19 October 2015

Movie Adaptations Part 2 Vol. 2

So on to my second part of comparing and contrasting the Harry Potter books alongside the films. In the last article, I looked at Films 1-4 and now I will look at films 5-8 more closely and reach my conclusion. Please note, spoilers are bound to pop up so enter if you've either seen/read each Harry Potter, or you know, you just don't care getting spoiled...

Book 5 - The Order of the Phoenix: 

I recently re-watched the cinematic version of this book and found myself enjoying it a lot more than I thought I would. I certainly went into the cinema with trepidation when I originally saw the film due to the treatment of the previous adaptation and considering that it deals with the death of my favourite character, was nervous to how this was going to be portrayed. I was so relieved coming out of the cinema, to see that they had actually done the book, a turning point in Harry's journey, justice. The irony of the fact that it is one of the shortest adaptations, even though it is the longest book in the series is not lost but the film manages to fit everything in of importance and relevance to the on-going plot without leaving many scratching their heads if they've never read the book. My usual gripe remains however, in the form of Michael Gambon as Dumbledore. Though a huge improvement from the last film, there are instances that are considered the complete opposite of who Dumbledore was. A calm yet quietly powerful wizard, Dumbledore is a character who is able to make an enemy intimidated and quaking and a friend reassured and immediately at ease, yet Gambon portrays him to be angry towards all his students without cause. A particular scene that comes to mind is the one where Dumbledore has majestically defied the ministry worker (Umbridge, played with such accuracy by Imelda Staunton) who has come to teach at Hogwarts to the absolute displeasure of anyone with a soul. The scene was going well until the end where Gambon, as Dumbledore, turns angrily to the students in the scene and shouts to them to get back to studying. Also, I'm not sure why the people behind the scenes insist on dressing Dumbledore in what appears to be prison garb where he always dresses so lovingly eccentric in the books. Apart from that, everyone else involved was pretty much spot on, Helena Bonham Carter shows that she absolutely revels in her evil role of Bellatrix Lestrange and her last scenes with Gary Oldman as Sirius and Ralph Fiennes as Voldermort are her best and strongest. Daniel Radcliffe also starts to show what a stronger actor he is turning into, especially with the death scene of his Godfather Sirius, which is beautifully conveyed in silence to highlight Harry's absolute anguish, something that can be reflected on David Thewlis's (as Remus Lupin) face. The fight between Dumbledore and Voldemort did not disappoint either, something I was worried that they would change the tone for but it is pretty much accurate to what occurs in the book.

 Book 6 - The Half-Blood Prince:

This was an interesting adaptation because, watching it back, it appears the most forgettable of the films. This may be due to it sharing the same director of the last four films, but there's nothing in particular that sets this film apart, except perhaps one of the final scenes. The book/film is essentially that of the 'Harry and Dumbledore hour' so it was a nice relief to see Gambon being slightly more faithful to the character of the books though it's a shame as this is technically his last film (although he does pop up in the final two - these scenes are essentially flashbacks and 'heaven' type sequences, because SPOILER, Dumbledore dies. If you didn't gather that already).
  I think there were more instances in this film that were slightly inconsistent compared to the previous film. One example of this is the relationship between Remus Lupin and Nymphadora Tonks (or the lack of in the films). For those who have never read the books but have only seen the films, there might have been confusion to why Tonks is all of a sudden calling Lupin her partner - seemingly out of nowhere. However, in the books one of the subplots involves the start of the relationship and Lupin's concerns regarding what would happen if that should commence. The whole subplot in the book explains why Tonks goes from being a happy-go-lucky character to a much more subdued one and why her appearance is not as alluring (Tonks is a Metamorphmagus, meaning she can change her appearance at will). All of this, however, has pretty much been forgotten about in the film. Which can be forgiven if they want to move the main plot forward, but if that's the case don't make small references to it without explaining it further as the viewer may be lost if they're new to the series. A shame really, as the few scenes they do share together, it is clear that Natalia Tena (who plays Tonks) and David Thewlis have such engaging chemistry that the audience member might feel disappointed that this wasn't explored further.
The film does start to grow in strength as the pace starts to quicken; the final scenes are quite memorable as they seem to be a visual mirror image to what occurs in the book (I'm mainly talking about the horcrux hunting scene with Dumbledore and Harry, with the stunning visual effects and Dumbledore's final scene). It goes without saying Alan Rickman is absolutely spot-on with his portrayal of Snape but it's in these moments that you may recognise Snape's agonising decision that he must make, something that becomes more poignant once you've read the last book. A special mention must be given to the actors portraying young Tom Riddle (Voldemort). With Hero Fiennes-Tiffin as an 11 year old Voldemort (sometimes even out-acting his uncle Ralph Fiennes) and Frank Dillane as a 16 year old Voldemort, the filmmakers couldn't have gotten better choices. The boys manage to sum everything that Voldemort grows up to be in just two brief flashbacks.

