Distributor Warner Home Video | Certificate 12 | Price £25.99
Magic, danger and raging teenage hormones dominate the latest Harry Potter adventure, which gradually edges the comfy, borderline-twee charm of Hogwarts into darker, more grown-up territory.
The SFX team has gone into overload creating vivid setpieces, like an attack from a spiny, fire-breathing dragon and a sentient hedge maze, reminiscent of The Shining. And the story develops a serious edge. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) finds himself participating in the highly dangerous Triwizard Tournament and fights for his life.
Newcomer, Mike Newell, gives energetic direction, but lacks the lush, artful visual style that Alfonso Cuaron brought to Prisoner of Azkaban. He doesn’t quite counter the problem of cramming a 500-page book into two and a half hours.
Veering between hyperactive and ponderous, it’s a bizarrely-paced movie that takes a while to find its feet, and may leave anyone who hasn’t read the novels scratching their heads in confusion. Despite this, it’s never long before another entertaining highlight arrives, and the whole film builds to an impressive climax, as Ralph Fiennes scares the hell out of everybody in the long-awaited appearance of Lord Voldemort.
Fiennes is among the stars on the disc extras, talking through his role in a brief featurette. The whole selection is a big improvement on previous Potter discs, with much more background on the techniques behind the effects and design work – although it’s still firmly aimed at the kids in the audience.