Being the nerd that I am, I am preparing for the release of the final installment of the Harry Potter series by rereading all the books in order, leading up to July 21st. It’s amazing how much detail J.K. Rowling includes in these books. That’s one reason why they continue to be so popular.
The process of translating one art form into another (i.e. book into movie) is a complicated one, especially when you’re dealing with the massive tomes Ms. Rowling is fond of writing. While I feel that the producers and writers of the Harry Potter movies have done a tremendous job of bringing Harry Potter to the big screen, a re-reading the stories from the beginning has brought to mind some of my favorite moments that did not translate into the films. It was great to relive those moments again, and I’d like to do that here as well, for those fans who have also read the books, or who may have not. Following are my top five moments missing from the movies, not necessarily in order:
#1 – The Dursleys’ escape from the letters.
We can all remember the letters streaming out of the fireplace, but in the first book, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”, it was thrilling to follow along as the Dursleys desperately run through the countryside with Harry in tow, trying to avoid letters that pursue them. Harry, a nobody who has spent several years meaning nothing to anyone, can’t help but wonder who was sending him the same letter over and over, progressively addressed to “Mr. H. Potter, the Cupboard Under the Stairs” to “Mr. H. Potter, Room 17, Railview Hotel, Cokeworth” to the letter Hagrid personally delivers, addressed to “Mr. H. Potter, The Floor, Hut on the Rock, The Sea.” The scene foreshadows Harry’s importance in a world he knows nothing about, and it’s a real roller-coaster ride for the Dursleys, who are unable to stop Harry from being swept off to his destiny.
#2 – The Death-Day Party
After the first movie, when people moved in photographs and paintings and ghosts roamed the hallways of the school, the movie budgets began to be used for other effects, and the ghost storylines began to slowly fade away. True, they weren’t terribly pivotal to the main story, but one scene that I wish had remained concerned Harry trying to help Nearly Headless Nick in Book Two, “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”. Sir Nicholas asked Harry to make an appearance at his “death-day” party, a celebration that ghosts have to celebrate the day of their death, in order to impress Sir Patrick, another ghost that has rejected Sir Nicholas for the Headless Hunt. Harry says yes in order to help Nick, and he and Hermione and Ron skip the Halloween Feast in order to go down to the dungeons and go to the party. They soon wish they hadn’t, since ghosts seem to have a different idea of what goes into a proper party than mortals do, and they try to extricate themselves without embarrassing their host. It’s a great and memorable scene.
#3 – Professor Lockhart’s Valentine’s Day party
I would have loved to have seen the great hall wrapped in pink flowers, dripping with pink-heart-shaped confetti falling from the ceiling, and Kenneth Branagh dressing in vivid pink robes, sending surly dwarfs with wings and harps to sing Valentine’s greetings to the students. I know that such a scene would have been tremendous expensive to produce, but it’s one I love. Harry’s attempt to escape one particularly determined dwarf is very funny and painful to read. It was in this scene that Harry figured out how to talk to Tom Riddle’s diary. The producers of the movie took a more elegant route to achieve the same end, but those who have read the story can enjoy the over-the-top version as well.
#4 – Who are Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs Anyway?
They were the creators of Harry Potter’s Maurader’s Map, but who were they? It is explained in marvelous detail at the end of “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”. The explanation would have been too much detail for the movie to include without slowing its pace tremendously, so the loss of it is understandable. I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t read these books, but this scene illustrates how difficult it can be to make a movie from a book and keep it understandable for those who don’t read books. My father, who hasn’t read any of the books, was confused by the loss of it, and had to have it explained to him. Look at Chapter 18. I recommend the scene highly.
#5 – The Weighing of the Wands
I have a soft spot in my heart for all of the smaller characters, drawn out in such marvelous detail by J.K. Rowling, and I love to see them return again and again in future stories. In Book 4, “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” we see a return of the wandmaster from the first book, Mr. Ollivander, who had sold Harry his first wand, and ominously pointed out the first connection Harry had with Voldemort other than the scar. The scene is peripheral to the action, an obvious reason for its elimination from the movie. Mr. Ollivander weighs and tests all the wands of the competitors before the TriWizard Tournament could begin. We don’t learn anything more than what the other competitor’s wands contain. Still, it is great to see a recurring character, and I missed it in the film.
Future movies will also lose some smaller characters and scenes will fall away that aren’t necessary in the economy of filmmaking, but whether they’re seen or read, the Harry Potter universe is a wonderful place for the imagination to wander in. Make an effort to read the books as well if you’ve only seen the movies. They will increase your enjoyment of them exponentially.