Before I get started, however, let me first begin by saying that while I am an avid HP book fan, I am by no means an absolute purist. I don't care that Harry's eyes aren't green or Hermione's dress to the Yule Ball ended up being pink. I only care about when important things are messed with--important things that had no purpose in being changed, cut, what have you. I also understand that they are two different mediums, and they don't have to be 6 hours long (as nice as that'd be) to include every little detail (as long as said details aren't vital). That being said, let us begin!
Warning: If you live in a cave and/or have never read or seen Harry Potter--why are you reading this?--there are spoilers ahoy.
10. Charming Little Fellow
Filius Flitwick, the tiny Charms professor, has been in all 5 movies. But you probably haven't noticed, have you? In the first two films, as directed by Chris Columbus, he had a crazy white beard and hair. But starting in Cuaron's Prisoner of Azkaban, Flitwick changes complete (though played by the same actor), and he keeps that look for the following films.
Granted, J.K. Rowling herself freaked out about his look in the first two films, being nothing like she imaged, and moreso approved of his look inthe latter films. However, it's not really the jarring change in appearance that gets to me. It's his change in job.
Again, beginning with Cuaron's film, he goes from Charms professor to band/choir director. You see him directing the choir at the beginning of Prisoner, conducting the band in Goblet, and again in Order as Umbridge measures his height. And, of course, you see him in various locations, such as the Great Hall eating, or at the Yule Ball being forced into a body surf.
What happened to Charms? The characters didn't end their learning of Charms with Wingardium Leviosa. Maybe the student body just thought Flitwick disappeared because of his total makeover and stopped going to his classes. Who knows?
9. Anybody Peeved?
Peeves the Poltergeist barely missed out on being in the first film, and what a difference it could have made. Yes, believe it or not, there are entire major characters that are cut from the films that are in the books. For instance, Ludo Bagman in Goblet of Fire; Sir Cadogan in Prisoner of Azkaban (though if you know what you're looking for, you can still see him); or the History of Magic ghost teacher, Professor Binns. Or there are characters who are around for a while in the books, but aren't introduced in the films until necessary (like Bellatrix Lestrange, Cedric Diggory, Cho Chang, Narcissa Malfoy, or Lavender Brown--all of which were physically introduced in earlier books, but not until later movies).
Peeves is different. As a poltergeist that haunts the halls of Hogwarts, he can't exactly be introduced halfway into the series. So not being introduced in the first film really put a damper on his appearance at all. What does this mean in the grand scheme of things? Well... not much, honestly. But outside the random comedy he would offer, there are a few good scenes he would
have really helped. His most missed scene, however, would be Fred and George's grand escape in Order of the Phoenix. Peeves doesn't listen to anybody, and just goes around causing mayhem. But when Fred and George give their grand farewell to Hogwarts and Umbridge, they
tell him "Give her hell from us, Peeves," and the poltergeist actually salutes them and proceeds to... well... give Umbridge hell. A classic scene from the book.
He actually had a scene filmed for the first film, and was to be portrayed by Rik "Drop Dead Fred" Mayall, but the scene was put on the cutting room floor--not even to be shown in deleted scenes or ABC extended television versions. Though Rik Mayall would have been quite the good Peeves... and I'd love to have seen him in the films, at least once.
8. Thank You Ron... I Mean, Hermione
When you think Ron Weasley, what character traits come to mind? Brave? Loyal? Funny? If you just said the last one, then you know Ron Weasley: The Movie Version. Sure, he's funny in the books, but the films portray Ron as almost purely comic relief, with only a few exceptions. For instance, the first film portrays him close to the books, particularly in the chess game. He's also more than a comedian in Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix, putting the biggest offenders as Chamber of Secrets and Prisoner of Azkaban.
But this isn't to the fault of Rupert Grint, who is brilliant in the role. So who gets the fault? Steve Kloves, the screenwriter, who has an apparent crush on Hermione. Let me explain: Hermione often gets other characters' lines, including Harry and Ron (mostly Ron). This makes him (and sometimes Harry) look like an idiot in comparison to the books. Ron is a funny character, and Rupert Grint portrays it well, but there's more to Ron than comedy. Thankfully, though, he's been getting better as the films go on.
