What I saw up on the screen was a completely pedestrian effort that made no attempt at contributing style, substance, or character development to a series that was getting better and better with each progressive film. Scenes start and stop with no explanation. The big action scenes (especially the fight with the dragon) just begin with no buildup whatsoever almost as if you've stumbled upon someone playing the new Harry Potter video game. There is no sense of the passage of time at all. The Tri-Wizard tournament consists of only three challenges yet the competition seems to last the entire school year. Ron and Hermione have a blow-up at the Yule Ball because of his misplaced jealousy yet six months go by (the last day of school) and NOTHING MORE is ever said about it? She even tells him that he made a mistake by not asking her out and he lets SIX MORE MONTHS go by without saying a word?!
I can forgive the fact that a lot of these things are just glossed over because of the time crunch but I can not forgive situation after situation that has something happen only because the lead character needs to live. In the aforementioned fight with the dragon, Harry ends up hanging from a ledge 100 stories above the ground trying to reach his broom which is nearby. The dragon lands on the building and begins crawling down to him, slipping and sliding, peeling away shingles as it goes and it suddenly hit me. Harry is hanging from a ledge, defenseless, and the dragon is CRAWLING toward him. He is dealing with a creature who spits fire and who can FLY. One flap of its wings and a quick belch and Harry is crispy. The ONLY reason it doesn't is because Harry has to live.
And for that matter, no one in the film acts or reacts to a situation because it's in their nature to do so. They react in a certain way because that's what the script demands that they do, even if it completely goes against their character and everything that we know about them. When Hermione blows up at Ron, it seems to come out of nowhere. She seems to be mad because Ron didn't ask her and she wanted to go with him. But if this is true, why is she so happy about being there with a competitor from a rival school? And I don't just mean happy, I mean she is absolutely BEAMING when she arrives with him. And at one point, Dumbledore grabs Harry and shakes him violently demanding that he answer a question. My reaction to that was WTF??? Has Dumbledore ever shown that he's a violent person or that he would grab a STUDENT, yelling in his face? Of course not but he does it because the script says he has to. At one point in the film, a particular curse is brought up that allows you to control another being. That's kind of funny because it seems like every character in this film is being controlled by the screenplay, even if it means going completely against character.
But I guess the biggest disappointment for me was the confrontation between Harry and Voldemort. For someone who has been built up to be the devil, he sure is beaten easily at the end of this film (and by a quartet of ghosts, no less, which took cheesiness to a new level). The appearance of Voldemort is obviously supposed to be chilling but, in actuality, he looks like a hairless rat wearing a cape. The great Ralph Fiennes does everything he can but part of the appeal of this character is NOT seeing him in closeup in full daylight. He shows up when he wants and manages to let Harry live because he'd rather talk him to death instead of just cutting off his head while Harry is pinned down. But, of course, that's because Harry has to live and this final confrontation, again, seems ridiculous in retrospect.
The entire Tri-Wizard tournament seemed a little off-kilter to me. You perform tasks that test your abilities and try to do better than your opponents, but to what end? The final test consists of entering an ever-changing maze and the first competitor to find the trophy wins the tournament. So, even if you finish DEAD LAST in every other challenge, if you're the first to find the trophy, you win anyway. So, I ask you, WHAT'S THE FRIGGIN' POINT OF EVEN COMPETING IN THE OTHER CHALLENGES?????? Why put yourself in harm's way three times when you only HAVE to do it once?
Looking back, I just realized that you could completely skip this film and move right on to number five without missing a beat as long as you had someone to tell you two things about the film - Harry's interest in Cho and Voldemort being back, sort of. Here's hoping Order of the Phoenix doesn't follow the same path.