Friday, December 09, 2011

Harry Potter: Book vs. Film

So tonight I sat down and watched "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1" tonight and got in a discussion about book verses movie. In the lead up to the 8th and final film, I read all the books. I read them all up to "Deathly Hallows" and watched the film, then cracked open the final book and wrapped it all up.Okay, so I've compiled some basic thoughts about the films and books:
The first book and movie, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," are pretty much 'the same' in tone and plot. That's not to say that one was not better than the other. The book is a children's story, and as a children's story, it's very simple and child-like. There's not a lot of information that was changed, so the film's story remains largely intact. However, I thought it was lazily directed, so much so that had the book not had such a ardent fan base, the series would have ended right here.

The second movie, "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," suffers a lot from the directing. There is extraneous material that simply doesn't need to be there. It's the longest movie of the series and it trudges along at a snails pace. It was dialogue heavy and treated the viewers like they were either stupid or had the attention span of a gnat. Too much talking, not enough "doing." As you said.... "There's only one place we're going to get all this... Diagon Alley." ... No Sh*t, just go!

The third movie, "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban," is actually a marked improvement over the previous two films and while there are some notable changes to the storyline, the film would have not been anywhere as good had they simply stuck with a literal translation of the pages.

I'd say so far, the fourth movie, "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," does wonders to a book that was far too long and cumbersome. It would have been un-filmable had they not taken the steps they took in decreasing its length and bulk. One moment that sticks out (over the book) is the Death Eater attack at the Quiddich World Cup at the start of the movie. The short, concise, frantic scene in the film is far more powerful than a long sequence that is far more subdued than it should have been. The feeling these characters *should* have had don't translate off the pages. There's also no Dursley's so I give them props to jump straight into page 70+. I thought the handling of the Crouch family was not as convoluted as it was when the book presented it.

I'd have to say that some of the changes made to "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" twere marked improvements but some were mistakes. I enjoyed both the film and the book. Grimmauld Place is cut down, which eliminates a lot of the unnecessary fluff ("cleaning" the place and all) but unfortunately cuts out some really rich back story. The Order (the original one) is almost a footnote in the film. Luna's introduction was better in the film (in my opinion). Lots of the Cho "fluff" is cut and her "betrayal" is stronger than the convoluted version that appears in the book. The giant, Grawp, is completely unlikable in the book (not that he's better in the film, but ugh... I'm glad that whole section was cut down). Fred and George's departure makes a lot more sense in the book. In the movie I simply thought they were pulling a prank (and would likely be expelled), but in the book they go out of their way to state they don't care if they get expelled because they're not going to return either way the following year. The superfluous Centaur sub-plot trimmed down in the film to the only necessary part that occurs in the entire book. Kreacher's role is virtually eliminated (blame the poor reception that Dobby got in part 2). I thought the Trelawney prophecy was not handled as clearly as it could have been in the film. It took me a few views to really *get* what the prophecy version of herself was saying in the globe, and unless you're familiar enough with the work (like having a father who likes to talk about what happened in the book after you finish seeing the movie) it's not exactly clear why this bungling, useless lady is kept at Hogwarts. Being that this was the shortest film, I think they made some wrong decisions on what to trim.

And this brings us to "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince." The filmmakers removed an entire section about the Prime Minister of England (or "The Other Minister"). The chapter is near, but would have come off as somewhat of an anomaly had it been in the film. It would have been really cool had they filmed the scene as an "extra" short-film. Again, props for no Dursley's, though I do have to say that I'm a bit disappointed they don't exactly get the kind of verbal berating that they got in the book. In fact, they don't ever except for in the first film when Hagrid shows up "YUR A WIZZARD 'ARRY."

Well, after a lot of changes to the story in the previous films, readers were left wondering, "How are they going to fit all this story they've cut into a film that provides a decent resolution to the story?" Well, prayers were answered when they announced they were splitting "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" into two films. And you know what? The film stays pretty true to the books - far more than the previous four films, but not quite as militantly as the first two. I liked how they eliminated some of the ancillary characters interacting with Harry, Hermione and Ron. And speaking of Ron, the one failure of the film was the way they treated Ron - he's a "bitch" in the first part - his character takes wild mood swings, that are more natural in the book. Part 2, tracks almost perfectly. I'm sure there's someone out there that's seriously having a coronary from reading this. I couldn't imagine them finishing off this series any other way.

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