In many ways Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire follows in the footsteps of its immediate predecessor with several aspects; Hogwarts itself looks like how it did in Prisoner of Azkaban, and in cases where there are significant differences between Chris Columbus' imagery and Alfonso Cuarón's (such as the appearance of Professor Flitwick), Mike Newell tends to use Cuarón's. As with Prisoner of Azkaban the story has been extremely streamlined, with ellipses occuring often in order to gloss over material that wasn't adapted. In some cases, there are references to things that are in the book but not gotten into with any detail in the film.
On the other hand, while Cuarón's film was pretty much a stand-alone adaptation, Newell's is a franchise entry. This is not a bad thing; the film is much more sophisticated and mature than either of Columbus', but like those films it concentrates more on the story than on any internal exploration. This is, of course, part of the nature of this book versus the previous one.
Where the film is at its best is the sex and violence. Yes, I said sex and violence, and if you think about it, what I said makes sense. The action sequences for the Tri-Wizard Tournament and the finale are beautifully crafted and very powerful, including some real white-knuckle stuff, and the characters are now dealing with hormones operating in overdrive. The Yule Ball sequence is masterfully done (suitboyskin has said that he can die happy having seen what occurs in this sequence with one of the Hogwarts' staff members; if you've seen the film you know what he means). A particularly nice shot is one which has all the students and faculty dancing, which then tilts up to reveal Harry and Ron as the worst dates ever. The specter of sexuality in this film is one of its best aspects. It is there, terrifying the boys and sending the girls into giggle fits. The scenes leading up to the Yule Ball that feature Harry and Ron trying to get dates are hilarious because they feel embarrassingly real. And the reappearance of Moaning Myrtle is hysterical and risque to boot (there is no question that she is staring at Harry's dick). The finale of the film and the appearance of Voldemort is extremely well handled, a terrifying sequence that is as brutal on screen as it is in the book.
Daniel Radcliffe is very good again, although this film doesn't feature the same sort of self-discovery that made his performance in Prisoner of Azkaban so introspective. Hopefully, we'll see a bit more of that again in Order of the Pheonix. Rupert Grint, like, is Ron Weasley, he has always been spot-on, but he has more to do here again than before. Emma Watson shines. I found her somewhat inexperienced in Philosopher's Stone, a little better in Chamber of Secrets, but she grew into the role for Prisoner of Azkaban and exceeds any expectation in the new film. The line "Everything is about change now, isn't it Harry?" has been in all of the trailers, but when one sees her delivery it conveys a weight and sorrow that is palpable. Maggie Smith gets quite a lot of screen time in this installment, and Michael Gambon shows us a much more vulnerable side of Dumbledore than we've seen in the films up until now (some of his work in the early scenes is a bit strident, but that works in context). There is much more Weasleyage in this film, with Oliver and James Phelps stealing every scene that Fred and George are in, and Bonnie Wright laying the groundwork for future developments with Ginny. There isn't so much of Tom Felton's Draco this time around, but Jason Isaacs returns as Lucius, exuding that same oily evil he nailed so well in Chamber of Secrets. Because of the need to slim down the storyline to a managable film length, Miranda Richardson's turn as Rita Skeeter, while accurate to the character in the book is severely curtailed. Brendan Gleeson is great as Mad-Eye Moody, and he conveys several levels of the character including some sly hints about how the story develops. Robert Pattinson makes a fine and amiable Cedric, somebody that the audience will like without being cloying, but Katie Leung doesn't get a chance to do much with Cho except sit around and look pretty. Ralph Fiennes, though... scary.
There are lots of pillow fights at Beauxbatons
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban remains the best entry in the film series yet, but this film, with its darker overtones and more mature characters is most welcome. While there are bits and pieces here and there that I would have liked to have seen covered (my biggest pet peeves: the reason for the priori incantatum is never discussed, Hermione doesn't get the better of Rita Skeeter) and the beginning of the film is strangely paced, it is very satisfying. This movie lacks the quirky humor and detail that Alfonso Cuarón brought, which is sorely missed (there are moments, such as the self-moving book stacks in the library that seem to come straight out of Prisoner of Azkaban, but they are few and far between). The end of the film, though, brings everything to a new level of seriousness, which is sold by the committed performance of the actors.
There were a few cues from Patrick Doyle's score that I heard in the film that I would have liked to have had instead of those three songs (I heard snippets of two in the film, they are used well), but overall the soundtrack album is actually a rather good representation of the music as heard in the film. The more florid style works extremely well in the film, as befits the tone of the movie. John Williams' Hedwig's theme is heard a few more times in the movie than on the album, but for the most part Doyle concentrates on his new material. This is not a very thematic score, although what themes are there are quite diverting, in particular "Harry in Winter," which is the music for the scene in the owlry with Cho. The end credits features different takes than what is heard on the album, too.
One more pet peeve: the credit sequence from Prisoner of Azkaban was delightful, but the adaptation of the same concept for use in this film seemed a bit pulled by the hair.