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Harry Potter: Books vs films

By and Miriam Zendle
We all know that translating a book to a film is not the easiest of tasks. Not only do you have to contend with the author, who may rankle at his or her work being changed in even the slightest way, you also have to deal with those who loved the book and, similarly to the writer, find any changes heretical. Nobody wants to incur the wrath of those that will potentially come and watch the adaptation, but sometimes changing things is necessary, especially when complicated sub-plots vie for attention.

Certainly, those at HPLexicon.org believes that in order for a book to translate properly, changes are extremely important. However, says the site, "for fans these differences can be painful indeed. What many fans consider to be key scenes in the books are sometimes marginalized or completely ignored in the film."

As the release date for seventh and final book Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows draws ever closer, and fifth film Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is released in cinemas worldwide, Digital Spy takes a look at the main changes involved in the translation of each book to film thus far.


Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Things that were cut

We don't really see the Muggle point of view at the start of the film - Dudley's sidekick Piers Polkiss fails to appear at all.

Large cuts are made to material detailing the attempted escape from Privet Drive after Harry's Hogwarts letters start arriving thick and fast, and we miss an entire month of Harry's summer preceding his arrival at Hogwarts.

Sadly, the Sorting Hat's song is also cut, as is Harry and Draco's first exchange, with their original meeting in Madam Malkin's robe shop changed wholly and their first duel cut, and while some points may be insignificant, to understand the enmity that grows between Harry and Draco in years to come fully, it would have been nice to leave it in for purposes of accuracy.

Although the whole point of the film concerns the Philosopher's Stone, we barely get a look at creator Nicolas Flamel, whose role is dramatically chopped and changed around, only for some of it to appear on DVD extras.

Such academic moments as Hermione's potion riddle on the way to Harry's confrontation with Quirrell obviously did not translate as well to screen as Ron and his chess playing, but even so, it is somewhat disappointing that it was cut.

Plotlines that were changed

With the changing about of Harry and Draco's first meeting, we see little of Scabbers, the rat who later turns out to be Peter Pettigrew. Although these moments may seem inconsequential, JK Rowling is well known for putting in clues throughout her books to guide those who happen upon them, something the films cannot replicate.

Alterations are rife throughout, with Norbert the dragon's removal being done by Dumbledore rather than the original, rather complicated plot strand where Harry and Hermione attempt to help Hagrid out with his little 'problem'. This differentiation necessitated other plot changes, with characters being switched around and detentions in the Forbidden Forest never occurring.

One of the most peculiar moments is the depiction of Dudley and Aunt Petunia as blonde - with Dudley particular described as such, being made out to look rather piggish, but suddenly, in the films, they are brunette. Certainly this is a petty thought, but one that angered hardcore fans. This colour change is a disease that affects Firenze too, who is described in the book as palomino with light blonde hair, but again is dark in the film. Who knows what Chris Columbus was thinking when he cast these roles!

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Things that were cut

In the Chamber of Secrets, we are never told about the Ministry's letter telling Harry off for his use of magic underage, which underscores an important plot strand that comes into play later in the series.

In relation to the Malfoys, who become increasingly important to the plot, Harry is not shown in the main film spotting Draco and Lucius at Knockturn Alley - although he already knows Draco is a bit of an idiot, Knockturn Alley is a big old tip off that they're up to no good.

Although Peeves the Poltergeist is a character appearing throughout the series of books and interacting with major characters, he does not appear in this or in the first film, although he was reportedly cast and voiced but was cut due to time constraints.

Changes to the effectiveness of the Polyjuice Potion from the book to the film are severe. Harry and Ron have to fake Crabbe and Goyle's voices, although in the book the voices, along with Harry's vision, are both changed into those of their Slytherin enemies.

One of the most important points that changes from the book to the film are the hints about Ginny Weasley's strange behaviour, which leads to her incarceration in the Chamber of Secrets by Tom Riddle. Although throughout the book she acts strangely, in the film we see very little of her, and thus it is more of a shock for the audience when she is found to be the instigator of the problems at Hogwarts.

Plotlines that were changed

Not so serious in this film, but many lines are switched from their original owners, such as Ron's explanation of the word 'Mudblood' in Hagrid's hut. Hermione is now the proud owner of lines from both Ron and Dumbledore.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Things that were cut

As Rowling's books became ever builkier, more must be cut and played about with. One of the more important points discarded is Remus Lupin's explanation of his time with Harry's father as Padfoot, Prons, Wormtail and Moony, the backstory behind the Marauder's Map and the reason for the use of the Shrieking Shack, all of which leaves more suspense for the final part of the film, and certainly it makes sense for the film to have done this for dramatic purposes.

Scabbers still plays a small role in this film, despite the fact that the revelation of his Animagus status comes in the latter part of Prisoner. We barely see him mentioned, save one reference concerning his disappearance, but again, this serves to give the audience more of a shock when the realisation comes that Scabbers is, in fact, Peter Pettigrew.

Lines are increasingly given to others - for instance, McGonagall's speech concerning Animagi is given by Profressor Snape later in the film, and we never see Snape himself teaching his beloved Potions. Peeves still makes no appearance.

