Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Review: The ENTIRE Harry Potter Movie Series

I just saw the last Harry Potter movie and I was thinking I should review it. Then I realized that any review of it would require me to mention Seven: Part I, and I wouldn't be able to mention that without mentioning the second movie and so forth. So everything at once.

Why am I doing the entire series instead of just the one that came out? Because the amount of money put into this should make watching the entire series back to back an amazing exhilarating experience. It should be as exciting as the book was at minimum.

Prologue: Novel Adaptions
Let's start by pointing out that it's hard to adapt a novel to film. For example Nanowrimo considers a novel to be fifty thousand words. That works out to about two hundred fifty pages in mass market paperback format. Most publishers won't publish that short of a book and most consumers look at it and immediately think that $7.99 is too much for so little. Most fantasy books are closer to three hundred and fifty pages.

A screenplay is between ninety and one hundred ten pages. Depending on who you ask will alter the answer on whether it should be closer to ninety or one ten. At least that is the size of a screenplay for a original screenplay from an unknown writer or about characters that haven't been tested.

Pages equal minutes. Ninety pages equals ninety minutes (or an hour and a half). So the average fantasy book is adapted you have to cut two hundred and fifty pages of content. The first step is removing all the description but most books don't have that much description. So next the writer needs to decide what they should cut and what they should leave in. Subplots tend to go on the chopping block, but a good writer has a reason for every subplot. As they say in scripts "What's the payoff?". You cut a scene and you need to explain how they learn that information in a different way. Which can cause problems when the final books are still being written and the author might want to bring back an old character for some purpose.

The first thing I will note is how much has been cut from every story and how that affected the movies. As you look at the lengths note that the are all very close to each other because as I mentioned production companies only want to have a movie that is two hours max, and that includes all the niffy special effects.

Philosopher's Stone
Paperback  Pages 320: Runtime 2 hours 33 minutes (approx. 153 pages)
The first was a very good start to the series. They kept most everything in and didn't do anything that altered the story in too severe a manner. One things to remember with the first book even was that Rowling wasn't sure were she was going with it. She has the Dursleys who are cartoon characters and normal people are called Muggles Which is a terrible term for anything. If someone called me a Muggle I'd punch them in the face. But I'm American and we have problems with derogatory (particularly racist) terms. The way some people are written it look like a children's story.

Major problem. Dan's eyes are not green and they talk about it all the time. It doesn't really matter, except that Lily was supposed to have all the signs of being a witch (red hair and green eyes) so changing her eye color to watch the actor's doesn't work on that level. What's worse is they decide to sometimes change it.

Second major problem is the ages of the adults. Might also fall under the catagory of she wasn't sure where she was going with it at the time. James and Lily die when they are both twenty-one years old. Petunia is supposed to be only a year or so older than her, so early thirties during the first movie and Vernon about the same (unless she married a really old guy). Their older ages ages everyone in the entire movie, since now James and Lily need to be older, as does Severus, Remus, Sirius, etc.

Chamber of Secrets
Paperback  Pages 352: Runtime 2 hours 41 minutes (approx. 161 pages)
Okay. More intense movie. This is actually a kind of scary book. People are nearly dying and everyone things that Harry is the one doing it. He even thinks he's the one doing it, to the point that he doesn't give Dumbledore important information. It ends with Dumbledore not telling Harry something important, which he later admits is a mistake.

Harry has neon green eyes on this one, since they were digitally added. They just realized that Dan's eyes were the wrong color. Oops.

This is the last movie where the opening is full length. They show him breaking out but after that they cut out the amount of time he spends at the Burrow, which is fine but it makes it harder to care when  they nuke it in a later movie when the audience hasn't been there.

They add a study hall that never existed in the books and is never seen again. In the book he's driven out of the Gryffindor common room because no one trusts him, which was a stronger place to have the scene.

Finally, we have the first of several overly cinematic scenes. The original was fine, but they wanted it to look cooler and less realistic. In the book he stabs the creature in the brain as it eats him. He doesn't have the chance to run away, he definitely does not get to fight it from the top of the statue head, for one the statue doesn't have any access and is supposed to be several stories high.

And the scene that makes everyone want to punch a writer in the face. Hagrid returns and everyone at the party is suddenly silent so everyone can hear what he and Harry are talking about. Forget that most of the people there don't care about him or even realized that he had been imprisoned.

Prisoner of Azkaban
Paperback  Pages 448: Runtime 2 hours 22 minutes (approx. 142 pages)
The first scary movie. The first book where death is a major subject. And as far as it goes this was my favorite of the movies.

