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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:

  1. The Triwizard Tournament is beautifully filmed, alongside CG effects that have come a long way from the humble beginnings of the first film.
  2. 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.)
  3. Actual dragon battle! Okay, it is greatly altered and dramatized from the events in the book, but . . . actual dragon battle!
  4. They include the funny dialogue where Ginny explains how Ron shouted his Yule Ball invitation to Fleur Delacour.
  5. They make special mention that this is the first time anyone has noticed how lovely Hermione is (at the Yule Ball).
  6. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. The Weasley twins learn about the evils of gambling in the book.
  3. 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.
  4. I want my Pigwidgeon!
  5. Did Colin Creevey and his brother have to be cut out entirely from the film?
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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?
  10. 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).
  11. 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?
  12. Can we take just a moment to talk about Veela’s?
  13. 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.
  14. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. I really like the fact that the movie made Luna a more significant character.
  5. 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.
  6. Madame Trelawney (Emma Thompson). Need I say more?
  7. Cho is not responsible for revealing the whereabouts and activities of the D.A. in the books, but I kind of like this change.
  8. I prefer the grand exit of the Weasley twins in the film to the one in the book.
  9. 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!
  10. The battle of height on the stairs between Professor McGonagall (the embarrassingly well cast Dame Maggie Smith) and Delores Umbridge is priceless!
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. Two words: Wizards Duel!
  14. 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.
  15. I really like the fact that Voldemort explains why Harry couldn’t successfully cast his curse on Bellatrix.
  16. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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?
  3. 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.
  4. Tonks’s role is truncated to the point of nonexistence.
  5. Harry and Luna are not the only ones who can see the Thestrals. Neville is also in their unique position of seeing someone die.
  6. The Creeveys are still not in the film.
  7. I want Dobby! Why is he not in the film at all? Again.
  8. 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.
  9. Did someone say centaurs?
  10. New Prefects in the house!
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. We need more Ginny.
  14. Ron actually joins the quittitch team this year, but the sport is entirely cut from the film for no apparent reason.
  15. In the book, Dumbledore actively attacks the members of the Ministry that come to remove him.
  16. Harry spends a lot of this year in detention. In the movie, it’s just one or two scenes.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. Umbridge is responsible for sending Dementors after Harry at the beginning of the story, but she never confesses this in the film.
  20. The final battle between the kids and the Death Eaters is much more dire and involved in the book.
  21. 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.
  22. Apparently you can survive the Killing Curse if your pet Phoenix soaks it for you. Fawkes saves Dumbledore in the book.
  23. 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.

 

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

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ashamel 11/18/2010 3:48:40 AM

 Well, I've just seen how they fixed the problem of Sirius' mirror. They just introduce it in movie 7 without any explanation whatsoever.

I'm not so sure of the pacing, but this one is certainly a great looking movie.

jedibanner 11/18/2010 6:20:22 AM

In the movie Goblet of Fire, we do learn also that the fake Mad-Eye put the name of Harry in the goblet. It's in both the movie and the book.

I've recently (and I mean yesterday) watched the ultimate editions of the 4 first movies and it's great. The special features are awesome and I can't wait for the other movies to come in ultimate editions.

I've most books but not the 3rd and 4th...yet. In a way, I'm waiting to see the movies first and read the book after (but I read the book first for the 6th and 7th).

2 more days...

ddiaz28 11/18/2010 7:02:09 AM

I liked these two films very much.  The books were extremely long and at first I was miffed at some large omissions, like Ron playing Quidditch (which they moved to film 6), Kreacher's involvement in Sirius' death, and the group finding and throwing out the locket which was unbeknownst to them, a horcrux.  But after repeat viewings I think they did a good job pairing them down to what was at the heart of the books and removing side plotlines that in the book were fun, but would have slowed down the film such as SPEW.  One mistake they have made though is not including Dobby in these films.  I'm afraid that in the next film, people who haven't read the books won't be as attached to him as those of us who have read them.  He shows up in a big way in Hallows and he should have been a stronger presence in the past films to give his actions more weight in our hearts.  I would love to see an extended cut of OOTP though to see what they put back in.

thefakejaredk83 11/18/2010 8:46:24 AM

I had always wished they had a theatrical cut of the film and extended edition a la' LOTR at least with the newer movies.  There was so much I loved that they left out in the 4th book that would become relevant in future installments.  But i love these movies nonetheless and since I was skeptic before hand and converting with just one movie. I've always enjoyed the later films as they had more to do with the mythology than a scooby doo mystery. 

