- Composed by Patrick Doyle
- Warner Bros. / 2005 / 75:45
The Harry Potter series continues with the adaptation of the fourth novel, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Each film has probably been better than the one before, with Chris Columbus’s far-too-ordinary style now thankfully a distant memory. Taking over for this episode is Mike Newell, who somehow managed to combine getting Luton Town promoted as champions from League One with his directorial chores. What a guy! (Apologies to the 95% of readers who won’t understand that.) As the series has gone on, the books have got longer and longer, with J.K. Rowling now taking ten words to say what she used to say with one, but if anything this has made adapting them for the movies all that much easier, since it gives the screenwriter (Steve Kloves, who’s written all of them so far) more to work with, and can help to avoid the somewhat bitty, episodic nature of certainly the first movie, and maybe the second too. Little can be done to sort out the awful Daniel Radcliffe, the luckiest young man alive (not since Judy Finnigan first appeared on the sofa on This Morning has someone with so little talent managed to become so successful).
Filling the shoes of John Williams is not an easy task for a film composer. He is the most successful living film composer, by whatever measure you might choose to use, with so much of his music having entered popular culture. He pulled another one out of the bag with his Harry Potter music which, much like the films themselves, became better each time; he has defined the sound of the films in just the same way as he did with the popular family films he scored during the 1980s and 90s. Unsurprisingly, given that he scored four other films during 2005, he passed on the opportunity to score Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, leading Newell to pick a composer he had worked with before – and someone who seemed just perfect for the role – Patrick Doyle. It’s great to see Doyle back in the mainstream after many years of seemingly only scoring romantic comedies and films nobody saw (and, indeed, romantic comedies that nobody saw).
It is unfair to compare Doyle’s work with Williams’s – but also inevitable. I may as well say right away therefore that the difference between Doyle’s Potter score and Williams’s ones is a bit like the difference between a $2,000 suit bought off the shelf of an upmarket department store, and a $10,000 suit tailored for you by a man in Hong Kong – one is superb; the other is beyond superb. Perhaps another way of expressing this would be to say that if Doyle had scored the first movie in the series, and he’d scored it like this, then it would have been proclaimed as a wonderful achievement (which indeed it is); sadly, though, John Williams scored the first movie in the series, and then bettered himself with the second, and did it again with the third. That is the last I will mention on the subject – the score needs to be judged on its own terms, however difficult that is.
Williams’s “Hedwig’s Theme” makes two fleeting appearances, but the rest of the music is entirely Doyle’s creation (which allayed fears held by some that Doyle may be forced to include a lot of Williams music; thankfully this was never an option, reportedly). He starts off in excellent form, with the darkly menacing “The Story Continues”; and indeed the darker nature of this story compared with the previous ones is reflected on many occasions as the album goes on. “The Quidditch World Cup” is a wonderful piece of music, alternating between an Irish-style jig and some aggressive choral writing. “The Dark Mark” is just as bleak as the name suggests, with some excellent action music. The brief “Rita Skeeter” is delightful, echoing Williams’s comic writing. The highlight of the album comes midway through, with the stunning “Golden Egg”, an extremely intense, dense action piece which sees heroic trumpet heraldics burst forward in great style from time to time. It’s ironic that Doyle seems to be generally considered a composer of somewhat “soft” music, because he is at his best when he is doing the exact opposite, and I’m not sure he’s ever done it finer than in “Golden Egg”, which reminds me of some of Jerry Goldsmith’s full-bodied heroic writing of the early 1980s in scores like The Secret of NIMH. After the almost breathless excitement of the piece, it’s refreshing that following it is a trio of much lighter fare, with two lovely waltzes surrounding the first real hint of romantic music of the whole series, the beautiful “Harry in Winter”.
Unfortunately, after this the album loses a bit of momentum. There’s another fine action piece, “The Black Lake”, but then the comic “Hogwarts March” is all right, but serves mostly to interrupt the flow of the more serious underscore, and the lengthy “Voldemort”, which has been picked by many writers as their favourite piece and strongly features Doyle’s most notable new theme, seems to be a little unfocused, though admittedly it does contain some fine moments. (OK, so I said I wouldn’t mention it again, but I’m going to anyway: it’s impossible not to notice that the music here just isn’t as well-structured as Williams’s. Williams actually writes pieces of music with beginnings, middles and endings, and while it is usually obvious it comes from a film, it is still perfectly-structured musically, and never suddenly flits off in the opposite direction because the film demands to – Williams always manages to achieve that while still remaining entirely musically-sound.) Fortunately Doyle does manage to wrestle things back on track with the three final score cues, the lament “Death of Cedric” and lovely “Another Year Ends” and “Hogwarts Hymn”.
Sadly, that doesn’t end the album, which is actually ended by three songs written and sung by Jarvis Cocker and some of his friends. It doesn’t help that the first line of the first song, after an hour or more of fine orchestral music, is “OK Hogwarts, get ready for some REAL music!” At least the songs are stuck together at the end and are therefore entirely avoidable. The rest of the album is just great – I’ve been over-critical above because it’s simply impossible no to when comparing it with what Williams did for the previous one – but no film composer would come off well under such a comparison, and it’s to the enormous credit of Patrick Doyle that he has pulled this off as well as he has. I sincerely hope he sticks around for the next one, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix; and it’s just wonderful to see him scoring such a high-profile movie at long last. ****