7. Normally I Love A Sexy Nerd
Similarly, the portrayal of Hermione Granger after the first two films has drastically changed from the books. Hermione is a dorky little nerd in the books (redundancy be damned!), with huge, bushy hair and--until Goblet of Fire--buck teeth. Hermione was best portrayed in the first two films. But then Cuaron came along and... things changed. They decided to start sexing her up. They straightened her hair, put makeup on her, and gave her
form-fitting clothes. They also all but dropped the nerd aspect, rarely having her even hold a book.
And along with dropping the looks, Emma Watson's acting began to dwindle for a couple films until David Yates came along in Order of the Phoenix and made every character, major and minor, act better than they had ever acted before. I suppose I could only suspect that, once she started dressing out of the part, she had more trouble acting the part. Also, because of the drastic change in looks, her "epic transformation" come the Yule Ball in Goblet of Fire lost all of its impact. In the book, Ron doesn't even recognize her at first because of how different she looks. But in the films, she basically just pulls up her hair and puts on a dress (Pink!... just kidding).
6. Master Gave Dobby A Sock... And The Boot!
You remember Dobby, right? The little house elf in Chamber of Secrets that tried to save Harry's life by trying to keep him away from Hogwarts? As you should know, at the end of that film, Harry tricks Lucius Malfoy into freeing Dobby. But what you might not know if you only follow the films... is that Dobby returns to the series in Goblet of Fire.
Dumbledore hires a willing Dobby to work in the kitchens. He also ends up helping Harry by stealing Gillyweed from Snape's stores for the second Triwizard task. Of course, in the film, this role was given to Neville instead, which begins a list of things that Neville gets credit for that are actually Dobby's doing. In Order of the Phoenix, it's actually Dobby that finds the Room of Requirement and tells Harry about. And in the upcoming Half-Blood Prince, Dobby makes another important appearance, though I doubt Neville will get this one, as it's pretty much something only the house elf could do (at least easily).
In fact, Dobby's removal also, in part, is responsible for Winky's removal... an important character (Barty Crouch's house elf) cut from Goblet of Fire. You can't exactly have Winky and not Dobby... there would be no sense in that. And they almost cut Kreacher from Order of the Phoenix, had J.K. Rowling not warned them otherwise, due to his importance in the as-of-then unreleased final book.
So why was Dobby cut from these films, time restraints aside? Alfonso Cuaron. I know what you're asking yourself: Cuaron just directed Prisoner of Azkaban, right? Yes, that's right. However, the producers were planning to do the intelligent thing and make Goblet of Fire into two films--which would have made it so much better, giving it the necessary time to get through everything (a lot of important stuff happens in that book). But Cuaron, having just finished movie 3, gave them advice: cut out everything that isn't important to Harry himself. This began a trend that, starting with Cuaron's own film, cut out plenty of important details that would really screw over the later films.
Most would argue that Hermione's S.P.E.W. organization isn't important. I would tend to agree... except that it reintroduces Dobby, and also leads to an important, relationship-confirming moment that fans waited 7 books for. But now I digress. So I've gone on and on about Dobby being cut from the films, but what does that even matter, you ask? For those who haven't read Deathly Hallows, you have no idea. But Dobby plays a crucial role in the final book, and the producers (and Steve Kloves) are pretty much kicking themselves in the ass for following Cuaron's advice, which basically led to Dobby's removal. I know they have Dobby in the film (they can't not), as it's been confirmed... so I'll be interested to see how they work him back in. I particularly liked something Dan Radcliffe (Harry Potter) said in an interview not too long ago: "I wonder how they'll reintroduce him. 'Oh, Dobby! Wow, I haven't seen you since 2003!'" Indeed.
5. Where'd He Go? Sirius-ly?
You know, when you introduce a major character in the prior film that becomes hugely important in the lead character's life... it might be smart to, you know, keep him around. Again, because of Cuaron's advice to keep Goblet as one film by cutting out anything not involving Harry and the main plot, Sirius Black all but disappeared. Sure, he has a letter or two, and one horrible appearance in the "fire" (which, thank God, was done correctly in Order of the Phoenix). But that's it. This is the book where Harry gets close to his godfather, where he bonds with him and forms a relationship with him. And all of that is all but removed completely.