Harry goes to Diagon Alley in a huff and we discover it's only a day or so until he's supposed to be at school. Good thing the Minister got his books for him (in the book he spends a month there). Once again we don't get to know this area so we don't know how much it gets ruined in the later books/movies.

There is some minor altering that doesn't make sense (Hagrid's line about the Monster Book of Monsters is given to Hermione) and a couple of alterations to the flow of events. Mostly though it stays true to the story and the characters come alive during it.

Goblet of Fire
Paperback Pages 752: Runtime 2 hours 38 minutes (approx. 158 pages)
We get to see some very cool characters show up during this movie. Sadly the World Cup isn't one of them. We get to see a very small part of it, none of the set up, none of the other characters and new characters. Ludo Bagman doesn't exist and neither does his gambling debts. We don't hear about Weasley Wizard Wheezes or the guilt trip the Twins throw at their mother. We don't see Moody until he shows up at Hogwarts.

Before we know it the carriages are there and the boat is there. We have the drawing of champions and Harry's name comes out. Ron is pissed at him because he's a dick. He refuses to talk to him until after the first task because after seeing it he decides that if someone sets you up to fight a dragon they want you dead. Except in the movie Ron already knew about the dragons before the task and was still being a dick to Harry.

They didn't want Dobby in the story, nor the House Elf Liberation Front, so instead they use the method for the second task that Crouch set up (asking Neville about it, not having Dobby stealing it).

Oh, and for some reason they completely change the time frame of Crouch escaping. I'm not sure why. Did they just want to give the actor more screen time?

A lot was cut from this movie. This is the first movie where they start running out of time to act. They have scenes where they should be doing something but they don't because that would take time and they didn't want to make it a longer movie.

But they had to have the dragon chase Harry all over the grounds even though in the book it states the dragon won't get up because it's protecting it's eggs and come on, you wouldn't let your eggs out of your sight with that many predators around you.

The only other problem was they make the Maze too creepy. It's actually eating fallen champions.

One last thing about this movie. Screw Team Edward and Team Jacob. I support Cedric Diggory, the Real Hogwarts Champion.

Though honestly, is RPatz considered 'broad shouldered' according to British people?

Order of the Phoenix
Paperback Pages 870: Runtime 2 hours 19 minutes (approx. 139 pages)
The beginning of this book always pisses me off because I agreed with Harry. Stuck in the dark knowing nothing after a extremely traumatic experience. I don't get that feeling from the movie. I also don't think that Umbridge is short and fat enough. In the book I think of her as being so fat that you could push her down a hill and she'd roll and Imelda Staunton isn't that fat.

Most of the story of Cho Chang was dropped. Rita Skeeter isn't heard from and the article of Harry's point of view of the night Voldemort returns isn't written. One could argue that without that article the end of the final movie couldn't happen.

We don't have the trip to St Mungo's. We don't get to see Lockhart (whose mind is still missing) or meet the Longbottoms who were tortured into insanity. It's only barely mentioned in the movies and if you aren't up on the character names you might miss it. It explains why Neville lives with his grandmother and why he hates Voldemort and how he was very close to being in Harry's shoes.

They screw the mess that the Twins make. They try to make it better than the book but just make it silly. I would love to watch the professors pretending they don't know what end of their wands to hold while Dolores ran around. And they didn't have the swamp (which could have made an appearance in the final movie).

Most people say that the battle of Voldemort and Dumbledore is the only time they actually make it as good as it is in the book. I agree, but it would have been nicer if they had actually did it like the book.

I am annoyed that we don't get to see Harry wreak Dumbledore's office. The truth comes out now and Dumbledore admits his mistake but it doesn't have the same force as it does in the book.

Half-Blood Prince
Paperback  Pages 652: Runtime 2 hours 34 minutes (approx. 154 pages)
So much shit goes down that the acting left the building and we never see it again. There is one scene where Dan is just standing in Dumbledore's office. Doing nothing while Dumbledore talks. By that point Harry is very comfortable being in that office so it doesn't make any sense for him to be nervous there.

They try to push his relationship with Ginny. It doesn't move that fast. They bring her in on things that she doesn't need to be in on. They have her hide the Potions book, even though Harry is supposed to hide it himself, under Ravenclaw's Lost Diadem, aka the last horcrux.

They nuke the Burrow, even thought it's protected from that kind of thing, supposedly because they didn't have the money to do a proper battle in Hogwarts, which was supposed to be epic, yet instead it was fairly shitty.

When I watched this movie I felt like it was hanging on by strings. We had the bare outline of the movie, no room for acting or moments that connect the movie with the book. I won't go on with what I found wrong with this movie, I was just very happy they were spliting the next into two.

