[Note: This is an evaluation, not a review, and is done for the purposes of pointing out anything in the movie that could be problematic from a moral and/or biblical viewpoint, and it is written primarily to inform parents. Please do not email me and tell me that I think fantasy is bad, or that because children know the difference between reality and fiction, this movie is okay. I don't think fantasy is bad at all, and I realize most children know the difference between reality and fiction, but that is not the issue here. Please read this first, and my articles on the Harry Potter books as well, before emailing me if you have objections. Thank you.]
Technically and artistically speaking, this may be the best Harry Potter movie so far. However, it was also the darkest, which is not surprising since the book it is based on, the fourth book in the series, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, is the darkest book of the first four. The PG-13 rating is well deserved.
As in the book, the movie starts with Harry's dream, which is actually a psychic vision, of Voldemort and two of his aides killing an elderly caretaker. The killing is not shown but implied.
No movie can include all the details of a book, and quite a lot is left out for this movie from the 734-page book. See my article covering this book, along with the 2nd and 3rd books, at http://cana.userworld.com/cana_morehpotter1.html. For instance, two of Mr. Weasley's sons gamble but Mr. Weasley simply tells them not to tell their mother about it. This is left out, as are many other scenes from the book.
The focus on magic is quite strong in this movie, especially in the beginning and at the end of the movie. In the class for Defense Against the Dark Arts, Prof. Moody tells the students that he will show them the 3 "unforgivable" curses, which are spells that 1) command, 2) torture, and 3) kill. An example of this is performed for the students using a rather hideous looking insect as the victim. Even thought it's just an ugly insect, the torturing and killing scene is gruesome, sadistic, and unsavory. (It turns out later that this Prof. Moody is not the real Moody, but an imposter who is actually a Death Eater, one of Voldemort's followers). A further sadistic spell is used by Moody on Malfoy, a student. Although Malfoy is Harry's nemesis and adversary, it is hardly an example of morality to show a child being turned into an animal and then sadistically thrown around with the use of magic. In the book, it's made clear that Malfoy is in pain when this is being done.
The killing curse, called the Avada Kedavra, is perhaps better known as "'Abracadabra." This word has a history. According to one author on the occult, abracadabra is thought to be derived from Abraxas, the name of a demon (Migene Gonzalez-Wippler, The Complete Book of Spells, Ceremonies & Magic, 2d ed. [St. Paul: Llewellyn, 1996], 293). Another author considers Abraxas to the name of a gnostic deity of time, with "the arms and torso of a man, the head of a cock, and serpents for legs," (Bill Whitcomb, The Magician's Companion [St. Paul: Llewellyn, 1994], 401). Gonzalez-Wippler describes him this way as well, though she says he has the head of a hawk (Gonzalez-Wippler, 293). The earliest record of the magical use of Abracadabra is found in a Roman poem on medicine written in AD 208 (293). The word must be written from top to bottom in pyramid form, dropping a letter in each line until the last line at the bottom contains only the first letter, "A," (294). Voldemort uses this spell in the movie (and the book) to kill Cedric, one of the students in the Triwizard Tournament.
The movie continues in a very focused way on the Triwizard Tournament, which involves Harry and three other students (two from outside witchcraft schools) in a competition involving three tasks that is presented as potentially deadly. "People have died in this competition," the students are told. The minimum age for it is 17, but someone has entered Harry's name, and his name is chosen. Because of the "absolute" rule regarding this choice of names, Harry must participate even though the headmaster, Dumbledore, and others do not think he is ready and actually seem to fear for his life. In other words, those in authority allow a young teenager to risk his life because of the "rule" about the tournament. This is quite ironic in light of the fact that in previous books and movies, some of the authority figures bend or even break the rules for Harry.