The books are better.
There, I said it. And I know most of you would agree with me. But don't get me wrong, I am a sucker for the movie adaptations too. The amount of talent and hard work that went into bringing J.K. Rowling's magical world to life cannot be overstated, and who can argue with the results? The cast is amazing, the world brims over with imagination, and overall they all turned out to be satisfying movies, which is no small feat, considering how easily they could have simply phoned it in and still collected the cash. It's Harry Potter, it'll sell either way.
However, as fans of the books, we have to make peace with the cruel fact that motion picture is an entirely different medium, therefore changes are to be made in order to squeeze the complicated literature materials into a two-hour feature, or for the sake of cohesive narrative. That being said, just because we accept the necessity of making changes, doesn't mean we agree with every single change made.
Either because filmmakers failed to grasp the book's essence and spirit, or due to our own overreaching expectations, these are 10 book-to-movie changes that rubbed Harry Potter fans in all the wrong ways.
10. The Marauders Are Barely Touched Upon
The story of Harry Potter is filled with side characters and subplots, many of which are drastically reduced on the big screen, if not entirely cut out (Quidditch World Cup, anyone?). One of the most questionable subplot that's largely been discarded on the cutting room floor, is Harry's connection to his father's generation.
From admiration, to disillusionment, to understanding and love once again, Harry's perception to his father, whom he never personally knew, represented several key stages of his growing mentality throughout the entire series. This connection is key to understanding Harry's attachment to Sirius and Snape's complicated emotions towards Harry. With their stories mostly left out, some heaviest emotional punches have unfortunately lost their power.
Moreover, this even created some entirely unexplained issues for non-book fans, for example, the fact that James and his gang are Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs, the Marauders who created the eponymous map, was NEVER addressed at all. Even though it is crucial to Harry's misunderstanding that it was his father who conjured the stag-shaped Patronus, as in Prongs, you know, his Dad's animal form, which also never was mentioned in the movies...How do people understand all this otherwise??
9. Single Sex Education?
Apparently in the movie version, Durmstrang and Beauxbatons, the other two competing schools in the Triwizard Tournament, only exclusively cater to one gender, or that they're really douchey and won't even consider their students of "inferior" sex to be candidates for the champion.
Kudos to J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter gave us some loud and powerful messages to look past bigotry, prejudice and "what someone is born". More relevant than ever, are they not? Even though Krum and Fleur, the two champions eventually selected to represent their exotic cultures, are already living breathing Bulgarian and French stereotypes respectively, the movies take it several strides further by making the foreign schools completely gender-specific. It's like making every Russian a clone of Ivan Drago from Rocky IV.
And God their entrances are awkward! The whole situation is uncomfortable to say the least.
8. DID YA PUT YA NAME IN THE GOBLET OF FIYAHHHHHH!!!!
Goblet of Fire was certainly the most "out there" installment in the series, its tone just didn't "dock" with either the preceding films or the succeeding ones. One of the stand-out elements that fans hold a grudge to until this very day, is Michael Gambon's portrayal of Albus Dumbledore.
Sir Gambon is, without a doubt, a fantastic actor both on stage and on screen. However, he was fighting an uphill battle, having to step into the shoes left by the late Richard Harris, who embodied almost everything fans expected from the role. And boy did we note the differences...His Dumbledore was feistier, grumpier and way too aggressive. In a scene iconic for all the wrong reasons, Gambon's Dumbledore rushed into the room, shoved Daniel Radcliffe's Harry Potter onto a desk, and roared to his face "Harry, did you put your name in the Goblet of Fire"? The shock on Daniel's face was priceless, and I don't think that's him acting.
This scene gained notoriety probably because aside from this very "memorable" delivery, everything else was kept faithful to the book, except that J.K. Rowling specifically used the word "calmly" to describe the delivery of this line. That's the thing about Dumbledore, he was always calm and composed, and he always had an unwavering trust for Harry. What we saw on screen was exactly the opposite.
Gambon had admitted that he never read the books, so he based his performance from what he saw on the script, which more than likely explains his initially took a somewhat Shakespearean approach to the character. On a more positive note, his portrayal got better with each new movie, and by the end of Half-Blood Prince, it was genuinely amazing. So we all good.
7. Cho Chang's Betrayal
They were never meant to be together, and maybe that was the point. Harry and Cho were obviously attracted to each other, but due to their incompatible personalities, it was more painful than anything else when they were briefly together.
