Written by Old Bluffer 22nd Sep 2006
The fourth movie of Harry Potter's adventures is centred around the rather disappointing plot device of the "Triwizard Cup". This contest is between the champions of three schools: England's 'Hogwarts', France's 'Beauxbatons' and Bulgaria's 'Durmstrang'. The fact we've never heard of these other two schools in previous installments makes me think JK Rowling received a barrage of fanmail from ten year olds around the world demanding to know if their country had its own Hogwarts.
Cedric Diggory is chosen as the Hogwarts champion, a two dimensional "hero" archetype whose only real purpose in the story is to elicit distress when he is bumped off at the end. Again, we've never really heard of Cedric in previous stories, so the film has to go to some effort to show that he is a clean cut, admirable fellow whom we should admire and respect.
The French champion is a barely legal piece of eye candy called Fleur Delacour, and the Bulgarian is world famous Quidditch star, Viktor Krum.
Now, this is a Harry Potter film, so the lightning-bolt-scarred young scamp is also picked as a champion, despite Cedric and despite being three years too young. This of course makes a mockery of the whole tournament, but is glibly explained away as being a "magical contract" that the organisers can't get out of. Obviously this is a complete copout, but isn't entirely unexpected.
The tournament itself consists of an implausible series of challenges designed to terrorise and endanger the lives of the competitors, and in some cases their closest friends.
For example, we are expected to believe that all the teachers would sit idly by and watch 50' ferocious dragons do their best to kill their students. OK, Snape would no doubt enjoy this, but it is entirely at odds with Dumbledore's character.
Creepy ventriloquist's dummy fails to entertain teenagers.
The final task involves traversing a maze to locate the tri-wizard cup. Harry and Cedric arrive simultaneously and it is at this point that the whole nefarious plot is revealed. Lord Voldemort has been manipulating the tournament the whole time, it was he who entered Harry into it, and it was his servant, Madeye Moody who ensured he would reach the cup. As soon as the pair place their hands upon the trophy they are magically whisked away to a distant graveyard where Voldemort and his servants wait. Voldemort has no interest in Diggory at all, and commands Wormtail to "kill the spare."
There is no buildup, fanfare or drama to the subsequent killing, within the time it takes to say "Avada Kedavra" poor young Diggory is slain, instantly and without hope of reprieve. This is why the spell is one of the "Unforgiveable Curses".
Cedric fails his saving throw vs wands.
The film had rather less time than the book to establish Cedric as a sympathetic character, but does a fair job thanks to the performance of his grief-ridden father, Amos, played by Jeff Rawle. The last we see of Cedric's corpse is in his father's arms, with Amos crying out "He was my boy!" - which in the context of a kids film was rather unusual.
Although I've been rather snooty about the contrived nature of this plot, Rowling does deserve some respect for killing a young and innocent character in such a coldhearted fashion. She clearly wanted to show the true evil of Voldemort, and this slaying certainly elevates him above the caricature of a typical children's villain.
I can also imagine thousands of children crying when he gets blasted, and that has to be applauded.
Trivia note: Cedric's death was slightly foreshadowed by Rowling, as his wand has a unicorn's tail hair in it. In a previous book, Ronan the centaur remarks upon the death of a unicorn : "Always the innocent are the first victims."