In the books, Sirius shows up around Hogsmeade near the school, and they go to visit him and bring him food, etc., as he's still on the run from the Ministry. Not to mention there are plenty of letters and other correspondence.
But because of Sirius' horrible lack of inclusion in Goblet, David Yates really had to amp it up in Order because, well... obviously. And many-a-fan has complained that the emotional impact wasn't nearly as strong in the film as it was in the books. To me, it was about the same, because I wasn't really affected by Sirius one way or the other. But I can see where they're coming from. Now, Dumbledore, on the other hand... but we're not there yet.
4. Snape's Worst Memory (Minus The Worst Part)
It's a whole chapter in the book version of Order of the Phoenix, but a mere 30 seconds in the film. Now, Order of the Phoenix is my current favorite of the films (hopefully soon to be replaced). It did what many fans aren't comprehending: it took an 800+ page book with basically no plot and nearly all Quidditch, and turned it into a 2 hour, coherent film. How? They cut out Quidditch and focused on the important aspects of the plot. If Cuaron's advice was going to work for any of the films, it would be this one. The reason is that, as I've already said, almost nothing of any vital importance happens throughout the bulk of this bulky book.
Unfortunately, when something important does happen, the film also glosses over that, as well, where it could have spent a little more time (I'll be getting into that a little more later, as well). One of these occurrences was with the "Snape's Worst Memory" scene. In the book, you'll know this scene as Harry doing Occlumency lessons with Snape... then Snape runs off to help a student who had gone missing and just turned up (important for Half-Blood Prince), leaving Harry with Dumbledore's Pensieve, which he's let Snape borrow to remove certain memories... just in case. Harry dives into the Pensieve to see Snape back in his school days... only to be followed and bullied by none other than James Potter and Sirius Black (while Lupin and Peter Pettigrew stand back). Of course, Lily Evans (later Lily Potter) comes to the rescue, only to be called a Mudblood by Snape and attacked further by James.
In the film, Harry does a shield charm on Snape's Ligilimens, which rebounds and has Harry go into Snape's mind instead. On paper, it's a brilliant method to save time away from going into the whole Pensieve dilemma. And it would have worked out well. The problem? They cut out the most important part. Because the final book hadn't yet been released, I suppose they didn't realize that it wasn't being bullied that was Snape's Worst Memory. I won't go into details or explanations for those who don't follow the books, though, to avoid spoiling anything. Yes, learning that James, who Harry idolized, was a bully was important, but it wasn't the most important part of the memory. And from what I read before the film came out, they actually filmed the whole memory scene, but trimmed it down to what they had in the film.
And I think that was a mistake. Sure, it wouldn't be important information until the final movie, but they should have at least put the full thing in there for continuity purposes. The movie was already the shortest of the bunch. I don't see how adding another minute tops would have hurt anything.
Yes, yes, another Michael Gambon complaint. I'm sure you've heard them all over the internet (assuming you're a dork with no life like me and have the time to do those kinds of searches). When Richard Harris died, they of course had to replace the man who embodied the calm power that is Dumbledore. Unfortunately, Alfonso Cuaron had to hire Michael Gambon as that replacement. I'm in the group that would have liked to see Sir Ian McKellen in the role, but he refused to play Dumbledore for personal reasons.
Thus, we're left with Mr. Gambon. Don't get me wrong, I don't dislike him in the role all the time. He did get some of the whimsy side of the Headmaster in Prisoner of Azkaban, though he was a bit too philosophical at times (moreso a scripting complaint, I suppose). But then comes Goblet of Fire, where most Gambon hatred stems. He becomes angry and even violent. Dumbledore doesn't even become remotely upset or irritated until Half-Blood Prince, though he still never even comes close to the crazy he shows in Goblet of Fire.
