Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
When I entered the theater to watch Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, I didn't remember much about the book except that I didn't like it very much. The film reminded me why. Sure it stands well enough on its own as a fantasy action-adventure. But as a Harry Potter fan, it was impossible for me to see the movie on its own i.e. completely independently of the book. All reviews I've read so far call it the best Harry Potter movie yet but I beg to differ. That credit would still go only to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
The Prisoner of Azkaban was a classic. With a complicated plot that included an ingenious time travel segment and stunning plot twists that suprised us with who the good and bad guys were, the book was an exhilarating read. Goblet of Fire was a huge letdown after that since it was just too simplistic. And that, naturally, is what happens in the movie too. It is a straightforward tale that has more swashbuckling action but holds few surprises. Its as if J.K.Rowling wrote the first 3 books in the the true spirit of writing, understood that they were made into movies and then wrote Goblet of Fire with the eventual movie in mind.
What Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is is the best Harry Potter action movie yet. The three contests of the Triwizard tournament are action-packed and full of thrills, spills and chills. The special effects are spectacular and there are several "Wow!" moments, especially in the first one - the fight with the dragon. Many of the segments, like the opening Quidditch match(which, unfortunately, is cut short) and the scene in the fight where the dragon walks on the Hogwarts roof, are truly breathtaking.
The movie also gives us our first look at Voldemort. Granted that no amount of makeup could create a Voldemort scary enough to rival what we've imagined, but Ralph Fiennes is unrecognizably creepy in the role. We also have a new Dumbledore since the actor who played the headmaster in the last 3 movies is no more. Though his face is almost completely covered up by the big white beard, the new actor seems a little too young and animated - very un-Dumbledore-like.
I'm a big advocate of the theory that the experience of watching a movie doesn't even come close to the thrill of reading the book it is based on. But I have to admit that the non-wizarding portions of the book translate very well to the screen. With familiar actors, who are now 4 movies old, donning the same roles, Harry, Ron and Hermione have become real people rather than characters in a book. So the emotional attachment we have with them is stronger than what we would've had if the characters had remained on the written page. So the shyness, love, jealousy and all those other feelings that are part of the teenage years work well on screen and make segments(like the Yule Ball dance) funny and enjoyable.