“The Quibbler”: The five crucial problems of the “Harry Potter” films

It’s been nearly three years since we saw the final Harry Potter movies. We’ve had a lot of time to reflect on the series, both as standalone films and as adaptations. Spenser Milo of Based on Nothing has an opinion that may seem radical to many die-hard fans: The Potter movies just aren’t very good.

As Spenser says, “Now hold on; hear me out, here!”

In his article, “The Five Crucial Problems of Harry Potter,” which you can read right here on MuggleNet, he tackles his major issues with the films, namely, the fact that they aren’t strong enough to stand by themselves:

If the movies were indeed any good as a whole, wouldn’t they be able to stand on their own? The fact that most of the films require a friend sitting next to you who has read all the books to fill you in on just who the hell some of these characters are and why certain characters are acting the way they are doesn’t equate to a good film. Instead, it makes most of the Harry Potter movies [part of a] fairly useless and incoherent collection of “Harry Potter’s Greatest Hits,” featuring disparate scenes from their accompanying book.

What are your opinions on the Potter films? Are they masterpieces or messes? Successful companions or failed adaptations? Take a look at what Spenser has to say on the subject, and leave us a comment with your thoughts!

Want to submit your own editorial? Email it to us at mugglenetessays@gmail.com. Not sure what to write about? Get some inspiration from our monthly Quibbler contest right here!

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  • Semprasectum

    Finally the glow of the books is dimming on the movies. The Columbus directed films, IMO, were the only two that attempted to stay true to the books. Starting with Azkaban, and Alfonse Cuaron, the directors attempted to change JKR story to the a story they like better. .. And you are correct, anyone who did not read the books could possibly have enjoyed or followed the story with any real understanding after Chamber. . .its sort of sad. . maybe someday, someone will remake these films in a manner that honors the story in the books.

    • Jessica

      First movie left out Uncle Vernon going to work and seeing things going on. nThe logic puzzle.nHarry didn’t go to all of the shops in Diagon AlleynNo sorting hat song.

      • Ben

        Yes, and while those will be missed, even an almost three hour movie can’t have everything we want. I was kinda mad that they got rid of the scene from the first book where Gryffindor takes on Hufflepuff in Quidditch. I absolutely love that scene. However, they already had a Quidditch scene and they had to keep the movie under three hours, like I said earlier. Tis a shame.

    • Ben

      I love the first two films, I felt like the latter films did not capture the magic of the Harry Potter world as well.

      • Hedwig

        Having said that, the magic of the world was not as prominent in the later books, either. It was about politics, war, power and greed within a magical society. The magical world was juxtaposed against the real one. The earlier books, even up to 6 if we’re stretching it, were about spells, potions, enchantments, out-of-the-ordinary happenings, magical sweets, alleyways and all sorts of other magical things. But that’s not what the last few were about.

  • GinnyWeasley002

    With a series like HP, it wouldn’t be physically possible for the 2 hour a piece movies to make sense to a non-reader, without absolutely boring a fan. I think they did amazing.

  • Martin

    I think the movies are great by themselves, and have millions of fans that haven’t read the books and don’t need to.nnThe kind of thinking from the above post comes from the fact that, as a reader, you catch yourself wondering how people unfamiliar to the story could possibly enjoy it.nnnEvery movie forces you to make assumptions about a character or a setting, as it’s impossible to capture every detail about a person or place in two hours.nnnMost of the best regarded movies are adapted from text (The Shawshank Redemption, Godfather). As they cant use five hundred pages to tell a story, they use other languages like framing, tone, editing, music.nnnThe Harry Potter movies are not the books, but they are brilliant.

  • Anonymous

    I have always thought that the movies would have been much better if: 1) they had not been started until the entire series was written (I think later in the series the directors ended up tied up in knots because of omissions made in the earlier films); and 2) if the movies had not had to achieve a 12A/PG-13 rating (it would have given the directors greater freedom, and I think evened up the tone as well as more emotionally complex moments would not have needed to be skirted over, and there would have been no need for jarring moments of comic relief when the mood was starting to get a bit dark for children.)

  • losareth

    trust me, I’m a fan and would consider myself a pretty big one (several 18 hour marathons of all the movies and multiple continuous readings of all the books big) and have found myself comparing the movies to the books and finding the movies falling short, but that’s no more than to be expected. as has already been commented you can’t expect any movie to stand up to the book (the power of books) and with that in mind we have to accept the 2 as the same story with the same common themes but differences. on a similar note saying that each movie should be able to stand alone without explanation is quite a conundrum considering they are part of a series and build off of each other. the same will be found with other book to movie adaptations such as the Lord of the rings. watching the third movie and expecting them to reintroduce Aragorn or Gandalf isn’t expected because its expected that you watch the 1st 2 movies before the 3rd.

