Something became abundantly clear to me as the Deathly Hallows — Part 2‘s premiere came closer and closer — too many people who haven’t read Rowling’s books overlook what a talented writer she really is. It isn’t just the main plots and whimsical universe that have millions of readers captivated … it’s the complex and slowly maturing characters, the carefully crafted relationships and the beautiful narrative that ties it all together. When you take away all the hype, the Harry Potter series is just a wonderful, multi-layered story of love, bravery and sacrifice. And its fans get rather protective of that.
Like so many fans of so many series, the Potter fans can get ornery about the film adaptations, especially when you’re talking about their favorite book of the series. I’ve heard practically every movie called the worst of the series depending on who you’re talking to, which I think says a lot in itself. And I’m not innocent in all of this either — as much as I enjoyed Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, I left the theater fuming over the big changes (many that I still feel were unnecessary) from the book. As the time came closer, I became especially worried about Deathly Hallows — Part 2 because not only was it my favorite book of the series, but Deathly Hallows is the book I’ve read the most in the series and the last half was my favorite part of the book itself. I didn’t want to go in disappointed. Like a fool, I started rereading the book last week from the point where Part 1 ended. As I finally watched the film itself, something interesting happened.
The changes didn’t bother me.
Don’t get me wrong … there were problems with many of the changes, which I mentioned in my review if you’re interested. In particular, it just wasn’t as emotionally complex as the book. These changes did annoy me when I was still watching the film, but I didn’t find myself as angry as I thought I might be at the off choices.
Part of my acceptance comes from watching two awful film adaptations with beloved original sources in the last year. First, The Last Airbender. While they tried to keep the basic storyline I guess, Last Airbender also attempted to squeeze a 20-episode season into a 73 minute movie. To fit that all in, they threw out all the charm, humor and complexity. You don’t need that stuff in a movie, right? Worse still, the cast is awful. Worst casting I’ve ever seen. Sure the script was bad, but the actors themselves were just … wooden. Aang himself has the personality of milk toast, which is a shame considering cartoon Aang is a bundle of energy. Say what you will about the kids in Sorcerer’s Stone, but at least they had some emotion behind their acting and the writing reflected the book.
The second bad adaptation I’ve seen this year is Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, from former HP director Chris Columbus. The casting isn’t awful — Sean Bean as a vengeful Zeus was particularly good — but they changed so much! Not just cutting out short scenes for pacing, I’m talking about completely changing characters and storylines. They aged the main characters by five years, which not only changed their dynamic, but also pretty much ruined any chance of a competent sequel. They also changed Percy’s best friend from a shy introvert into a would-be ladies man who break dances. Worst of all, the actual big antagonist of the series wasn’t anywhere to be found. In comparison, the Harry Potter films have generally been faithful to the source material, with strong actors to boot.
After seeing both of these lesser films, I can take the changes in Deathly Hallows with a grain of salt. More than that, I’ve realized that the movies are fine, but the book series is what I consider the true story of Harry and his world. I’m glad the movies were made, it was great to see it all on the big screen, but the books will always be better. And that’s OK. I think the fans always knew the books would be better but now that the films are over, we can all breathe a sigh or relief. I’ve made my peace with the adaptations. For better or for worse, the film series did a decent job representing Rowling’s work — that much can’t be said for other movies.
It’s a little sad to see the film series end, but my heart ached more when I read the epilogue for the first time. And yet this isn’t really the end, anyway. To paraphrase Sirius in the films, the stories we love never really leave us.