Book 7 (Films 7 + 8) - The Deathly Hallows

The concept for the last adaptation was to split it into two films in order for it to be the most faithful. This would have worked well, apart from the little scenes that the filmmakers decided to cram in, all seemingly at the start. I only really noticed this on viewing most of the films recently, scenes such as Bill Weasley (who, for some reason was only introduced in this film) all of a sudden sporting scars gotten in an attack during a significant battle and about to marry Fleur Delacour (who last popped up in the fourth film so this is seemingly out of nowhere). Another scene is Lupin and Tonks being married, which after only a small mention of them being possibly romantically linked in the last film, again is confusing to the audience who have not read the books (Also, mentioning that Lupin had a son right near the end is also mind-boggling). And then there's the case of Harry constantly playing with a broken piece of mirror throughout the film and which plays a significant part in the next half of the film. Fans of the books of course will recognise this straight away as part of Sirius's final gift to Harry - a two-way mirror given to him in Order of the Phoenix and which Harry only discovered after Sirius's death, making the loss of Sirius ever more profound. However, the filmmakers must have only realised belatedly that they had not included this little addition in the final scenes of the fifth film and decided to squeeze it in to the last films with only a mere mention that it had originally belonged to Sirius, again leaving those not having read the books absolutely puzzled to why on earth Harry keeps on peering in to a broken shard of mirror.
  The rest of the scenes are actually quite faithful, as one would have expected since there's now two films to play with. I was also surprised to see the actors who play the Weasley twins (James and Oliver Phelps) have actually become comfortable enough with the characters that they were a truer reflection than they had been over the course of the entire series. Fred and George Weasley were always the light-hearted relief in the books, very witty and cool and yet throughout the films, they were just these two annoying, cheesy clowns who didn't seem to get the laidback mannerism that the twins were famous for. Finally, the actors had become more faithful to their literary characters and I didn't cringe as much as I usually did watching their scenes. One final gripe I did have, was the final fight scene between Voldemort and Harry - in the books, I felt it was a perfect end battle. No particular huge fireworks, just Harry being the one in command with sneaky surprises up his sleeve rather than the other way round. There didn't need to be any more extras as they'd already gone through that in previous chapters and the other books. Yet, here in the film we have the Hollywood effect - more is better; it's a shame it couldn't have been more simple.

Here we have it, all eight films adapted and analysed. Overall, reflecting on the films I've come to the surprising conclusion that they stand up well as companions to the books. Apart from Goblet of Fire but we'll just pretend that one never happened, shall we? Yes, the rest of the films had their little inconsistencies but not enough to make them an entire separate entity to the books. The majority of the casting was just spot on which is enough to cover the miscast actors. If you're a fan of the books, maybe don't get too caught up comparing and contrasting as you will never enjoy it, no matter how hard it seems to stop analysing. And who knows, in five years time Hollywood is bound to reboot the series anyway...

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