It could have been due to the director, but Gambon's portrayal of Dumbledore is mind boggling. To seemingly throttling Harry and screaming out his name in Goblet to the horribly unnecessary "Don't you have studying to do?" line in Order, Gambon's Dumbledore has some anger issues. And even outside of performance, he's chosen to stray away from Dumbledore visuals. He wears grey robes instead of bright ones; he ties his beard; and he refuses to wear the signature half-moon spectacles. But he's not all bad, as I said. He has his moments, usually in the final scenes with Harry in the dorms or office. And from what I've seen and heard about Half-Blood Prince thus far, I have some high hopes.
But that still doesn't let me forgive him for Goblet.
2. Explain That Again?
This section could probably be a post all to itself. In fact, a lot of my complaints stemmed from this section, and I realized they all fit under one category: Endings and Explanations. Most Potter fans can tell you that the endings to Potter films always find a way to do something wrong. Some of these are well known. Some of these are my personal observations. But for the most part, the ending of each Potter film has changed something or left something out that has really rather aggravated me on one level or another. Let's go through them, shall we?
a) Sorcerer's/Philosopher's Stone
I actually like the ending to this one the best. It's perfect for the film, really. I mean, there's cheesy lines galore, but it's the first film, which is by far the most kid-friendly. Though rewind a bit to Quirrel's death, which is different than the book... and importantly so. In the book, Harry doesn't see Quirrel die. The man's attack on Harry is so overwhelmingly painful (and I would say so, with Voldemort on the back of his head) to both of them, though especially Harry via his scar, that Harry passes out before Quirrel kicks the bucket. In the film, Harry doesn't pass out until after. The issue? Thestrals. Having seen somebody die, Harry should be able to see Thestrals starting his second year, when in fact, he shouldn't really see or comprehend any major death until Goblet of Fire--which is why Thestrals aren't introduced until Order of the Phoenix. Plot hole, anyone?
b) Chamber of Secrets
There are two for this one. One is of my own personal observations, and the other is more widely known. The first deals with Ginny Weasley's crush on Harry. It's toyed with in the film, mostly through actions instead of words. However, this causes a major plot hole come the climax of the film. In the book, Tom Riddle (diary version) learns of Harry and his past because of Ginny's obsessive crush on him, always writing about Harry in the diary. This intrigues Tom, and he asks for more information about Harry. However, come the climax, none of this is explained, and Tom just happens to know all of this about Harry from the start. How? Tom, as a 16-year-old 'memory', can't know of his future or of Harry without somebody telling him. Of course, being the longest film, Chamber had to cut something, right? It just seemed odd to cut out the one thing that tied the plot together.
The second is the ending itself. Widely heralded as the worst ending of the movies, Chamber of Secrets ends with a highly cheesy and utterly ridiculous note. Hagrid comes back from Azkaban and enters the end-of-term feast late. Cue "There's no Hogwarts without you, Hagrid," and every single student and faculty member standing up to clap and cheer. And then it ends. Excuse me, what? Even Slytherins were standing up cheering. At this point, the majority of the students don't even know Hagrid well (if at all), much less like him very much. I can see Harry, Ron, and Hermione being happy for his return, but the entire school? No. That's a bit of a stretch, methinks.
c) Prisoner of Azkaban
Where to begin? There are a few major purposes for the story told in Prisoner of Azkaban, all of which are pretty much cut from the film. Let's start with the Marauder's Map explanation. Again, something that was filmed but later cut, though for some reason not even included in the deleted scenes on the DVD. And there's more than one opportune time to explain, but particularly one major one: at the end office scene, where Lupin is packing up, and he gives the map back to Harry. This would have been perfect for him to explain, for instance, how he knew how the map worked in the first place. He could have explained that James, Sirius, himself, and Peter Pettigrew were all friends in school, and they gave themselves the nicknames Moony (Lupin), Wormtail (Peter), Padfoot (Sirius), and Prongs (James). They were trouble makers, and they made the Marauder's Map to help them scurry about Hogwarts in secret. This would have also helped make sense out of the later uses of the nicknames in Goblet and Order, as well as the stag shape of Harry's Patronus (they were all animagi, Harry's father being able to turn into a stag... hence the patronus and the nickname Prongs). And they were all animagi to help keep Lupin, a werewolf, company during transformations.
