Essay on the Adaptation of the Harry Potter Books Into Movies: Difference Between the Books and the Movies in the Presentation of Characters
Number of words: 2476
Introduction and Statement of the Problem
The Harry Potter book series by J.K. Rowling, a British author, comprises fantasy novels about a boy, Harry Potter and his friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger – all students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The plot of the story revolves around Harry Potter’s fight with Lord Voldemort, a dark wizard who wants to overthrow the Ministry of Magic, take control over all wizards and become immortal. Both the Harry Potter books and films are very popular and successful worldwide. Potterheads; fans of the Harry Potter series, ange from adults to even children. Because of this wide audience, the books alone have more than 500 million followers resulting in Harry Potter being the Bestselling book series in history. A few hours after the midnight on the day of the release of Harry Potter books or premiere of its movies, millions of Potterheads usually flock to get a taste of Rowling’s creations.
However, the Harry Potter series has also faced its own share of criticism. The main critical concerns include the dark tone that develops as the series continues and how graphic the series gets in terms of violence.
Considering the adaptation of Harry Potter books to movies, there are many differences between the initial texts and the subsequent films. One of the main differences that Potterheads are usually very vocal about are the differences in how characters in the movies are presented against how they are in the books. An excellent example of this, is the Character of Harry Potter who has green eyes in the books but blue eyes in the movies. Most of the characters are in some way or ways different in how they are presented in the Harry Potter movies versus how they were initially in the Harry Potter books.
While this might seem like a trivial issue, it is actually pertinent because the presentation of characters in films affects the quality of resultant films and whether they are excellent illustrations of the books from which they are adapted. It therefore speaks to the fidelity of the Harry Potter adaptation. In the Harry Potter adaptation, Potterheads might ask: Were the differences in presentation of characters in the Harry Potter series intentional or by chance? If they were intentional, why was it important to change some details in presentation of characters? Do these differences make the films better? Are the Harry Potter films the best adaptation that could be done from the Harry Potter books? Therefore, purpose of this paper is to examine the differences in the adaptation of Harry Potter books to movies and specifically differences in the presentation of characters and how this differences affect quality of the resulting films.
There are a lot of works that have been done on the adaptation of the Harry Potter books into movies. An example is Robyn Joffe’s article Harry Potter and the Adaptation from Novel to Film. In this work that is published by the Leaky Cauldron Organization, Joffe goes from one book to the other analyzing the process involved in adapting the book to the film. The one thing that stands out about this work is that Joffe includes details of what the team creating the films (Rowling, producers, directors, screenplay writers and others) underwent in terms of the decisions they had to make, what they settled on and how it affected the films created.
Another previous work on the adaptation of Harry Potter novels to films is the work by Justin O’Hanley titled 15 Movie Changes Better Than The Books (and 10 Worse) that was published by Screen Rant in May 2018. This is an important work in the study of the adaptation of Harry Potter novels to films because it outlines the differences between the books and the films and what effects these differences have on the overall tone of the Harry Potter creation. Having examples that show how changes in what is depicted in books helped to improve the creation as well as how other changes spoilt the series is crucial in showing how the Harry Potter adaptation is in some ways a good illustration and in other a bad depiction of the Harry Potter books.
The article A Critique of the Adaptation of Harry Potter by Clare Burns is also a study of the process of adaptation of the Harry Potter books to films. This work is especially important because it examines how the removal of some parts that are in the Harry Potter books affect the illustration in the films. For example, some missing stories about Sirius Black paint him as a villain instead of an innocent man who was betrayed.
The last work in my literature review is the study by Sara Ann and Elizabeth Harden. In their study, Sara Ann and Elizabeth Harden interview young kids who are Harry Potter fans to know what effects the Harry Potter books and movies have on them. However, Ann and Harden uncover various differences in the stories told by the kids that saw the movies and this that read the books. This in a way speaks to the adaptation of the Harry Potter books which is an interesting perspective.
To show the differences in portrayal of characters in the book and how they are portrayed in the films, I will consider different characters beginning with Harry Potter:
- Harry Potter
Danny Radcliffe acts the character of Harry Potter. In the harry Potter books, Harry Potter is presented as having green eyes which are similar to his mother’s eyes. However, in the film, Harry Potter has blue eyes which are different from his mother’s. Although the color of Harry Potter’s eyes does not form the biggest part of the central theme of the Harry Potter series, it is still an important detail. In the film, when Snape tells Harry Potter that he has his mother’s eyes, it is very irritating to notice that they are green in color. However, not to judge this difference in adaptation all too harshly, in the first film, Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone, Radcliffe had green eye’s which was later changed because of an allergic reaction to the contact lenses. Thus this difference was intentional although its does not necessarily make the adaptation better. In addition, in the books Harry Potter is presented as being his father’s look alike. Harry Potter’s dad had somewhat shaggy hair. Harry Potter’s hair is neat to an extent and thus a difference in the adaptation of Harry Potter’s character.
Harry’s appearance aside, one change that works out well in the Harry Potter movies is the dance between Harry Potter and Hermione. The two were at their most lost moment of their lives with nothing working out and Ron not being around. Harry decides to take a break and asks Hermione for a dance. Even though it is not the best music and both Harry and Hermione are just average dancers, the scene is an epic part of the movie as it makes both Harry Potter and Hermione relatable characters. This change different than the story in the books, actually works out well in the presentation of Harry Potter.