That doesn't mean they didn't need a proper excuse to break up though, because, first love and all that. Ironically in the book, their breakup was mostly due to them not liking each other's friends, which led to several mostly innocent fights, and they sort of grew apart by consensus. It wasn't pretty, but it's usually how it happens. It was more like a result of the general situation than anything particular.
In the movie version of Order of the Phoenix however, all was going well for our young lovers, before Umbridge (that evil b**ch) raided Harry's illegal DA party, tipped by Cho Chang under the influence of Veritaserum, the truth potion. Dumbledore had to leave, and Harry & co were cruelly punished. Seemed like a sufficient reason to call the thing off.
Except that it wasn't, when your girlfriend is tortured to the point that truth potions had to be brought out for her to confess anything, over which she had zero control over, that is your cue to give her a hug, instead of walking away. Oh Harry, how could you be so heartless.
6. The Attack On The Burrow
Quite possibly the most unwelcome additions in the films, this contrived original sequence was dropped into the middle of Half-Blood Prince, where Death Easters led by Bellatrix Lestrange and Fenrir Greyback launched a surprise attack on the Weasley house, intent on murduring Harry. Facing strong resistance from Order of the Phoenix members, they settled for burning the Burrow down and whisked away.
Boy, where do I even start. First, the scene was added so the movie could have some more action, as they decided to downplay the Hogwarts battle at the conclusion of the book, reasoning that it would result in two consecutive movies ending with a Hogwarts battle. Sure, makes sense. Except not long after came the decision to split the last book in two, so we got two consecutive movies ending with all build-up and no play. Thanks movie.
Second, it wasn't that good of an action scene, the Death Eaters pretty much gave up without a reason.
And last and most importantly, it makes no sense. In the lore, the Burrow, along with other Order member residences, are protected by magic, meaning the enemies cannot find them. That's why they would transport Harry to the Burrow at the beginning of Deathly Hallows. The secret wasn't compromised until the Ministry of Magic fell, when Death Eaters attacked Bill and Fleur's wedding. Besides, if Death Eaters can surprise attack the place anytime, why the hell doesn't Voldemort come himself? Hasn't he been hellbent on murdering this kid personally since he was a baby?
Dammit, the Dark Lord is actually rather pathetic when you think about it.
5. Too Much Backstory Left Out
The Marauders were far from the only backstory that were critical to Harry's journey, but was almost completely dropped from the movies. I say "almost" because bits and pieces are retained, but in a way, it only makes it worse.
The moment Harry learned that he was involved in a prophecy was one that had lasting influence on him. His initial denial to "one cannot live while the other survives" was gradually followed by acceptance and then straight up owned it by proclaiming that it's not even that important. "Imma be the one to face him either way." In the movie, the prophecy was glossed over, raising more questions than it answered. But without Harry's grown-up realization, it's just another dumb prophecy tale that audiences have grown so tired about.
Speaking of prophecies, whatever happened to the part where the literal terms of the prophecy could also apply to Neville, whose parents were hospitalized in St. Mungo, tortured to the point that they couldn't even recognize their own son, which also didn't make the big screen? Hasn't anyone ever wondered how Neville suddenly became such a badass by the last movie? It was supposed to be a hero years in the making.
However if any character that WAS given a respectable amount of screen time, but still sacrificed a ton of valuable backstories, it has to be our favorite nose-missing baldie-baddie, Voldemort. His inbreeding maternal family, his conception out of love potion instead of real passion, his personal vengeance, obsessions and shame for his half-blood heritage. Without all these, Dumbledore's memory of kid Dark Lord was little more than an interesting distraction.
4. In-universe Inconsistencies
It's difficult for an avid book fan to imagine watching a new Harry Potter film without knowing what's coming at every turn, except Fantastic Beasts naturally, but I would presume that it's just a lot of confusion and "where in Merlin's most baggy Y-fronts did that come from?"
Other than the Marauders' names, which we have already covered, the movie series abounds in inconsistencies for several reasons. The first five movies were made while the book series had not been completed, which could be very problematic considering Rowling's penchant for planting its own seemingly unimportant seeds only to reap them books later as crucial plot points.
Spells keep changing colors, references to events that never happened (Harry's first time in Lupin's office?), Flitwick remodeled as a .... choir conductor? What? But the biggest slip of them all has to be the two-way mirror.
A gift from Sirius Black, it allows two persons possessing a pair to see each other and converse from distant places, so basically...magical facetime? In the book, Harry only learned about its function after Sirius died, and broke it in frustration. Little can be expected that the mirror piece proved vital as it allowed Aberforth Dumbledore to send Dobby to their rescue in Deathly Hallows. The movie skipped all introduction of the mirror, so it kind of just existed and somehow it did belong to Sirius. Don't dwell on it, moving on, moving on.
