Over the past week or week and a half, I’ve been having a Harry Potter movie marathon.
Personally I love all of the Harry Potter books and movies. While some people can choose favourites, I can’t because I love them all too much. I can read the books again and again just as I can watch the movies again and again. The movies are, in my opinion, great adaptations of fabulous books.
But that’s what many people seem to forget. The Harry Potter movies are adaptations of the books, not the entire books played out on-screen over the course of eight movies. That’s probably the biggest complaint I hear any of the movies — it didn’t include everything from the book. The movie changed things from the book. It didn’t follow the book page by page.
This extends far beyond just Harry Potter. It includes every book-movie adaptation ever made. Every adaptation has viewers with picky comments about how the movie was terrible because of differences from the book.
But, of course, book-movie adaptations won’t include everything from a book. Of course things are changed in movie adaptations. Of course the movie doesn’t follow the book page by page. That is why it’s called an adaptation. By picking it apart with constant comparison to the tiny details of the book, you’ll just end up ruining the experience.
It’s often best to view a book and its movie counterpart as standalone items. If you can’t do that, then do your best to forget about the little details from the books. Books and movies are totally different types of works. Books have the capability to go into every minute detail. They have the space to delve even further into character and plot development. They can engage a reader’s senses in ways movies can’t such as taste or smell. Books allow for more detail than can possibly be included in movies as it triggers the reader’s imagination.
Movies play less on the viewer’s imagination and more on the entertainment and visual aspects. Screenwriters have to cut things out. Sometimes a scene that is perfect in a book doesn’t work or look right on-screen. So screenwriters change it. I suspect screenwriters also change certain scenes for artistic or personal reasons. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.
Movies are meant to be visually entertaining, something you can watch in one sitting without getting bored. It’s different than books. You can read a 700-page book over the course of several days, weeks or months. You can’t watch a seven-hour movie in one sitting. So things have to be edited out or changed.
Book-movie adaptations do their best to grasp the story usually in a two- to three-hour period. If a book can be read in that amount of time, the reader is either an exceptionally fast reader or the book isn’t a novel, but rather it’s a novella or a short story.
Think about Harry Potter. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is the longest book in the seven-book series at 870 pages. If the movie had included every detail from the book it would’ve easily been at least a five-hour movie. That isn’t feasible. So the 870-page book was turned into a 138-minute movie.
So picking a book-movie adaptation by the many differences it will most likely have will ruin a perfectly good movie for you (assuming it is a good standalone movie of course). Don’t go in expecting to see everything you read played out on screen. You’ll just come out disappointed. View it as a standalone work and give the book-movie adaptation a fair chance.