful, Williams style interlude for Rita Skeeter.
The film's emphasis is more heavily weighted to action sequences this time around and Doyle doesn't disappoint. The first big outing is The Golden Egg which is truly thrilling stuff and surprisingly intense, with a hint of Elliot Goldenthal in its cascading strings and horn trills, bookended by the heroic theme, which is most certainly pure Doyle. The Black Lake is more suitably eerie, but with plenty of muscular writing as it progresses and, again, a nicely upbeat finale. The Maze and Voldemort take the score's darkest turns, Doyle turning to the kind of gothic horror that served him so well for Frankenstein, although one could never mistake the scores. The three finale score cues make a sombre triptych, particularly the elegiac Death of Cedric and gently stirring Hogwarts' Hymn.
The album concludes with three songs written and performed by Jarvis Cocker, he of Pulp fame, and chums. Despite an awful opening (and title) to Do the Hippogriff, they are not a bad slice of light indie pop, particularly the surprisingly lovely Magic Works. One commentator felt they put Hogwarts too much in contact with the real world and I'm inclined to agree, there is a certain detachment from reality in the series and pop music immerses the world back into real world culture. While the songs aren't in the least bit suitable to follow Doyle's score, they are fine enough on their own terms. Goblet of Fire is not by any means an easy listen and those expecting the magical tunefulness of John Williams are likely to be disappointed and, in truth it is a whisker below the peak of Prisoner of Azkaban which managed to mix the magic and darkness more effectively, with plenty of stand out moments. However, Goblet of Fire is a more than worthy successor and, whether Doyle returns to Rowlingland or not, his entry stands as a fine entry into an increasingly impressive series.