Each of the Harry Potter novels has been different from the one before, as have the movies based on those novels. In essence, as the Harry Potter saga moves forward, it breaks new ground. "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" (henceforth: GoF) boldly breaks that new ground relative to the previous stories and reinvents the way the Harry Potter stories are told.
GoF discards many, many story threads from the novel. You won’t miss them. What remains is only that which moves the main story forward. Gone are Harry’s muggle relatives, displays of magic for no reason, quidditch matches, and several side characters (Bye, Dobby, we’ll miss you! Not). What is left is an eye-popping, jaw dropping, nail biting, chill inducing thrill ride that doesn’t slow done at all for its 144-minute running time.
Most importantly, GoF maintains the dark tone of the novel. Harry and the others find themselves in mortal danger several times and we believe it. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named shows up in two forms and is spooky in both. Harry, Ron and Hermione appear not as the leader and his entourage, but as bickering teenagers, each with their own agendas.
In short, "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" is a worthy successor to the first three movies and sets the bar pretty high for "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," scheduled to be released in Summer, 2007. I can’t wait.
[2009: July 2007 came soon enough. "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" was also excellent, as was this month's "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince." The novels are better, but the movies have all been pretty good.]