I could also talk about the lack of explanation of why, exactly, Snape hated James and co. so much. There were multiple reasons, of course, but a major one being that Sirius tried to play a fatal prank on Snape, sending him after Lupin's werewolf form. But James saved his life. As Snape already loathed James at this point, being saved by him made it that much worse. And that's a big reason Snape acts the way he does toward Harry (again, not the only reason, but a big one). And toward Sirius and Lupin. But none of this is even close to explained in the film.
I could also discuss the lack of explanation on the Fidelius charm with the secret keepers. What is that, you ask? The whole reason everybody thought Sirius had led to the deaths of Lily and James Potter, the whole reason he ended up in Azkaban, framed. The whole plot. You see, the Fidelius charm can be placed on a location so that only one person (the secret keeper) can know of or find that location unless he/she decides to divulge it. When James and Lily go into hiding after finding out Voldemort is hunting them down, they're given refuge in a village called Godric's Hollow. The house they're staying in is kept hidden by the Fidelius charm. Originally, James had asked Sirius to be the secret keeper, and everybody close to them thought he was. But at the last minute, Sirius backed out and let Peter Pettigrew be the secret keeper. Peter then takes the information to Voldemort (drawn in by his power and out of fear) and tells them exactly how to find the Potters. Then Peter goes on the run. Sirius goes after him, knowing the truth, but Peter blows up a city block and cuts off his finger and escapes, thus framing Sirius for both the backstabbing against Lily and James and conspiracy with Voldemort, as well as the attack on a muggle population. But the Fidelius charm issues don't end there. Because it wasn't introduced in this film, the introduction of Grimmauld Place in Order had to be changed, much to the chagrin of the fans.
There's also no explanation of how Sirius escapes or even how he knew that Peter was at Hogwarts. You know that picture near the beginning that shows the Weasley family in Egypt? It's never really divulged in the film or explained further, but that's how. They won some money and took a trip. That photo was put in the paper, which Sirius saw in Azkaban, recognizing Peter's animagus form. So he bid his time, transformed into a dog (which the dementors couldn't sense), and escaped. And once free, he communicated with Hermione's cat Crookshanks to have him try and capture Peter (Ron's rat Scabbers), which is why Crookshanks is after Scabbers through the entire film.
And, finally, the actual ending of the film... not getting the Firebolt until the end of the film instead of the middle, I suppose I can handle (even though it's supposed to be a bit of a clue about Sirius' true nature). But ending it with that God-awful blurred freeze frame... lame.
d) Goblet of Fire
Whew, thought I'd never get through that last one. One major thing not touched on is what the heck happens to Barty Crouch Jr. In the book, he's given the Dementor's Kiss. In the film... he's just... well... I guess he goes back to Azkaban (so why isn't he in the recent films as an escaped Death Eater)?
Otherwise, Gambon does a nice, calm Dumbledore during the closing bits... but still fails to explain one thing: Priori Incantatem. He mentions it, yes... but then rambles off and never explains it. And that's a shame, because it's hugely important to the overall plot of the series. Priori Incantatem was the moment when Harry and Voldemort's wand beams connected and the "images" of those who had died by Voldemort's wand came out in reverse order (though in the film, stopping with Frank Bryce, the old caretaker at the beginning of the film).
It's not discussed at all in the film, which, to me, is going to make other things really confusing later on (I'm not sure how they're going to get around it much, really). The reason the wands connected was because both wands shared an ingredient. Both contained the tail feather from Dumbledore's pet phoenix, Fawkes. So in essence, they are brother wands. And brother wands cannot attack one another. In other words, Harry and Voldemort wouldn't be able to fight each other with their current wands. This leads to a major event that technically happens in Half-Blood Prince, but really comes into the plot in Deathly Hallows.
And strangely, there seemed to be a Priori Incantatem during the Dumbledore/Voldemort fight in Order of the Phoenix, which doesn't make sense, because they don't have brother wands. But oh well... the fight still looked cool, and the bit doesn't last long, so I mostly ignore it.
e) Order of the Phoenix
The prophecy. What's more to say, really? As I've said before, I loved Order of the Phoenix, but it isn't without its flaws. Its biggest flaw, to me, is the final "office" scene at the end between Harry and Dumbledore. Any fan of the book knows how different it is. In the book, Harry is pissed and throwing things around, breaking Dumbledore's stuff, while Dumbledore sits around patiently waiting to explain himself.