- Albus Dumbledore
One of the differences between how Dumbledore is presented in the Harry Potter books and how he is presented in the Harry Potter movies is his glasses. In the books, his glasses are his trademark but in several scenes in the movies, he is presented without them. Another difference in the presentation of Dumbledore’s character is his crooked nose. According the books, Dumbledore had a crooked nose that that stood out. However, in the films, Michael Gambon’s nose is neither crooked nor does it stand out. Lack of Dumbledore’s half-moon glasses was also a misstep in the adaptation of Harry Potter which was especially distracting to many Potterheads. In addition, the change of Dumbledore’s actors created a change in Dumbledore’s character. When Richard Harris acted as Dumbledore, he maintained the soft spoken personality and mannerisms that Rowling describes in her Harry Potter books. However, this changes when Michael Gambon takes over the character. For example, in the book Goblet of Fire, Dumbledore is presented to have a soft spoken trait. However, in the adaptation of the book, when Dumbledore asks Harry Potter if he had put his name in the goblet, he is raging with fury and looks like he might eat Harry alive.
However, apart from the difference in appearance, there are also other changes that are done in presentation of Dumbledore’s character that are actually make the Harry Potter movies a success. Lucas Johnson, in his article Words and Things, says that after watching Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2, he was more than a little disappointed that some subplots such as the story of Dumbledore’s past were not included in the movie. Nonetheless, after rereading and re-watching the movie, he realizes that Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2 was actually good because it is not only presented in a way that a person who has not read the books can understand Dumbledore’s character, but also that the main parts of his story and emotions are captured.
In the Harry Potter books, Rowling describes You Know Who as having scarlet eyes. Ralph Fiennes who acts the character of Voldemort does a really good job of as a villain with is raspy voice and sinister aura. However, having different eyes that how Voldemort is describe in the Harry Potter books is upsetting to Harry Potter fans. One thought by Potterheads is that if Voldemort had scarlet eye, he would be a much scarier villain.
In addition, Voldemort’s death is presented different that how it actually happens in the books. In the books, it is important to readers that Voldemort dies a normal human death, by his body falling to the ground. However, in Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2, when Harry kills Voldemort, his body disintegrates into embers in the air.
- Hermione Granger
In the films, Emma Watson, the actor who plays Hermione’s character is much more gorgeous that the way Hermione is described in the Harry Potter books. In the Harry Potter books, Hermione is described as having a thick bush of chestnut hair and having very large front teeth. However, in the films this is not the case. Hermione’s hair is much better. At first, Emma Watson was given large artificial teeth to wear which were later revoked with the thought that her natural teeth would work just as well. However, readers of the Harry Potter books can notice the difference in appearance in the movies.
- Severus Snape
The character of Severus Snape is acted by Alan Rickman. According to the Harry Potter books, Snape should have been around 31 years old when he first encountered Harry Potter. However, his depiction in the films is much older than that. He also should be thinner and ugly with his hair hanging over his face like curtains.
- Ron Weasley
The presentation of the character of Ron Weasley in the Harry Potter books is also different from his presentation in the films. According to the books, Ron should have a long nose and have freckles in his face. However, in the films, Ron has neither a long nose nor a freckles on his face. Rupert Grint, actor of the Ron Weasley character is also short. According the Harry Port Books, Ron is supposed to be a bit taller than both Hermione and Harry Potter
There are many differences in the presentation of Harry Potter characters in films compared to how Rowling describes them in her books. Most of these differences are unfavorable with Potterheads which to an extent suggests failure in Harry Potter’s adaptation whereas other changes work out well making the Harry Potter movies a success. While it is true that it is difficult to exactly replicate character in films as they as described in books, it is clear that the adaptation of Harry Potter had several missteps in the presentation of characters in the Harry Potter movies. That notwithstanding, it is also important to note that some differences in the portrayal of characters actually had good reasons behind them. Additionally, though the Harry Potter books and films seek to tell the same stories, they use different mediums. The point here is that movies may not cover all the plots written in the books because of considerations such as time. So could it have been done better? Definitely yes! But since there is no any other different adaptation of Harry Potter being plan for in the future, Potterheads will learn to live with the existing adaptation.
Beach, Sara Ann, and Elizabeth Harden Willner. “The Power of Harry: The Impact of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Books on Young Readers.” World Literature Today 76.1 (2002): 102. Web. Retrieved on 8 March 2019 from https://www.thefreelibrary.com/The+power+of+Harry%3A+the+impact+of+J.+K.+Rowling%27s+Harry+Potter+books…-a086170502
Burns, Clare. A Critique of the Adaptation of Harry Potter. Academia. No Date. Web. Retrieved on 28 February, 2019 from https://www.academia.edu/11312875/A_Critique_of_the_Adaptation_of_Harry_Potter
Joffe, Robyn. Harry Potter and the Adaptation from Novel to Film. The Leaky Cauldron Organization. No Date. Web. Retrieved on 28 February 2019 from www.the-leaky-cauldron.org/features/essays/issue17/noveltofilm/
J.W. Johnson, Lucas. “Harry Potter and Movie Adaptations | Words and Things.” Lucasjwjohnson.com. N.p., 2011. Web. Retrieved on 8 March 2019 from
Leonhardt, Tom. “Letter from Oklahoma / Books into Movies, Movies from Books.” Against the Grain 6.5 (2013): 2-20. Web. Retrieved on 8 March 2019 from
O’Hanley, Justin. Harry Potter: 15 Movie Changes Better Than the Books (And 10 Worse). Screen Rant. 22 May, 2018. Web. Retrieved on 28 February 2019 from https://screenrant.com/harry-potter-movie-book-changes-better-worse/