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Harry Potter: Book Vs. Film, Part II
How do the movies measure up to Rowling's prose?
By Alexandria Kaplan
November 18, 2010
© Warner Bros/Bob Trate
Welcome to Part Two of our now-three part comparison of the Harry Potter books and films. These next two films/books presented a real challenge. I find it almost impossible to compare them because the differences are so vast that I almost started divorcing the films from the books entirely except on the merit of capturing the appropriate essence of J.K. Rowling’s intentions. The amount of detail left out of the films is staggering, but I have been lulled into a quiet place of acceptance due to their excellent casts/direction/cinematography/effects, etc. I also feel that after my horror surrounding the third film, I was actually seduced by the fact that they didn’t leave any all-encompassing vital details out, like swapping Harry and Ginny’s budding relationship for cut scenes of Crookshanks sitting in some window somewhere (shudders at the concept of Cuaron’s idea of cut scenes being better than content). With the herky-jerky narrative structures of the fourth and fifth films, I often wondered if people who had not read the books could follow the story at all. I'm told by friends who haven't read the books that they like these movies more than I do.
The Goblet of Fire
U.S. Book Release: 8 July 2000
U.S. Theater Release: 18 November 2005
Number of Theatrical Viewings: 2
Book vs. Movie: Tie
To Potterheads, this is notably a very controversial film. Some truly hate it, while others greet it with indifference. I was never a fan of this book; it’s the only one in the series that took me more than a day or two to completely read (I used to do all-nighters to finish each book, the last taking 48 hours to read entirely with only bio breaks). When the movie came out I was fairly indifferent, but I mostly relieved that it stuck closer to Rowling’s books than the third film.
What the Movie Did Right:
- The Triwizard Tournament is beautifully filmed, alongside CG effects that have come a long way from the humble beginnings of the first film.
- The amazing Emma Thompson appears as the loopy, bug-eyed Madame Trelawney. She makes the most of her brief appearances, with a haughty attitude towards the not-so-talented Hermione (guffaw). And we have the pleasure of actually getting her back in the next film as well! (Editor's Note: As noted in the comments, this information is misplaced. It belongs in the third film.)
- Actual dragon battle! Okay, it is greatly altered and dramatized from the events in the book, but . . . actual dragon battle!
- They include the funny dialogue where Ginny explains how Ron shouted his Yule Ball invitation to Fleur Delacour.
- They make special mention that this is the first time anyone has noticed how lovely Hermione is (at the Yule Ball).
- Ohh! Voldemort in the flesh for the first time (please forgive the color of his eyes folks)! Ralph Fiennes makes a bone-chilling villain, and like the rest of the amazing casting decisions is such an incredible asset! The disturbing trend of allowing actors to act rather than using contacts or prosthetics is really a good thing . . . really.
What the Book Did Better:
- The Quidditch World Cup is nearly reduced to a cut scene in the film. In the book it fills a large portion of the narrative. The portkey travel becomes more significant, the game itself is long and exciting, and the Death Eater attack is truly a bit of the darkest stuff in the books to date.
- The Weasley twins learn about the evils of gambling in the book.
- No one likes Percy Weasley,and it’s almost fitting that he is reduced to a simple lackey in the film. Newcomers may miss him entirely, which omits the details of his eventual betrayal and his family’s resulting pain.
- I want my Pigwidgeon!
- Did Colin Creevey and his brother have to be cut out entirely from the film?
- Dumbledore possesses a much calmer demeanor in the book, whereas in the film, he is openly concerned and frightened for Harry. This waters down the book’s overall attitude that Dumbledore is always a few steps ahead of all other wizards.
- Rita Skeeter’s role is pared down to that of a simple skuz-bucket media vermin (and I’ve been to a few Hollywood press conferences: the book’s portrayal is spot on). Her horrible impact is minimized, to the detriment of the film.
