Harry Potter: The Books or the Films?
Tensions are rising as the wait for the new Harry Potter movie, ‘The Half Blood Prince’, is finally coming to an end. It has been two years since the release of ‘The Order of the Phoenix’ which hit cinemas in UK and Ireland all the way back in July 2007, and fans have eagerly (and patiently) been awaiting the arrival of this sixth film.
The Harry Potter phenomenon started in June 1997, with the release of JK Rowling’s first installment of the seven books: ‘The Philosophers Stone’. To this day, I remember picking the book from the shelf, reading the back cover intently and immediately wanting to take it home. I was eleven, and so the same age as Harry, Ron and Hermione – which obviously made the whole thing much more exciting! I instantly fell in love with it; the storyline, the characters, the magic and the idea of a school for witches and wizards – I literally couldn’t put the book down.
I wanted to be magic, I wanted a broomstick! (imagine that! Forget the car journey to the airport, the Airport Parking , the plane journey, the irritating coach trip on the other side – we’ll just take the broomstick!) I wanted Ron and Hermione to be MY best friends and, of course, I wanted to be part of the Quidditch team. I even went to Waterstones for an evening with J.K Rowling, at which she said she would consider putting triplets in one of the books (my younger siblings who are triplets), but she never did.
It seemed that I, and my family, weren’t the only ones who caught the Harry Potter bug; from then on the book just seemed to spiral into a whole new world of popularity. Suddenly it was everywhere, and then came the films.
The first film, ‘Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone’ was released on 16 November 2001, was directed by Chris Columbus and in total generated 6,475,550. Four more films have followed the first, based on the books, in the same order, with changing directors and additional cast members, as the new characters are introduced. Statistically they have all proved to have been incredibly popular; although apparently not to everybody’s liking.
There has been some controversy over the films and how much they actually follow the the books. Critics and avid fans have suggested that, despite directors best efforts, the films do not stick rigidly enough to the book’s story lines and that too many details are left overlooked. In fact, when I was at University, yes I still insisted on seeing the films even then. Two of my housemates, after seeing ‘The Goblet of Fire’ announced that they would not watch the remainder of the films due to their apparent inability to ‘be true’ to the books.
Like my housemates did, I love the books, they’re the kind that once you start reading them you just can’t put them down. However, to go so far as to refuse to watch the remainder of the films just seems a ‘little’ over the top? I think that the films are well made and fun to watch, whether they follow the books entirely or not.
To a certain extent, you have to try and separate the film experience from the reading of a book. If you marry the two together too much it is easy to end up disliking most films made this way. When you read, you create your own images of the story in your head; of the characters, of the places, of the personalities etc. These will inevitably be, in your opinion, the best representation of the book, as you are the one reading it. Therefore, if you choose to watch a film based on a book, give the director, crew and cast some credit – their vision and the restraints a film puts on a it can’t appeal to everybody.
I find it easier to separate the films from the books and try to ignore the discrepancies, because I don’t think that they can match up perfectly. You have to take the Potter films as they are; being aimed at the younger generation, they are fun to watch and simply based around the story lines of the books. Lets be honest, the books are all pretty exciting – so surely the films can’t go that wrong. Also, lets not forget, we wouldn’t have the films if they weren’t based on the books, so why not just enjoy them for what they are?
The sixth film, ‘Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince’ looked set to be a pretty good one; if the book was anything to go by. The trailer was fast paced and even more edgy than the last. It appears that the films are getting darker and darker, just as the books did as the series progressed.
Something that is quite amazing about the films is that, where possible, the same core characters have been used throughout. The actors chosen when they were mere eleven year olds, have grown up on the screen giving the films that endearing edge. It makes the relationships portrayed by the films and the growth of the characters that little bit more believable, as the actors grow closer together and to their respective characters. It will also be helpful to some, that as the younger actors themselves have grown up the Harry Potter movies have ended up with, lets face it, not a bad looking cast.
The only worry about the growing darkness, relationship based story lines and, quite frankly fairly scary scenes is that the films may be being made less accessible to the younger audience, at which the films were initially aimed? Although, if this is the case, they always have something to look forward when they are old enough to watch them!
The most recent film, ‘Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince” has had incredibly mixed reviews. The special effects are undoubtedly state of the art and have not received criticism unlike the films storyline which seems to have failed to caputure people’s attention. Again remarks have been made that the film does ‘nothing to convey the excitement of the book’ and that the storyline has been made boring.
I would agree in that not much seems to actually ‘happen’ in this movie; it does not have such a clear plot structure as do the rest of the films, with a beginning, middle and an end but just seems to start and then finish. Some may percieve this in a postive way – that the film appears to flow well and others maybe be left wanting for more.
The better aspects of this film include the special features, the action, the development of the relationships between the characters, the comdedic elements and its ominous tone. However, the film fails to explain the storyline very well with Draco’s part in the whole thing merging in with the dark cinematography and although some critics have commented on the improved portrayal of quiddich, although it was inluded, I failed to see this. I did not hate the film, nor was I bored but found the lack of a structured plot made it difficult to leave the cinema feeling as entertained as I have been by some of the other films.