Cinematographic language has its own rules. When adapting a book to the big screen, a screenwriter sacrifices parts that he or she considers less important for the plot. Even though the Harry Potter films are, generally, satisfactory, the screenplays do not live up to J.K. Rowling’s books, and some mistakes have undermined the films. We listed the 5 biggest mistakes in the screenplays. Read next!
1. Ginny Weasley
Weasley’s little sister was one of the worst adaptations. In the books, Ginny turns from a shy girl with a crush on Harry into a popular, confident and determined girl, for whom the main character falls in love with. In the films, however, she a character who goes from nothing to nowhere. Throughout five hours of The Prisoner of Azkaban and The Goblet of Fire, Ginny has about five lines, and none of them refers to her own life; they could be said by Dean Thomas, Seamus Finnigan or any other character. In The Order of the Phoenix, her hole is summarized in casting Reducto to make the spectator to see her as an empowered person – what just does not work.
In the fifth book, there are good examples of who Ginny Weasley really is. Due to her popularity, she is the one who takes most of the people to the Dumbledore’s Army meeting, at Hog’s Head. She also applies to substitute Harry as Gryffindor Seeker when he is suspended by Umbridge and later on joins the team as Chaser.
In the books, Ginny does not low her head. In The Half-blood Prince, she has an ugly argument with Ron when he reprehends her for kissing Dean Thomas in public. In the film, however, nothing happens. On the screen, her visit to the Chamber of Secrets is also forgotten, while in the book the character shows how much it affected her.
‘We wanted to talk to you, Harry,’ said Ginny, ‘but as you’ve been hiding ever since we got back -‘
‘I didn’t want anyone to talk to me,’ said Harry, who was feeling more and more nettled.
‘Well, that was a bit stupid of you,’ said Ginny angrily, ‘seeing as you don’t know anyone but me who’s been possessed by You-Know-Who, and I can tell you how it feels.’
Harry remained quite still as the impact of these words hit him. Then he wheeled round.
‘I forgot,’ he said.
‘Lucky you,’ said Ginny coolly.
For the audience who only watch de films, it is hard to understand why the character who names the series would be interested in Ginny. In the book The Half-blood Prince, Harry starts to question himself about his feelings for his best friend’s sisters, but this is not shown in the film. The screenwriter expected that everybody would believe that romance has always been there. Finally, it remains embarrassing scenes for the couple, such as “Your shoelace”.
2. The Prophecy
The Order of the Phoenix is very important to comprehend the Harry Potter plot as a whole. It is in this chapter that we get to know the prophecy. In the film, it is said that Voldemort is looking for it, but his reasons are never revealed. To make the movie meaningful, the spectator must just accept that the villain is looking for it. Even at the end, when everything is disclosed, the audience still does not know one of the most relevant plots of the story: Voldemort’s choice to mark someone as his equal.
In the books, it has always been clear that predicting the future is a hard task and it is, actually, the way we choose to act that determines everything. The message prophesied by Trelawney to Dumbledore said that the one with the power to defeat the Dark Lord would be born at the end of July and that the child’s parents would challenge Voldemort at least three times. The prophecy did not talk about Harry Potter himself. It could also be Neville Longbottom, who was also born at the end of July and whose parents faced the Dark Lord at least three times, just like Harry’s. However, Voldemort chose Harry.
The movies have never explained why the protagonist had to pass through all that journey. It is also after finding out what the prophecy says that Harry understands matters that have always tormented him and lead his next steps – such as the bond he had with Voldemort and his parents’ death. Therefore, it is disappointing that such a meaningful part of the story had been reduced for nothing.
Dobby saves Harry from death several times. The domestic elf appears in five out of seven books. In the films, however, he appears on The Chamber of Secrets and it is completely ignored in the following films, appearing again only in The Death Hallows – Part 1, when he saves the trio and ends up dying in one of the franchise’s most emotional scenes of the franchise. Or better: a scene that should have been one of the most emotional.
In the movies, Dobby has never been around. Thereby, he ends up being an easy solution for the heroes’ problem (a defect in the script known as Deus ex machina). Besides, the elf’s death had to be choking and felt by the audience. However, to make it happens, the spectator would have to really care about the character. And how would it be possible if his last appearance had been happened nine years before, in the second movie of the franchise? Who kept up with the story only through the films did not know him enough; some didn’t even remember the elf. In the film, therefore, his death had a minor narrative importance.