- Mad-Eye Moody becomes much more involved in the book, which makes it so much more unsettling at the story’s conclusion. The lesson that people are not always what they appear to be plays a profound role in the book, but in the movie it’s more of a shrug of the shoulders.
- Will someone please explain to me why Sirius is almost entirely omitted (one scene and a disembodied voice)?! If we are going to care about the events in the next film, shouldn’t we get a glimpse of the valuable family that Harry has suddenly recovered in his life?
- Cedric (I sparkle! Oh wait, wrong movie), the red-shirt for the evening, has indeed arrived. Previous books mentioned him, and with non-principal characters coming and going throughout the books, we really had no inkling that he was going to become Voldemort bait. Remember, Cedric is the very first “good guy” to actually die in the books (and only the second actual casualty in the real time of the story, not including Harry’s parents, Moaning Myrtle and the like).
- S.P.E.W. (Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare) has been entirely omitted, along with Dobby and Winky the house elves. After all, don’t you want to know what Dobby does with his time now that he doesn’t have to iron his hands?
- Can we take just a moment to talk about Veela’s?
- For those lacking a Potterhead in their social circles, in the book you learn that Barty Crouch Jr. (played by yet another incredible actor from across the pond, David Tennant) puts Harry’s name in the Goblet of Fire while posing as Mad-Eye Moody.
- Things don’t end well for these poor Defense Against the Dark Arts Professors. Barty Crouch Jr. receives the Dementor’s kiss. Also for the folks lacking a Potterhead, this means that Fudge can really take a stand against Harry Potter and Dumbledore when they tell him that Voldemort is back. Fudge is much more calculating in the books; his sentencing of Barty Crouch Jr. removes the only eye witness to Voldemort’s return that they have in custody.
The Order of the Phoenix
U.S. Book Release: 21 June 2003
U.S. Theater Release date: 11 July 2007
Number of Theatrical Viewings: 4
Book vs. Movie: Book for some very specific reasons . . . ok just one, Sirius Black (wow, I do seem to be a broken record)
David Yates has mentioned that the original edit of this film was three hours long. The studio made him trim 45 minutes off. I sincerely hope that the Special Edition scheduled for release in 2011 will include that extra hour.
What the Movie Did Right:
- This is what Alphonse Cuaron just didn’t get; you can make a truly artistic movie without placing the actual world up for sacrifice. This movie is beautiful and belongs in the universe. Thank goodness we finally got a director with such respect for the material who could stay on for the remainder of the films.
- The soundtracks have been consistently pleasant, and I love John Williams, but Nicholas Hooper added some fantastic new themes to the Harry Potter song book.
- We finally get a glimpse of Mrs. Figgs. This could also go in “the book did better column” because she had been rather more significant in Harry’s life prior to this. I think this cameo was almost a nod in the fans’ direction.
- I really like the fact that the movie made Luna a more significant character.
- Filch is also boosted a bit with some of the attempts to find the Room of Requirement: a humorous touch that wasn’t present in the books.
- Madame Trelawney (Emma Thompson). Need I say more?
- Cho is not responsible for revealing the whereabouts and activities of the D.A. in the books, but I kind of like this change.
- I prefer the grand exit of the Weasley twins in the film to the one in the book.
- Casting is really impeccable in these films. Imelda Staunton does not look like a toad, but I am happy to look past this detail due to the fact that she make an incredible Umbridge. Her passive-aggressive manipulations are subtle and absolutely unnerving. I really love to hate this woman!
- The battle of height on the stairs between Professor McGonagall (the embarrassingly well cast Dame Maggie Smith) and Delores Umbridge is priceless!
- Bellatrix Lestrange (another amazing casting choice; Helena Bonham Carter is an ugly, frightening woman after all) actually uses the killing curse. Those who read the book were left wondering if Sirius died because he fell into the archway, or due to whatever magic hit him (I reread that passage obsessively at least 15 times hoping there would be a more concrete answer). I like the definitive, “he’s dead folks” that the film offers more than the book.