Deathly Hallows... Part I and II
Paperback Pages 784: Runtime Part I - 2 hours 26 minutes, Part II - 2 hours 10 minutes (combined approx. 276 pages)
Part I
What a wonderful strong start. The Dursleys are even more of a cartoon than they were in books. They don't argue with Harry about whether they need to leave and they don't take a wizard with them for protection.

The polyjuice potion is supposed to be golden colored, though it still tastes bad. I hate that they use the regular cast for all the voices. It makes it sound like a bad dub job. You can worry about kids not understanding, but this movie is not for kids. This book wasn't for kids at least.

So we're in the air. We have a battle in the air? No, we have a battle on the freeway. No instant brick walls for us. Does Harry get spotted because he uses non-lethal methods? No, he gets outed by his familiar.

That last part is a problem for me. It says a great deal about Harry's character. Even when he kills Voldemort he uses a Disarming Charm, just to prove he won't use the method used to kill his parents.

The Wedding. The Burrow has rebuilt itself somehow after getting nuked. They don't have people to set up the wedding they do it themselves. Harry attends... as himself. In the book he pretends to be a Weasley using polyjuice potion with the hair of some ginger kid from the village. After the party they go to the wrong street. This is the point where it would have helped if they had tried to keep closer to the right time period (book 7 happens in 1997).

They go to the house and find Kreacher. It doesn't take long for them to discover that he knows something. After he returns we almost immediately head off to the Ministry. We don't get to see him happy. Of course they wanted to cut him from Order of the Phoenix too and Rowling warned them not to.

Now we get to see them wander around in weird bodies and voices. There are some problems with it but they aren't that major and I love the decoy detonators (they aren't described very well in the books).

One hundred and one random vistas. This is the boring part but they make it more boring than it needs to be. They drag it out. Things move faster once they get to Godric Hollow but they don't mention the biography.

We end with Malfoy Manor. It's as good as it can be. Then we see Voldemort get the Elder Wand (though he is supposed to a bit rougher getting it out).

The movie ends in the middle of nowhere. Literally. It doesn't end in a good place. It just does.

Part II
Still in the middle of nowhere. Time to go to Gringgotts. This feels fast to me, particularly compared to part one. Ron's disguise was supposed to have a beard and they don't realize anything is wrong until they hand over the wand. They come in thinking that it will be a great form of identification. Bellatrix technically can't even get a new wand cause she doesn't have a wand maker.

After they get through that Harry has a vision. Voldemort knows what they are doing. Difference between the movie and the book? In the movie he feels each death. In the book he thought he would, but it's not until he starts to check on them that he realizes that he doesn't.

He keeps Nagini near him but not in a protective bubble. He lets people near her when she is in danger. For some reason his voice makes girls scream. He constantly reacts to the destruction of a horcrux. They do not mention that the Fiendfyre is what destroys the Diadem.

The entrance of Harry back into Hogwarts is trite. He calls Snape out in front of everyone. Why? He spends more time trying to convince the people in the Room of Requirement that they aren't about to have a war in the book.

The way the work the battle is terrible. The set a single set of charms around the place and they don their job. They don't prevent people from entering, they prevent people from blasting them from a distance, like the shields in Star Wars: Episode I. And why do we get to watch all the old sets get destroyed? Burn the Quidditch stadium? The bridge makes more sense, but they devote too much time to it.

And within five minutes of the battle beginning the entire castle is terribly damaged. If they had kept it up they could have just collapsed it on top of them, but it you're paying attention a lot of damage happens fast and then nothing for the rest of the battle.

Harry now discovers that he is a horcrux. He actually tells his friends and they don't tie him down and tell him he's crazy. He walks out without his Invisibility Cloak. He drops the Resurrection Stone before he gets to the clearing.

The battle at Hogwarts is much more drawn out. Harry chases Voldemort through out the castle while Nagini fights Ron and Hermione. Remember, Voldemort knows that he can't let Nagini die, yet he lets her out of his sight.

It's just, weird. They made the scene more exciting, but it doesn't have the same force as the book. Something as simply as Neville being at Voldemort's mercy with a burning Sorting hat on his head when Neville suddenly pulls out a sword and kills Nagini. It's sudden, it's shocking. It freaks Voldemort out.

And then it ends. No party. Realistic, but... no party? We have the flash forward but Harry doesn't mention to Albus that he was almost sorted into Slytherin, which was the point of that conversation.

Conclusion: Failures
We missed out on character development.
Some scenes are ruined by making them more cinematic.
You might not be able to understand the story from watching the movies.

The end was a let down. It wasn't what it should have been. It could have been a great deal more. Luckily, this is Hollywood. In ten years, there will be a remake.

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