Then Dumbledore goes into it all, including an explanation of the prophecy. In fact, rewinding a little bit in the movie, they cut out some crucial lines of the prophecy itself (which, again, doesn't make sense... the movie is the shortest of the bunch, they could have added another 15 seconds). They cut out the lines that would have led Voldemort to knowing it was Harry he was after. This part of the prophecy also connects to Neville, which I loved in the books, though I guess I can see reason for cutting it out of the movie. Still, the whole prophecy is necessary for Voldemort to even know who to go after. And then Dumbledore hardly explains anything. The whole office scene is roughly 3 minutes long, all of which it takes for him to basically say "I cared for you too much." I liked the subdued Harry in the scene, but the lack of any vital explanations was very missed, including the bit where Dumbledore tells him Voldemort found out in the first place because somebody had listened in and heard part of the prophecy (which eventually led to the hunt for the Potters), as well as it being Trelawney that made the prediction (though I suppose you can tell if you listen close enough to the prophecy at the Ministry scene). Though with Trelawney confirmed as not in the next film (or any more, for that matter), it is apparent that they'll probably never release the crucial information on the one who heard the first half of the prophecy to begin with. Oh well.
1. The Man Who Nearly Killed Harry Potter
No, not Lord Voldemort. I'm speaking, of course, of Alfonso Cuaron. Now before you click away in anger, before you roll your eyes, and before you throw something at me... just hear me out. Take into consideration everything I've said thus far about some of the worst things about the Harry Potter films. Have you noticed that, not all of them, but a good chunk of them, are tied directly to Alfonso Cuaron?
I am not arguing with the fact that he created a visually stunning film. There's no doubt about that. But while he made a good looking film, he utterly and entirely missed the whole point of it. He was too focused on the theme of time that he added giant clock set pieces and Whomping Willow-through-the-seasons sequences... and didn't focus on the actual purpose of the story. As I've detailed, he cut out every single reason that the story of Prisoner even had to be told in the first place. He made a visually stunning, more adult, though completely pointless film. And I cannot understand how people can say it's the best of the films. Yes, it moves the Potter films in a more adult and visually pleasing direction, but besides those two things... nothing. Maybe it's just in the eyes of a book fan, but there are so many plot holes created by Cuaron's lack of explanations, it's ridiculous.
And he cut out Oliver Wood and the Quidditch Cup subplot... though that's understandable, I suppose.
And then to extend on things like the time turner sequence... I always say this, but it's like going "okay, now I'm going to show you the last 30 minutes all over again, but from a different perspective," which it really isn't like in the book. Normally I like that kinda thing (as any follower of my blog could point out), but I've actually fallen asleep during the time turner sequence... and for me to fall asleep not only during POV play but during Harry Potter... that says something.
And then there's his involvement in destroying the following film(s). Even if you ask the producers now (as shown in interviews), they still hark back to Cuaron's advice by mentioning showing stuff only in relation to Harry and the main plot. This advice destroyed Goblet of Fire, which would have been a much better film split into two. They're already feeling some repercussions in doing the final films because of this advice, as well. There are plenty of things that were cut based on that advice, more than I've listed here, and most people like to complain about David Yates and things he did in Order of the Phoenix. But I give him props. He only had what he was given to work with... a mess created, directly or indirectly, by Alfonso Cuaron. And on top of that, a book with little plot and a lot of filler. So people who complain about Order and wish for Cuaron back need to take a step back and think about that for a minute.
Just thank God they're splitting the final book into two.
This post did not intentionally begin as a 'bash Alfonso Cuaron' post, either, and I hope that's not what you all see this as now. It's just a fun post about the negative side of the films, as I'm more predisposed to rave about them. So I hope you've enjoyed this little venture!
Random: One that almost made the list but didn't: The St. Mungo's scene in Order of the Phoenix. I didn't include it because, for all intents and purposes, the scene occurred anyway. The purpose was to show Neville's relationship with his parents, which does get across in the film... just in a different way. Though I still would have liked the fun cameo by Gilderoy Lockhart.