In the spirit of finishing the Harry Potter Heptalogy, it got me thinking about the books vs. the movies, and the differences between the two. And I also wanted to provide some sort of over-arching opinion on the series as a whole. So I figured I’d hand out some meaningless awards, since I still have some residual Oscar mojo surging through my system (Keaton was robbed).
I’ve got seven fake awards (for seven books) in three categories. All votes were submitted by, counted, recounted, and verified by the supreme ruler of the universe: Me. Without further ado, and any lame racial commentary jokes, here they are:
In the Books vs. Movies Category:
Worst Thing Left Out of the Movies
Winner: Grindelwald and Ariana Dumbledore (And the rest of Dumbledore’s interesting bits)
Man was there a lot to choose from for this category. From the expanded wizarding world in Goblet, to Hermione’s affinity for S.P.E.W., to any salient, interesting detail of Ginny and Harry’s relationship. The winner, however, is Grindelwald and Ariana Dumbledore, and any mention of the shortcomings of Albus Dumbledore. From his fallen sister, to his youthful desire to subjugate muggles for the Soviet-inspired “greater good”, none of it made into the films in any recognizable form. All those little facets of his character, revealed mostly in the last two books, were utterly omitted in the movies, and the result is an old, wise Dumbledore character that knows no faults, has no flaws, and then dies. Feel free to disagree with me, there’s potentially an ocean of nominees for this award, but in the end leaving out these details vastly impacted the depth of a key character.
Better in the Movies than the Books
Winner: Sirius Black
Don’t get me wrong, I love Sirius. His name alone is miles and miles of good clean pun (giggity). Gary Oldman did a glorious job (as usual) portraying Sirius as a wizened, somewhat tortured god-parent to Harry, providing support, information, and really awesome brooms. The academy (me) felt that the books made him come off as more petulant than wise, and self-destructively impatient post-Azkaban escape versus the tranquility we get from Oldman in the film adaptations. His evolution from bloodthirsty but relatable rogue in Prisoner of Azkaban to the whining home-body who lets his over-enthusiasm endanger himself, his god-son, and the entire Order on more than one occasion is not for the better. Almost every single character is better (to me) in the written version, except Mr. Sirius Black. If only he could’ve been more like Gary Oldman.
3) Most Convenient Plot Device
Winner: Fawkes the Phoenix
This award held true for both movies and books, so it’s lumped into this category. There were multiple nominations here too, from the Mandrake saplings (also featured in Chamber; you couldn’t throw a rock in that book without hitting a plot device), Polyjuice Potion, and Time-Turners to the more animate Thestrals, House-Elves, and Hippogriffs. Fawkes is pretty awesome, throughout the entire series, but the introduction is too ridiculous to not win here. Oh look, a Phoenix. And their tears heal wounds of the life-threatening variety. Oh, and they can also carry really heavy things, even though it’s a bird with supposedly hollow bones. It is a magic bird, so I digress. Later: Dude, we’re fighting this big snake that can kill you with its eyes and its venom. Man, I wish we had something that could just know it was needed, blind the snake, drop off a magic weapon that can kill it, heal the protagonist after he gets bitten by it, oh and also air-lift all three of us out when we’re done…well four counting the full-grown adult wizard that assaulted us. Wait, you’re telling me a Phoenix can do all of this? And it was revealed earlier in the text? Well sign me up, I want one. Yet still Fawkes manages to be a bad-ass. As convenient as it was, he blinds a gigantic snake. And his Phoenix song that saddens the entire hospital wing at the end of Half-Blood Prince might be one of the most chilling, saddening moments in the whole series, brought to you, fittingly, by its most convenient plot device.
In the Best of the Books Category:
Best Execution of a Literary Device
Winner: Multi-Volume Storylines (aka Meta-plots)
The one ultra-consistent part of JK Rowling’s story-crafting is the execution of her long-term character archs and storylines. The series-long character development of Snape, Dumbledore, and even Voldemort kept the reader engaged with the series as a whole. She has a talent for revealing just enough that you don’t feel cheated, and still leave enough detail to spread through all of the storyline. Every little bit you learned about Tom Riddle’s origins, Dumbledore’s mistakes, and Snape’s motivations revealed layer upon layer of the character, and made them feel whole and complete. They were all equally entertaining, compelling, and essential to the heart of the plot for each book and the series as a whole. Rowling had me reaching for the next book in the series as soon as I’d put down the one I’d just finished. On more than one occasion the individual books were overshadowed by the small part they played in the bigger production, and I don’t think it was detrimental to the impact of the series. These books should not be consumed individually, or even out of order. If you try that, much of the power would be lost.
(Not much to do with the award…but still awesome)
Worst Execution of a Literary Device
Oh holy mother of god the accents. I’d rather listen to hag nails on a chalkboard than read some of Rowling’s interpretation of stereotypical European dialects. It starts off bad enough with Hagrid speaking in a transcribed cottony flourish that is border-line incomprehensible. For me, at least, I think she may benefit from my pre- hearing Robbie Coltrane speak the part, making it sound sweeter and giving me a basis for the apostrophe-infested speeches I had to slug through. She does improve with the execution of this accent throughout the series, and by the finish it’s almost bearable. This improvement could also be attributed to a comparison with the crime scene that is the incorporation of the Russian and French accents of Fleur and Viktor. Dear lord, if these two ever had an extended conversation it’d be paragraphs of indecipherable gibberish I’d have to burn to get out of my brain. It was one of the most distracting and detracting parts of Goblet of Fire. It’s like having Boris from Rocky and Bulwinkle try to pull off being a smoldering teen idol, and hearing Bugs Bunny, pretending to be a French Victorian lady, telling Elmer Fudd, “Oh, ze rabbeett? ‘e vent zat avay.” In short: poor decision to transcribe the accents.
Winner: Prisoner of Azkaban
Again, another category rife with controversy. A case can be made for just about every book in the series. I chose to go with the work in the series that set a more mature tone, and indicated a point where the writing started getting better, the meta-plots were taking shape, and the whole narrative got a little bit darker. We see the introduction of Azkaban, a prison facility for wizards patrolled (rather authoritatively) by demonic creatures called dementors. Werewolves are introduced, and they’re not all that bad (way better than Twilight). The Moony, Padfoot, Wormtail, and Prongs facet of the story is implemented, a nifty execution to reveal an important set of relationships in the rest of the storyline. For the first time, real fear is injected into the wizarding world, fear of an escaped psychopath named Sirius Black. This book wins the award for me because this is where I started to get hooked. Stone and Chamber are quaint little books, but they were a bit too infantile and fast for me. Prisoner introduced depth, darkness, and a more controlled pace, and was still edited enough not be 500+ pages. Your winner, Prisoner of Azkaban. Siriusly.
Best Translation from Book to Movie
Winner: Severus Snape/Alan Rickman
Essentially The Potty Awards Best Actor/Best Picture win in terms of prestige, I cannot say enough good things about the care and control exhibited by JK Rowling in creating this character. His arch, executed throughout the seven volumes, has him as an irredeemable villain, to an uncertain protagonistic force, and back. And on more than one occasion, multiple shifts take place in a single book. Even more so than the main storyline, this is the tale that captured most readers, and it came to a satisfying close in the least Hollywood style (with death). Alan Rickman was personally coached by Rowling in how to portray the character, and for good reason. This was her crowning achievement, the thing that will live on in the memories of every single person that read her books. Choosing Rickman for the role was borderline perfection, and his portrayal was so spot-on, the two have become intertwined for anyone that’s experienced both the books and the movies. One cannot read the Harry Potter books and not hear Rickman’s dramatic pauses in every line of dialogue, or picture his roman sneer down the steep angle of his nose every time he chastises a Potter potion. An off-stage unrequited love story, mixed with potent anti-heroism, angst, anger, brooding, and just the right amount of redemption sprinkled through, is the recipe for one of the mot memorable characters in modern literature and film, and the winner of the ultimate Potty award.
I enjoyed my time with Potter and the crew, and I’m glad I took the time to read all seven books. I can now argue, debate, and geek out with Harry Potter fans around the world. I have sipped the kool aid…and it was good.