- Sirius mistakes Harry for James just before he is killed; the detail isn’t in the book, but makes a really nice addition, especially considering that Sirius has to do something to make us care about him more.
- Two words: Wizards Duel!
- In the book Lord Voldemort rescues Bellatrix Lestrange from the Ministry as he leaves (why would he bother with heroics?). The film does a better job of having her slink away like a cockroach in the Flue Network before the battle gets dangerous.
- I really like the fact that Voldemort explains why Harry couldn’t successfully cast his curse on Bellatrix.
- I really have to say it here; Daniel Radcliffe is just an incredibly talented actor. He makes so much of his performance. The incidents where he behaves like a petulant brat might be omitted, but he manages to find the spirit of teen emo behavior in the character without the script or scenes to support it. It is easier to like his Harry in the film, but only just.
What the Book Did Better:
- Uhm, Muggles can’t see Dementors. Might be useful to mention that since Harry goes to trial and all, and it’s how Fudge tries to convince The Ministry of Magic that Harry is a manipulative and dangerous child.
- Aunt Petunia strangely knows what a Dementor is, and explains it to Vernon before Harry can muster his own explanation in the book. How does she know about the wizarding world?
- I really began to dislike Harry in this book. He was a bratty emo teenager, and he tended to really lose his cool on everyone who was there to help him.
- Tonks’s role is truncated to the point of nonexistence.
- Harry and Luna are not the only ones who can see the Thestrals. Neville is also in their unique position of seeing someone die.
- The Creeveys are still not in the film.
- I want Dobby! Why is he not in the film at all? Again.
- The visit to St. Mungo’s that Harry and Neville embark upon is entirely omitted. Harry needs to know about Neville’s parents, and we do miss a rather funny cameo appearance from Gilderoy Lockhart in the films.
- Did someone say centaurs?
- New Prefects in the house!
- Neville is not quite as untalented as the movie tries to imply. He actually begins to shine in the D.A. (Dumbledore’s Army) lessons.
- The coins! Umbridge creates such an issue for the D.A. to communicate, that they charm coins to allow the members to communicate in a similar manner to the Dark Marks of the Death Eaters.
- We need more Ginny.
- Ron actually joins the quittitch team this year, but the sport is entirely cut from the film for no apparent reason.
- In the book, Dumbledore actively attacks the members of the Ministry that come to remove him.
- Harry spends a lot of this year in detention. In the movie, it’s just one or two scenes.
- The movie loses a lot of Christmas details, with (I have to say it again, sorry) Sirius Black shrunk to a brief hug. The mirror that Sirius gives to Harry is so very important. It leaves a very tangent physical reminder that Harry had been a brat, and missed out on the time he had left with his godfather because of his pride. As Emily Bronte said in Wuthering Heights, “Proud people breed sad sorrows for themselves.” Don’t know how they will fix this problem in the final films.
- The house elf Kreacher is responsible for giving information to the Malfoy’s that led to the death of Sirius. The movie eliminates this fact.
- Umbridge is responsible for sending Dementors after Harry at the beginning of the story, but she never confesses this in the film.
- The final battle between the kids and the Death Eaters is much more dire and involved in the book.
- In the books, a real relationship develops between Harry and Sirius. In the films we are denied this interaction much to the detriment of the characters. I cried and cried when Sirius died, but in the film, it is so matter-of-fact that it loses something fundamentally important to Harry’s emotional development.
- Apparently you can survive the Killing Curse if your pet Phoenix soaks it for you. Fawkes saves Dumbledore in the book.
- The movie omits Harry’s initial reactions involving the death of Sirius, including an important talk he has with Nearly Headless Nick (I wanted to see John Cleese again) concerning how a ghost comes into existence.
Join us tomorrow for the third and final installment of our series. As always, please keep spoilers in mind when making comments, and try not to reveal anything to people who may not have seen the films or read the books.