Harry Potter and the Hollywood Adaptations

The only downside to owning the complete series of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter is the danger of neglecting other aspects of your life in exchange for a few more hours with the ‘Golden Trio’.

I'm almost certain that Rowling meant this to apply to the scene in the book, as much as to the readers who follow every action with the eyes of their mind.

I’m almost certain that Rowling meant this to apply to the scene in the book, as much as to the readers who follow every action with the eyes of their mind.

I think I can leave my review at that and it would sufficiently convey my positive feelings on the  series. Yes, it may have plot holes — but honestly, once you reach the halfway point of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, who can keep track? — and parts that drag or that seem irrelevant or unnecessary, but in all, it’s a magical carpet ride into a world of Horcruxes, Hogwarts, and Hedwigs.

J.K. Rowling’s story compels. Some may argue that there’s an excess of details. To me, her attention to detail, to hardly ever leaving a question unanswered — nearly answering even mundane questions such as “Where does Mrs. Weasley put down the cake when she goes to hug Harry?” — is a testament to the care Rowling put into creating a world and its inhabitants.

I think a large part of how Harry Potter sucks you in until you’re caught off guard that it’s already 2:00 in the morning is that Rowling’s not just telling a story, she’s creating a world and she wants you to experience it. She places her reader beside Harry, scrutinizing even the minutest crack in the mirror and at what angle said crack appears to be, just as Harry does. Readers meet the people Harry meet, love the people he loves, and feel the burn of his lightning bolt scar when Voldemort is near or feels intense emotion just as Harry does.

Sometimes as I read, I became acutely aware that I could count the days and the activities done within those days as they rushed by in the book. Harry had detention with Umbridge for three weeks in total, for instance (if I remember correctly).

Day after day, I walked down the corridors of Hogwarts, visited Hagrid, had detention, and had breakfast at the Great Hall. I was there, with Harry Potter and his friends. That, I think, is the greatest strength of J.K. Rowling’s masterpiece.

Are you going to bash the movies now?

No, I will not bash the movies. For one thing, they have Alan Rickman. For another, they have Rupert Grint.

I tried hard not to envision the actors playing the characters, but I could put no other face on the cleverest witch of their age than Emma Watson’s. I could picture the lightning bolt scar on no one else’s forehead but Daniel Radcliffe. (The strangest thing was that I caught myself imagining the characters, even up to the sixth movie, played by the little 11-year olds the actors once were.)

I have a lot of respect for the movies. Many fans of the book series were introduced to the books through the film, myself included.

The movies told the story of Harry Potter, but they were adaptations. The films did not hold true to everything in the book, naturally. The films were developed to capitalize on what looked unique and interesting, in addition to the necessary information to get the story moving.

I understand and appreciate that many elements were pruned to maintain the story while keeping the glitz and glam of magic. The films focus on the war between good and evil, love and ignorance,  Harry Potter and Voldemort. Whatever was the best way to portray that war and still make the story exciting — that’s what the movies were about.

And that’s why, despite the wonderful benefits of adapting scenes into live action — that is, we see wand fights and watch phenomenal actors like Rickman on the big screen — the films are a separate entity from the books. I consider it so anyway.

Movies VS Books

I generally dislike making binaries of seemingly opposing objects, but for the purpose of this blog, I will consider movies opposite to books.

You often hear it: “Does this book have a movie version? I’ll just watch it.”

And then there’s: “Don’t judge a book by its movie.”

Both entertain, both tell a story, but they have different mothers. One may be largely influenced by the Hollywood industry, while books are often more an expression of something less tangible but still just as real and powerful… Let’s ask famous authors’ view on writing, shall we? And hope that one of them can explain my feelings.

Famous Authors on Writing and/or Literature

Literature is all, or mostly, about sex.
– Anthony Burgess

My task…is, by the power of the written word to make you hear, to make you feel – it is, before all, to make you see. That – and no more – and it is everything.
– Joseph Conrad

All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you; the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was. If you can get so that you can give that to people, then you are a writer.
– Ernest Hemingway

There is nothing to writing. All you have to do is sit at a typewriter and bleed.
– Ernest Hemingway

Well, that was…not as helpful as I’d hoped for…. Thanks for nothing, Burgess. And here I claim A Clockwork Orange to rank my top three best-reads. Meanwhile, as little as I enjoyed Hemingway’s In Our Time, his views on literature are closest to what I’m trying to say.

Books and their film counterparts are separate objects. A lot of silver screen films capitalize on what looks good visually — which can be an art, and which I’m not trying to degrade — whereas books have the special quality of absorbing you not just with its story, but into the setting in which the story takes place.

You hold a book, you can flip its pages, read over a beautiful line a hundred times, internalize its meaning, meet the characters and shake their hands, and ponder every half-smile exchanged between characters.

Movies are to be watched, to be seen from a distance. Don’t misunderstand me; there have been great films that touch us, that move us, that make us think, whose stories absorb us. When the credits roll, you may clap, you may stand up right away to exit the cinema or to turn off the DVD, you may stare in awe, you may wait until the credits are over to confirm that there’s no secret clip at the end hinting at a sequel — but you’re still thinking of something outside of you, the way you would think about a cafeteria cat fight you may have witnessed the other day.

Moreover, a movie offers an already completed setting to the finest details. You are presented with a backdrop of trees, a twitch in a character’s eyes, a significant look of longing from a lover, and you are meant to understand these cues as the director set it up. You have less work to do, whereas reading a book forces you to concentrate on the words on the page, to fill in the finer details.  Rowling may describe Ron as “tall, thin and gangling, with freckles, big hands and feet, and a long nose” and suddenly you’ve pictured him as also having dull, grey or lacklustre red hair or a perpetual pout.

Like Gottschall says in his book, “The Storytelling Animal”, “authors trick readers into doing most of the imaginative work. Reading is often seen as a passive act: we lie back and let writers pipe joy into our brains. But this is wrong. …The writer guides the way we imagine but does not determine it. …A writer lays down words, but they are inert. They need a catalyst to come to life. The catalyst is the reader’s imagination.”

tumblr_macdgdaezO1rseme7o1_500Books — good books — get inside you, and you into it. That’s why so many people feel grief akin to losing someone once a book is finished. During the time you spent with the characters and partook in their adventures, you were living another life.

The difference between films and books is you watch one, and you live the other.

Just as a single person bled onto a typewriter to create, so the reader infuses that blood into their own bodies through the words on the pages.

(Just like Tom Riddle, his diary, and Ginny.)

One Comment on “Harry Potter and the Hollywood Adaptations

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: