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Friday Five: Harry Potter Month #5: Movie Failures

July 29, 2011

I hope you’ve enjoyed our month with Mr. Potter. I know I have. By the way, Deathly Hallows, Part 2 is awesome and you should totally go and see it if you haven’t.

It would normally be a good idea to end things on a high note, but this whole month has been “the best this” or “my favorite that” so I’m gonna switch it up and talk about something negative. What the films got wrong. Not just compressing content for time. I can understand that from a filmmaking perspective. What I’m talking about is the omission of certain aspects that could be considered pivotal to the world of Harry Potter. Now some of them can be blamed on producing the movies mid-stream with the books, meaning the film makers weren’t privy to details that would be important later. These are things that missing, that when I look at them I really have to wonder what the hell were they thinking when they put it all together. What are they? Well let’s have at it shall we? Also: SPOILERS!

Who were the Marauder’s?

To answer the question: Messers Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot & Prongs are Remus Lupin, Peter Pettigrew, Sirius Black and James Potter. These guys made the Marauder’s Map and were general trouble makers during their time at Hogwarts. The film brings up the map (can’t do it without it), but never elaborates on who the Marauder’s are. This causes come trouble. When Lupin confiscates the map, he claims he knows its a map but we never know why. It makes the reveal of Sirius being a friend a bit odd and it makes Peter’s betrayal have less impact. It’s also never explained that Peter was the secret keeper to keep James and Lily safe. In general, the Azkaban film places to much emphasis on the present and little on the past. Which is a shame, because it gives weight to key characters and makes the death of James and Lily all the more tragic.

The history of Tom Riddle

One of the things I was most interest to see in Half-Blood Prince was the back-story of Lord Voldemort. Awesome visits to the past where we unravel the most evil man himself. What do we get? A visit to the orphanage and the Slughorn memory. This is a major problem to me for many reasons. First off, why bother having the orphanage memory if you’re not going to fill in the other parts of the story? That makes no sense. They lure you into this idea of showing you the history of Voldemort and you get nothing but silly teen romance fluff for most of the movie. Compressed for time? Sure it was. I can understand that. I also understand its hard for a film that is mostly exposition of story and setup for the climax is a hard sell. However, by not giving us the story of Voldemort we come to only know him as a real evil jerk who is evil for no discernible reason. Voldemort’s history lets know his drives, motivations and the source of generally evil nature. I’m not saying we need to relate to Voldemort, but knowing who he was to me is part of the story as a whole because he actually shares parallels to Harry. And that makes the story much more interesting.

What are the Horcruxes?

Ok. So we failed in learning about Voldemort, big whoop! You what else they failed at? Setting up the Horcrux quest. By the end of the book we had an idea of what the Horcruxes were. The film gave as the dairy, locket and ring sure, but it failed to explain that they had idea of Hufflepuff’s Cup, something of Ravenclaw’s and Nagini. Guess what? Revealing more of Voldemort’s history would have helped for that too. But they got the Horcruxes, so its all good right? I say no. Yet again, Hufflepuff gets the shaft in the films. They don’t even mention its her cup at all. It’s just something, that happens to be horcrux, that is in Bellatrix’s vault. So, we head into the camping extravaganza that is Deathly Hallows: Part 1 with no clear goal in mind. It was maddening to me. At least they had SOME idea in the book rather than having none at all. On the plus side, I’ve got give them credit for sticking with the continuity of not giving ideas of what the horcruxes are.

The Battle of the Astronomy Tower

For the majority of the films, I felt the climax scenes were always handled very well. Confrontation with Quirrel? Good. Chamber of Secrets? Nice. Azkaban? Okay. Goblet? Amazing! Phoenix? Exciting. Half-blood Prince just drops the ball here. And horribly at that. In the books, Dumbledore petrifies Harry meaning Harry is stuck and can’t do anything. Harry has to watch the scene unfold while helpless to do anything, even talk. In the film, hes free to stand around. He sees Snape come up. He could stop the other Death Eaters. Even though he’s supposed to be Dumbledore’s orders, where is the brash Harry who acts on emotion when it overtakes him? No where. That’s a failure. Chasing after everyone is a failure too. Harry engages Snape in fighting and gets his ass handed to him. But the thing that irked me most is the failure on Snape. Harry calls him a coward and in the books, the normally unshakable Snape is livid. How is it played? Empty and shallow. Snape’s all “I’m the Half-blood prince” and then he’s gone. The ball is dropped so hard here it leaves a crater.

The History of Dumbledore

As with cutting down Voldemort’s history for time, I can understand why this was cut. Is it needed for the grand finale? Not really. However, they set it up to be there! Harry meets Elphias Doge who mentions Aberforth and Muriel who questions how well Harry knew Dumbledore at all. Aberforth points out himself and Arianna. They show Rita’s book. Harry asks about Grindelwald. All the cards are there and the delivery is a flat nothing. No look into his dark side, no look into the falling out of his family, nothing. Zilch. NADA! That is what makes it so infuriating. Its not that they cut it out, its that they left parts of it in, but didn’t deliver. Quite frankly I would’ve taken a little bit out of the camping and left in more Dumbledore. That’s the thing about mysterious characters. You often need back-story to flesh them out into cohesive wholes so as not to just leave them a mystery. Image if they cut out Snape’s story? Then he just comes across as a dick. Quite frankly, looking back through this article it seems they consistently dropped the ball on back-story. Shame on you all for leaving out some of the most interesting bits.

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