3. Lily Potter's Eye Color
I know, I know. Really, that's the best you got? Of all the nitpicks you book fans could choose, the color of some dead character's eyeball? What next, Dumbledore's beard length? Now that you mention it.....anyway, Lily's eye color is actually more important than it sounds.
Throughout the entire series, Harry is constantly described as "looks like his father, but has his mother's eyes". Hagrid said it, Sirius said it, Lupin said it, Slughorn said it, hell, even Harry himself has said it. That's also what Snape said, in his dying breath. He died looking into the eyes of the love of his life, it's no small matter whatsoever!
So why oh why when they cast a young girl to play a younger Lily Evans, they couldn't find anyone that shares Daniel's blue eye color? Or have her wear color contact lens? Or modify them in post-production? Anything! Frustration is great, only because this problem can be solved so easily.
2. Elder Wand No More
In the conclusion of the Deathly Hallows, Harry was the true owner of the legendary Elder Wand, which he used to defeat Voldemort. Realizing the bloodthirsting nature of the powerful wand, Harry, in both novel and movie, took drastic measures to ensure that it can never again be used to do harm.
In the book, Harry used it to fix his own wand, and left the Elder Wand in Dumbledore's tomb. So as long as he remains out of trouble and, by some miracle, die of natural causes, the power of the Wand will fade, because Harry will remain undefeated. Seems fair.
In the movie, however, Harry snaps the Elder Wand in half and threw it off a cliff. Ouch! It might not be much of a problem within the context of the Harry Potter saga, but what if J.K. Rowling one day decides to write an official sequel to Harry's journey? (Cursed Child doesn't count!!!) What if the Elder Wand is brought up again? What are you going to do then, movie? Obliviate us?
1. Death of He Who Must Not Be Named
In the climax of the the finale, Harry and Voldemort finally duked it out with nothing held back. Harry emerged as the victor because of weird wand science and, of course, the power of L-O-V-E.
But the way it concluded differed slightly between book and movie. In the novel, the battle was fought in the Great Hall, with everyone watching. Harry gave a pretty powerful speech about exactly why he will win, and how Voldemort never understood true great power. It was a powerful moment, the culmination of his coming-of-age arc, and Voldemort died, lifeless body on the floor, like everybody else.
In the movie, the battle was fought in an empty courtyard with no witnesses. Harry won and Voldemort withered away, broke down into dusts and ashes and was no more, disappearing in a supernatural and even glorious way that he really didn't deserve. While it showcased some impressive effects, the heart of the ending was sadly lost. The irony that Voldemort, who spent a villainous lifetime pursuing immortality, ultimately dies like any mortal wizard, squib or muggle, except with a broken soul, was all but gone.
I've always found if funny to imagine how Harry would explain all this to everyone back in the castle. "No, he's gone, really! I defeated him. Some stupid wand thing, it's a long story, go ask Dumbledore's portrait. The point is, the war is over! Start celebrating! I can't show you the body, he kinda just melted, well it's not my fault that no one was there..."
You might have noticed that the first two movies are left out on this list. That would be because they followed the relatively shorter source materials very faithfully, so there's not much we can sin. Not that it means they were the best movies but they certainly took less risks.
The movies, thankfully, got it right way more than otherwise. Join me next time in counting down Top 10 most brilliant Harry Potter book-to-movie changes. Your invitations will be delivered through your bedroom window, kindly help feed the owl :).
wanderer on August 23, 2018:
the house elf were left out also
Ian Rideout from Alberta, Canada on July 05, 2018:
I actually enjoyed the showdown at the Burrow, even if it was sort of random. Harry breaking the Elder Wand actually made more sense to me; it seemed a more conclusive way to dispose of it than simply putting it back in Dumbledore's tomb. It's true that the wand could come up again as a plot point in potential future installments, but that would defeat the purpose of Harry getting rid of it in the first place. But if the wand does show up again, I could accept a film explanation of it simply being repaired or put back together somehow.
As for the final battle between Harry and Voldemort, I thought the film did it better. I found it anti-climatic in the book, as they merely talked to each other for a bit before each firing off one spell, and then it was over before you knew it. That is a good point about it having more thematic relevance in the book, but I just found the film's version more exciting and epic as they actually got to have a proper battle.
I agree with all the other entries, though. Either way, great list. It was fun to read, and interesting to see some points brought up that I'd never thought of before.