Harry's interaction with Sirius does not start at the beginning, as in the book, but rather he spots the menacing Gary Oldman on the front of the Daily Prophet while travelling on the Knight Bus. This is the same for his interaction with Sirius' animagus form. Harry hears about Sirius' whereabouts and actions much differently to how he does in the book.

Not so important, but for comic effect, some of the circumstances and occurrences when Aunt Marge comes to stay are changed about - scenes are combined, while Marge disappears into the night sky after being blown up by Harry - this certainly did not happen in the book. There is no mention of how the family recover her.

Although it takes the trio most of the third book to work out that Lupin is a werewolf, in the film, simply because the audience can be quite dense, Lupin's boggart is obviously a full moon - this makes nonsense of the lack of realisation of his condition.

Plotlines that were changed

The main changes in the third film is in the tone compared to the previous two rather than direct alterations. The Prisoner of Azkaban introduces a darker tone compared to the written version and shows more of Harry's emotions. The first two films concentrated on mystery and adventure, leading to complaints about emotional scenes from the book being taken out. In this film, Harry's emotions and angst are shown a lot more. For example, in the book Harry, Hermione and Ron are too stunned to move when they learn that Sirius Black "betrayed" Harry's parents. In the film, however at learning the news Harry runs away shouting: "I hope he finds me. When he does I'll be ready. When he does, I'll kill him." This adds more drama and sets up Harry as being more hungry for revenge. Although the added emotion meant deviating from the book, a lot of people welcomed the changes to the film and enjoyed seeing a darker side to Harry Potter.

The romantic tension between Hermione and Ron is built up more in the movie than it is in the book. At one point Hermione asks Ron if he would like to "move a bit closer", while during another scene they grab each other's hands then look away from each other nervously. The blossoming relationship is lightly implied in the book version, but the movie makes more of it and leads the viewers to think the pair could get together in later films. This would ultimately excite the viewers but would lead to disappointment if the pair never got to embrace, which would come to light in later books.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Things that were cut

In the book Harry starts off at the Dursleys' house when the Weasleys' come to collect him and take him to the Burrow. In the movie, however, Harry begins already at the Burrow which means the film can concentrate on the main plot lines of the story and distinguish it from the previous movies. The removal of this scene does not take much away from the actual plot line.

The scene where Karkaroff discusses his Death Eater status with Snape is cut from the film completely but can be seen in the DVD extras. In the movie it is not mentioned that he runs away from Hogwarts after learning of Voldemort's return, whereas this is stated clearly in the book.

In the book there are three trials that Harry visits in Dumbledore's Pensieve, but in the movie the character Ludo Bagman is cut. This means that one trial was cut altogether, while the other two trials were combined into one. Both of these are details that readers would notice are missing from the films but do not detract from the overall plot line.

Hermione forms an association called The Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare after being enraged at the “outrageous abuse of our fellow magical creatures". She formed it after seeing the “unfair” sacking of Winky and finding out that Hogwarts employs a vast number of house-elves. She manages to get Harry and Ron on board, but there is no mention of this in the movie because house-elves were taken out altogether. It is believed this side-plot was removed in order to concentrate the film on its two themes of romance and adventure, but readers would be aware that this sub-plot had been taken out.

Harry does not get to know Sirius as well as he does in the book because he only features in one scene with him when his head appears in the coals of the fireplace in the Gryffindor common room. Although not seen much, Sirius is an important character to Potter fans and they would have expected more to have been made of him in the film version.

There is no explanation as to why Harry and Lord Voldemort's wands "united" to reveal smoky wisps resembling Cedric Diggory, Frank Bryce, Bertha Jorkins, Lily Potter and James Potter. The omission of a proper explanation leaves people who haven't already read the book confused and not really knowing what was going on.

Negative comments were made about the loss of some of the source material that was present in the book. A lot of people felt too many of the parts that developed characters and set up events had been taken out, leading the plot to become a bit murky.

Plotlines that were changed

Harry and Ron have an argument when Ron overhears Harry talking to someone, which turns out to be Harry warning Sirius to go away. When Potter refuses to tell Ron who he had been speaking to, Harry calls him a "foul little git". This was not written in the book and makes the row more dramatic and hint at a falling-out between the two main boy characters.

When Harry's name is picked out of the Goblet of Fire, Dumbledore calmly asks him if he had entered the tournament and when Harry says no he is happy with this. In the movie however, Dumbledore then shakes Harry violently causing him to fall over until he is satisfied with his answer. A scene is then added in the film where Dumbledore, McGonagall, Snape and Moody gather together to discuss the night's events and Moody is asked to keep an eye on Harry and help him out. The additional scene makes much more of the fact that Harry's name had appeared even though he had not volunteered, spelling out the importance of this to the viewers.

A very small detail but one that outraged a lot of fans was that Hermione wore a pink dress to the Yule Ball and had her hair in lots of curls, rather than in a periwinkle dress and a tight bun like in the book. Many fans picked up on this small detail and criticised the choice made to change the exact book description. A scene is also added where the students learn to dance and Neville is shown to be the keenest to learn. Hermione also gets upset with Ron for having not asked her to the ball first rather than as a last resort, again adding to the romantic theme of the film and hinting at feelings between the two characters. Again, in future books this build up will have an effect on how the viewers respond to anything happening between them or not.

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