Apropos 11/18/2010 9:05:46 AM

First off Emma Thompson first played Treylawney in Prisioner of Azkaban and was not in Goblet of fire,

second in Goblet of fire the Book Barty Crouch Jr was secretly releassed from prison with his parents help in the movie it's mever explained infact when Seinor relises Moody is his son in the Movie it contridicts the Book and I've always had a problem with that 

AlexandriaKaplan 11/18/2010 11:21:56 AM

 Nice catch on the Emma Thompson mistake. I get so blinded with my complaints about the third film, and I watched them all concurrently with a notepad nearby, my notes got all messed up.  They all start blurring when cross-referencing and trying to watch them all in a two day period.  I also always struggle with where she's omitted, and where she is included.  She's kind of like Dobby in that she keeps showing up in the books, but gets cut from the movies.

I must also add that the special edition Blu-ray releases have extended cuts for the first and second films, but no such luck for the third and fourth.  I was secretly hoping that some of the important plot holes would have been filled in by added material, because in the first film (extended edition), Hedwig's name is in fact mentioned.

A friend of mine who has not read the books mentioned to me that they always hated Dobby and they were glad he had been cut out of all the previous films (while at the Deathly Hallows part 1 screening).  Does anyone else who has not read the books share that feeling? I was kind of shocked at the thought. I have always missed the house-elf presence.

I don't want to spoil the Deathly Hallows for anyone, but is there an initial interest in my comments on what the differences are for the latest film?  I was thinking of putting it all on its own so people can choose to not look until after they had seen the film for themselves.  Also with the caveat that discrepancies are a bit hard to judge on a two parter (who knows where they'll plug in the stuff that they missed).

animefanjared 11/18/2010 11:43:41 AM

First off, I want to make it known that I adore the books.  I truly do.  However, it really rubs me the wrong way when fans of the books whine and moan that every single detail from the books didn't make it onto the screen.  It is called an adaptation, people!  Novels excell at certain things, movies excell at different things.  Exposition isn't that hard to handle in books, whereas movies do much better with visuals.  Given the length of the later books in the series, I don't see how anyone could possibly expect all of the details to make it onto the screen, barring a 12 hour plus movie.  In fact, I personally feel that the greatest fault with the first two films is there slavish adherence to a point by point recreation of the book, often leading to near glacial pacing.

With few exceptions, I think the films have been really smart about what is cut and what is included.  Yes, SPEW is a very large portion of the Goblet of Fire book, but it neither affects that book's main plot nor does it become more significant to later novels.  I do think it was a mistake to leave out the origin of the Marauder's Map.  I think cutting Dobby from films 4-6 will rob "Deathly Hallows" of some resonance.    But overall, the films have done a great job of preserving the spirit and intention of Rowling's work and characters.

For example, upon first viewing of the film version of "Half Blood Prince," I had trouble seeing beyond the amount of material which was cut (which I'm sure will be addressed in the next part).  But rewatching it again more recently, and being mentally prepared for what has been cut out, it is still a damn good movie.  The extra info provided by the book is great and I'm glad I know it, but the film works fine with what's there and people who haven't read the books won't know the difference.

Also, I think you should rewatch Goblet of Fire again.  Barty Crouch Jr. admits to placing Harry's name in the Goblet, so you can't count that as a knock against the film.  I believe the actual line is something along the lines of "Do you think your name would have come out of the Goblet of Fire if I had not made it so?"

AlexandriaKaplan 11/18/2010 12:13:47 PM

In The Goblet of Fire film, I did indeed miss Harry telling Mad-Eye Moody (the disguised Barty Crouch Jr.) that he had put his name in the Goblet.  Again, in trying to make a comprehensive list, I was watching and cross referencing the books. Barty Crouch tells Harry in the books, and I somehow missed it in the 8 plus hours of watching Harry Potter films eye glaze.

In the film, Harry says, "It was you from the beginning. You put my name in the Goblet of Fire, you bewitched Krum, but . . . "

Also in the book, I think there is some question as to whether Barty Crouch Sr. was just killed out of his son's anger. There is no tongue flicking in the book, and until the reveal, there is really no physical clue exhibited by the impostors physicalities as to Mad-Eye Moody's actual identity.

rvaux16 11/18/2010 12:17:46 PM

From an editor's perspective, we haven't been able to find any lists along these lines anywhere. There's apt to be a little fine tuning as we cross reference. The hope is that people will be able to refer to it as an unofficial guide, and hopefully help us clean up any oversights along the way.

PhillipBrian 11/18/2010 4:06:05 PM

Nice article. I like it and mostly agree. The reading was a little bumpy because of "the fact that" being in seemingly every sentence.

 

All in all good stuff though.

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