Alphabetical Movie – Harry Potter 1-8
Call me lazy but I figured that a single post that covered the entirety of the Harry Potter film series was sufficient.
I have, in the past several weeks, watched approximately 24 hours of film devoted to J.K. Rowling’s retirement plan. Most of it is good. Some is very good. None of it is great and none of it is awful.
That’s actually not too bad for a run of eight movies. It can be fairly argued that the source material is so strong that it should result in stronger films. I can think of plenty of examples of strong source material being made into bad movies. Go ahead and watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas if you doubt me. I’ll wait.
By the way, I’m going to be going into spoilers about the books and the movies so when you get done watching that terrible film, don’t come back if you don’t want to learn any secrets.
I think the problem with the Harry Potter films, by and large, is that they got the big things right and missed on a lot of the small things.
It makes a lot of sense that there is no way to fairly adapt a book the length of “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” into a 2 1/2 movie. There is too much going on in the book.
The decision in that film, as in all of them, is to focus in on Ron, Hermione and Harry. It makes sense but it deprives us of characters that give the Harry Potter series such richness. It is hard to get upset about Sirus’ death af the end of Order of the Phoenix because we never really got to know him the way we did in the books.
And while I think the movies get the visuals and the wonder of the magical world Rowling created, it is the characters that are most important and not just Ron, Hermione and Harry. Dobby, Luna, Neville and many others are characters who could have a book written just about them.
The films are action films and built around action set pieces. Naturally, character development can’t beat a good long chase scene between a young wizard on a broom and a dragon (Goblet of Fire). That, at least, is the prevailing assumption.
Kind of silly given that nothing happens in the “Twilight” films and they still make boatloads of money.
I think the last three films managed to do a better job of allowing the characters to shine a little more. Yes, they were still primarily focused on Ron, Hermione and Harry but at least I felt there were more really nicely defined character moments.
Still, when we reached the end of The Deathly Hallows: Part II which was, I thought, probably the strongest of the films, they still stumbled in the final confrontation.
The way Rowling wrote the final confrontation between Harry and Voldemort is fantastic. Harry, now certain that he understands what is going on, is confident and forceful. Voldemort comes off as desperate and uncertain. While there is little suspense in the scene because we sense Harry and Voldemort are no longer “equals”. Harry is, in every way, Voldemort’s superior. Yes, it is a bit wordy for film and certainly could have been trimmed without losing any dramatic impact.
The movie turns this very powerful scene into a prolonged battle between the two of them ending in the courtyard with Harry and Voldemort shooting CGI lightning at each other and grimacing. Voldemort then slowly turns to dust in what is quite possibly the most anticlimactic death of an antagonist since we got to see the scarred pasty white face of a fallen sith lord.
I felt as if the film had robbed Harry of the moment where he had finally become who we wanted him to be since the first book and turned him into an ordinary action hero.
Blockbuster movies – as the Potter films had to be – cannot avoid making those kinds of decisions. While fans of the book might look at that final battle with disappointment – Potter fans who have only seen the films (and there are plenty) were probably cheering.
That, I think, can be the problem with this kind of adaptation. Many fans of “The Lord of the Rings” were upset by the absence of Tom Bombadil because he is a beloved character. Yet the filmed narrative didn’t have room for that character.
Seems silly to argue that in a narrative that topped ten hours (if you watch the special editions), there wasn’t time for Tom Bombadil but he was truly extraneous. He needed to be cut.
There was much from Harry Potter that needed to be cut to make a movie. What made me sad was when good narrative and interesting character moments were cut so Harry and Voldemort could point wands at each other and make things explode a little longer.
As I said at the top of this article – none of the films are bad. In fact, I like them all.
It is telling, though, that having finished the film series, the first thing I did was return to the books to seek out the story elements I’d enjoyed the most because they never found their way onto the screen.
I need to watch DHII again and watch the Harry/Voldemort climax again, because I want to see if the director put the whole battle-throughout-Hogwarts in there gratuitously, or if he was trying to make some kind of point about Harry’s experiences in the school and his experience with Voldemort. For example, Harry dragging Voldemort over the edge of the parapet echoing Dumbledore’s fall from the same place.
The reason I say that is because the battle between Harry and Voldemort in the book is so very fine – we get to see how Harry, by coming to understand Voldemort so thoroughly and by having faced death at Voldemort’s hands, has transcended fear, and moved on to feel only pity for twisted Tom Riddle.
Also I find it unforgivable that the whole point of Voldemort’s death in the book is that he cast the Killing Curse at Harry and had it rebound and kill him again because of the same charm that blasted him when Harry’s mother did it. That’s the whole point of the thing – Harry doesn’t kill Voldemort, Voldemort kills Voldemort because, despite being explicitly TOLD that Harry has protected everyone at Hogwarts with the same charm, Voldemort refuses to learn and makes the same mistake a lethal second time. So I’m hoping there’s something redemptive in the direction of that final battle in the film, because I have yet to see it.
Don’t get me wrong, big fan of the books and movies, but I only picked up a lot of the complex, subtle Harry-Voldemort stuff after reading DHII several times, and I wonder if the movie makers ever got it.
What you said. Honestly, I think that the two “Deathly Hallows” films are, by and large, the best films of the franchise. But I think the final confrontation between Harry and Voldemort is a big miss. It doesn’t completely destroy the films for me but it was the wrong moment to stumble.
Another issue I have there is with the prolonged battle to take care of Voldemort’s snake – again done because of the need to create an action set piece. It is better to see that Harry has *told* Neville that Nagini needs to be destroyed and Neville – given the opportunity – does what needs to be done. It is a much stronger character moment for Neville.
Which is all to say that it was a miss when the movie could have knocked it out of the park by sticking with the text that was already strong enough.