At the beginning of this year, I compared two of my favourite movie franchises- Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. I then said I hadn’t read either book series in full. Well, as of last week that has changed completely. While my reaction to the Lord of the Rings books was… interesting, I looked forward to reading the Harry Potter books. Having tackled a massive thousand page book with about half its pages dedicated to landscape, I could easily handle seven Harry Potter books. So, I slowly and patiently made my way through every book in the series (excluding Cursed Child, because from what I’ve heard… eek) and finally finished Deathly Hallows last week. My Harry Potter experience is now complete. I don’t need any stage plays or prequel films to satisfy me, although I want to watch Fantastic Beasts purely because the reviews have said Eddie Redmayne would make a good Doctor, so I want to see if I agree.
Anyway, onto the books. While I adore the movies and always will, having actually read the books in full now, I can totally see where people are coming from when they say they prefer the books. Starting from Goblet of Fire, the books cram so much detail and information in to the point where the movies have to cut out whole chapters and subplots.
I’m now going to go through each book and their respective movie, offering my thoughts on both-
- Philosopher’s Stone
The first movie is a childhood favourite and one of the few books I originally read in full. Reading it as a fifteen year old made the kid friendly writing stand out, but at the same time the writing is quite sophisticated. No wonder everyone fell in love with the Harry Potter world. Nothing is really left out except for a Potions challenge near the end of the book which Hermione solves while finding the Philosopher’s Stone. Not much to say about the first story really: it’s a simple plot that is enhanced by the later ones.
- Chamber of Secrets
My favourite Harry Potter film for numerous reasons: it was my first one, there’s a giant spider, there’s a giant snake and I love the whole mystery and heightened sense of peril that it has. People say it’s the least important part of the whole saga, but I disagree. It establishes wizard racism, introduces Dobby, sets up the Horcruxes and Griffinndor’s sword and the fact that Harry is a Parselmouth. This is more so in the book, where Dobby is in every book after aside from Prisoner of Azkaban. The book is practically identical to the movie, with the only major event cut being a Deathday Party for Nearly Headless Nick. This is still my favourite film, but my favourite book is coming soon…
- Prisoner of Azkaban
Ah yes, the one with the completely terrifying Dementors. My second favourite film in the franchise, and the point where the films got darker, both literally and metaphorically. The book however, is much more in tone with the first two. As a result, I feel like I slightly prefer the darker tone the film took. There’s the introduction of two of the best characters in the series, Sirius and Lupin, and my favourite monsters from Harry Potter, the Dementors. Everything about these creatures is fantastic and the way the book describes them is just eerie. There’s once again not much difference between the two versions, except for a subplot revolving around Harry’s Firebolt which was left out.
- Goblet of Fire
This is my favourite book in the series, and the point where the movies and books really started to shift. Some awesome stuff left out of the film include: a subplot with Hermione’s attempts to campaign for house elf rights, a giant sphinx in the third task, Blast Ended Skrewts, a subplot with Rita Skeeter and a whole new character called Ludo Bagman who was a judge at the Triwizard Tournament and really really should have been played by Steven Fry if the character was in the movie.
The whole plot revolving Voldemort’s return was also covered in more detail, with a massive conspiracy revolving around Barty Crouch. The reveal that Barty Crouch Jr was in fact alive and orchestrating the whole thing was a huge twist in the book, with a whole chapter dedicated to his plan. Keeping this in would have meant more David Tennant, and that’s never a bad thing. While I still enjoy the movie, I can see why many people feel that this is where the movies began to fall apart.
- Order of the Phoenix
Funnily enough this book was actually the one it took me the quickest to read, as I read it while helping a local theatre backstage as well as a train trip to London. It’s because of this that I didn’t actually feel like the book was too slow as I originally thought. However, I still feel a lot of the book could have been trimmed down, and the movie did a very good job of condensing it down. Umbridge is easily the most punchable and hateable character in the whole of fiction. Voldemort, Davros, Darth Vader, Sauron and the Joker combined are still less evil. There’s a lot of great themes in the story, with the Ministry of Magic determined to not accept Voldemort’s return and Harry’s struggle to spread the truth.
The movie used to be my least favourite, however I’ve come to the conclusion that there is a lot of good in it. All the padding from the book (endless house cleaning, teen angst, lots of exposition and more angst) is trimmed down considerably, with all the cool stuff left in. If there’s one major gripe I still have it’s that I wished the final battle between Dunbledore’s Army and the Death Eaters was as awesome as it was in the book.
- Half-Blood Prince
Easily the biggest shift between the book and the movie to me. The movie is very dark both literally and metaphorically and acts more like a prequel to the Deathly Hallows movies. The book however, feels more self contained because of the details the movie left out. The major cuts all involved Voldemort’s past and the revelations about the Horcruxes, which were explained in more detail. There was also a massive battle at the end of the book, but that was cut because of the similarity with the climax of Deathly Hallows.
Everything the movie kept in was still great though. The final third in particular is great, with the shocking event that you probably know. Despite this, the title itself is left ambiguous. In the book it was revealed that Snape’s mother had the surname Prince, which explains the name he gave himself. This still wasn’t the best reveal though, as the Half Blood Prince plot seemed sidelined in favour of the Slughorn, Voldemort and Draco storylines. Harry Potter and the Room of Requirements would have been more appropriate.
- Deathly Hallows 1 & 2
One book, two movies. The final Harry Potter story is spellbinding (tee hee) and ties up all the loose ends. The book and first movie is very slow, but as soon as the first Horcrux is destroyed, things get bonkers and awesome. The final chapters of the book are fantastic, with the Battle of Hogwarts, Snape’s story and the final battle being some of the best moments of the franchise. There is so much detail in the book that the movies had to leave out.
However, despite all this, the movies were still very good in my opinion. They’re action packed, emotional and ties the story up well. Most of the best aspects of the book were kept in and the escalation was magnificant. A fitting end to one of my favourite movie franchises.
So that was my Harry Potter experience. Having now read all the books I can see why some people would prefer them, and I did really enjoy them. Unlike Lord of the Rings where I prefer one version over the other, I enjoy both versions of Harry Potter equally. I just wish JK Rowling would stop doing extra additions to the universe (FIVE Fantastic Beasts films?) and leave the story where it is, as it is amazing.