4. Overlooked subplots
Another mistake in the Harry Potter adaptations are elements that the screenwriters ignored until they realized that it would compromise the understanding of spectators who hadn’t read the books.
The plot of The Marauders is one of these faults. Remus, Peter, Sirius, and James are presented in the film The Prisoner of Azkaban, as the names Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs. However, there is not even a dialogue to explain that they are the same people; there is nothing linking the Marauders to the Map – what would not take more than one minute in the movie. It would not have been a problem if in The Order of the Phoenix, Mad-Eye Moody had called Sirius Black Padfoot, or if Harry himself would not refer to his godfather by his nickname. “He caught Padfoot”, says Harry to Snape when he was caught breaking into Umbridge’s office. At this moment, the spectator who had not read the books aks: “who is Padfoot?”
This problem is so recurring in the films that it is possible to remember two other cases: Two-way mirror and Lupin’s son.
While the spectator has no idea how Harry got the mirror, the reader knows that it was a gift Sirius gave him to be able to secretly talk to his godson. In The Deathly Hallows – Part 1, this mirror has an essential role in the story, but the object’s origin was ignored in The Order of the Phoenix. This probably happened due to the fact the last book had not been released when the screenplay of The Order of the Phoenix was written. However, this setback did not hamper the screenwriters to insert the domestic elf Kreacher, who also plays an important role in The Deathly Hallows. Why did they not do the same with the mirror, then?
Ted Lupin, Remus Lupin, and Nymphadora Tonks’s son is another example. He is mentioned only once, in The Deathly Hallows – Part 2, when Harry meets his beloved ones aside from the Forbidden Forest, holding the Resurrection Stone in his hands. “And Remus, your son…”, Harry asks. Again, a big question drifts on the air: “when did Lupin become a father?”
5. Ron and Hermione’s disfigurement
Several characters were misadapted or not developed enough in the Harry Potter films. It is the case of Ron and Hermione, whose personalities were modified to emphasize classic movie stereotypes.
Ron was basically turned into a comic relief. While in the books he shows himself several times as a smart wizard, in the films they set him just as a funny character. There are some lines which are originally his, but on the screen, they come from Hermione:
“D’you think I should have told them about that voice I heard? – No, – said Ron without hesitation. “Hearing voices no one else can hear isn’t a good sign, even in the wizarding world”Ron Weasley in Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets
It makes sense that Ron explains it to Harry. Even though Hermione is a scholar, she met the Wizarding World when she was 11, while Ron lives on it since he was born.
Ron’s brave acts are also overshadowed. In The Prisoner of Azkaban, he is attacked and dragged to the Shrieking Shack by a dog. When Harry and Hermione arrived there and found out the dog’s identity, Ron did not measure efforts to protect them. But, one more time, the script overshadows Ron and gives his line to Hermione.
“If you want to kill Harry, you’ll have to kill us too!” he said fiercely, though the effort of standing upright was draining him of still more color, and he swayed slightly as he spoke. […] Do you hear me? – said Ron with a weak voice […]”Ron Weasley in Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban
Even though Hermione got on the spotlight, some changes impair the character in the movies. At the beginning of the franchise, Hermione seemed to be only a know-it-all girl, but, gradually, the readers get to know a character who is more than just intelligent. She is skeptical, sensitive, empowered and have hunger of justice. Activism runs so strongly in Hermione’s blood that when let aside, makes the character weak and incomplete.
The character’s activism deserved some space on the screens, even in some dialogues. The creation of S.P.E.W. (Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare) may not be an essential plot in The Goblet of Fire. Its cut in the films is understandable. However, her indignation about maltreatment suffered by domestic elves could have be represented in another way. After all, it impacted on her adult life, when she decides to work at the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, where she started effectively fighting against oppression to Muggle-borns.
While her activism was virtually cut of the movies, Hermione got lines with no relation to the girl we know from the books, such as “Is that really what my hair looks like from the back?”
Portuguese version edited by Gabriela Benevides, Pedro Martins, and Vinícius Bonafé.
Edited by Renato Ritto
Translated into English by Caroline Dorigon
Edited by Aline Michel