Cuaron introduced a bit of jazz to his film, and it was a breath of fresh air and sophistication; Newell mainly relies on John William's usual galumphing orchestral themes (supplemented by music from Patrick Doyle) and I can barely keep awake (there was some really loud rock music at the Yule ball that shook my teeth for a while, but otherwise left me unenchanted). Cuaron spent time watching the boys enjoy some free time together and have angry confrontations--he's really excellent at this kind of adolescent interplay; Newell concentrates on the TriWizard competition, which looks like Fear Factor on steroids. Cuaron created a gothic, forbidding Hogwarts, all vertiginous heights surrounded by towering peaks, broken ground, and dark forests; Newell doesn't quite turn his picture back into Chris Columbus' country-club-with-a-golf-course, but it's sunnier, less menacing. Cuaron did what I longed to do with Quidditch--throw so much wind and rain at it that it gets called off (it's the most wildly beautiful version of the game I've seen yet); Newell turns it into a World Cup tournament, complete with tailgaters (here using tents) and an elaborate pre-game show. And I like the conclusion written into Azkaban, which used ingenuity, imagination and not a little personal courage; Goblet's conclusion pretty much has everyone, living or dead, coming to Harry's rescue, as if he was a FedEx special delivery package marked "fragile."
Michael Gambon I approve of; he's vigorous and sly, and he keeps things moving along; Maggie Smith and Alan Rickman are given some moments--not many, but at least they're there. Emma Watson almost manages to make something moving about her underwritten relationship with Rupert Grint, and all in the space of a ball night (she even makes it seem it was there all along, and not suddenly sprung upon you like a bear trap by the screenplay). Ralph Fiennes is wonderfully villainous as the noseless Voldemort, but the menace he builds up in his one big scene is frittered away by a silly light-and-sound show involving a pair of dueling wands spraying digitized special effects (I've seen Popeye cartoons from the 1930s that handle this kind of cliche confrontation with more visual flair).
Cuaron's emphasis, I feel, was more on character, relationship, and atmosphere, to the detriment of the plot--and a good thing, in my opinion. Newell puts in major events and plenty of big-scale spectacle, and the nuances Cuaron brought into the franchise are lost as a result. This Goblet of Fire feels pretty much doused to me.