Over the weekend I went to see the final Harry Potter movie. The post-film discussions with family and friends made me think I should blog about it. I know I’ve blogged about the end of Harry Potter before, and at the risk of over-Pottering my readers, I’m doing it again anyway. 🙂
Firstly, let me say that I loved the final film and I can’t wait to watch it again. But I’m not adverse to discussing it’s cons as well as its pros.
There seem to be two major criticisms levelled at, not just this film, but the film series as a whole. #1: That they leave out too much, resulting in a product that is inferior to the books. #2: That if you haven’t read the books, you won’t properly understand the films.
Okay, let’s face it folks, I don’t think it’s possible to adapt a large book and get all the nuances into the film. And the Harry Potter books have gotten longer with each subsequent instalment, making it harder and harder for the film-makers. I am very relieved that they decided to make the final enormous book into two films rather than one. Imagine how much more they would have needed to leave out if it was just one film!
The film version of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows focuses primarily on the relationship between Harry, Ron and Hermione, and the more visual aspects of the story, such as the retrieval and destruction of the horcruxes (magical objects in which Voldemort hid parts of his life-force) and the final battle. A LOT of backstory is left out — particularly in regard to Dumbledore’s younger days. Much as I was sorry to not have that in the film, in the end, it did not seriously impact on the main thrust of the plot.
The film that annoyed me the most with regards to what it left out was Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Despite retaining the title of the book, the film left out most of the half-blood prince backstory. The film that I felt did best with what it left out was Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix — mostly because is was a very long-winded, waffly book full of stuff that didn’t really impact on the story.
Film is a very different medium from the novel. The key point to remember is that novels are adapted for film. Look it up in the dictionary. To adapt: to change to meet requirements. And film has different requirements to a novel.
Now, as for #2. Yes, I think this is, to a certain extent, a valid criticism. With this last film, for instance, if you haven’t read the books, you would be forgiven for thinking that Snape was actually Harry’s father. He isn’t… but the film version makes it look like he might be. It’s only if you’ve read the book that you’d know this isn’t the case. And there are similar instances with the previous films.
The Harry Potter films are unique in film history for the fact that they appear to be made for the fans of the books rather than for the general public. Perhaps because so many of the ‘gen pub’ have read them? I’ve discussed the films with several people who have not read the books, and in each case there were elements of the films that they found unclear or misleading.
So is it sloppy adaptation? Or does the widespread reading of the books justify this approach? On a personal level it doesn’t bother me — I’ve read the books and I’m happy with the films assuming that I have. If making the assumption that the audience already knows certain things, results in the films being able to include more plot and character development rather than exposition, I’m okay with that. And maybe, just maybe, those who are a little confused by certain points might be inspired to go off and read the books.
What do you think? Should the films have been made more accessible to people who haven’t read the books? Leave a comment.
Catch ya later, George
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