  • SuperPotterLock

    No movie is ever going to be as good as the books, and I think this is especially true in the case of the Harry Potter series. I am a diehard fan who always read the books before watching the movies, so I’ve always understood them perfectly. Harry Potter was famous for getting kids to read, and maybe the holes in the movies will inspire them to read the books.

  • Lassie is my hero

    I’m not going to say the movies had to be as good as the books because that’s illogical. But seriously.. the movies sucked. He’s right. It was more like watching some of the greatest hits in the books acted out. The child actors clearly struggled for the first few movies and not all of them ever got much better at acting, the scripts were awful, the special affects when dueling were stupid (too much priori incantatum) and every single spell except a rare few just knocked people off their feet. If I was to watch the movies before ever reading the books I would not have been impressed or inspired to read them. I enjoyed them as they came out because it was an excuse to grasp on to the idea that Harry Potter wasnt quite over. And I did sob horribly and laugh hysterically at some parts. But honestly. They’re pathetic.

    • declan casey

      Wow. What did you go into the Harry Potter films expecting to see? You seem to have nitpicked the films into oblivion. I swear. Some fans have these nonsensical vendettas against the films for the stuff left out, and you are one of them. You didn’t focus on the cinematography? I suggest you watch movies 4-5. The three leads were amazing. Not to mention, they were far from the only actors on screen. They were backed up by a plethora of some of the best British actors. The scores for the films were amazing. The fact that the only thing the spells did was knock people over ( which is definitely not true,) should not deter you from liking the films. That’s seriously the thing you critique. Jk rowling backed the films up and grew to love them, I feel like that should be good enough. You’re right up there along with the girl I meet who somehow thought that the hunger games films were a standard in film to be upheld. None of your critiques are even remotely relevant to the quality of the series. You criticized the actors as children and the special effects. You than said that the films were made well enough to make you laugh and cry, but then you backtracked to “their pathetic,” which, by the way, is a rather rude and cold way to state an opinion. If the films were pathetic, they wouldn’t have elicited any emotion. I suggest you watch the courtyard apocalypse, Snapes death, snapes memories, dumbledores death, Cedric diggorys death, the malfoy manor scene, and the shrieking shack scene if you want to see quality film. But no, you say. Screw the artistic prowess displayed. I’m just going to focus on the three main leads performances as children and the special affects. You’re comment is very spiteful. You, and many other potter fans, need to stop overreacting over silly things in the films. You guys also need to stop feeling like you have the right to outright state, in a discussion, that the movies were bad, leaving no room for the expression of other opinions. You can say, ” I don’t like the films because… ” but to say ” the films were pathetic is cold, abrupt, and frankly rather rude.

      • Ben

        Thank you. I for one always loved the movies. Sure, they were not as good as the books, but what movie ever is, and besides, in Harry Potters case, that is a big legacy to fill. But the movies did a good job of bringing us the magic. The only big problems I have with it are when Harry is using Lumos Maxima at the beginning of the third movie ( I mean, really, it even states like 10 minutes into the film that he is NOT allowed to do magic outside of school) and the fact that Harry just gets the shard of mirror in 7 part 1. It never explains where he gets the mirror in the movie, and that is a pity, because it really was a wonderful story. However, the fith movie was already being made before the 7th book came out, and the movie came out a week after the book, so once everyone found out about the mirror, and what it was needed for, it was too late to put it in the fith movie. Which is too bad. But otherwise, not pathetic films at all, better than a lot of children’s movies. ( I call them children movies because even though some are rated PG-13, they were still based of children books) not to mention that I am in love with the soundtrack.

  • PurrPrinThom

    @Martin,nWhile I understand where you’re coming from, and I do think the readers of the books tend to be snotty towards movie-only fans, the author has a point. My younger brother never read past the third book, and after viewing each film after the third in the theatres, the car ride home would be spent with me explaining to him why things had happened, or what characters were important, or even what certain character’s names were. nIf you think about it, many things were left out. Was it ever explained that who the Marauders were? No. Was the significance of Regulus Black mentioned? No. I mean really, the fact that the invisibility cloak was one of the Hallows was never addressed. nMy brother was so confused by the horcruxes and the Hallowes (the fact they were different objects boggled his mind( it took two days and the wikipedia page before he understood. nDo I love the films? Yes, but I think they are lacking when it comes to certain aspects. Especially the films directed by David Yates: the last four movies neglected so much information that friends of mine, including my brother, who had never read the books, left the theatres frustrated and hating the series because they simply couldn’t follow.

    • declan casey

      I don’t understand why people would be frustrated or hate the series because they couldn’t follow it. I also think it’s a matter of just not being interested enough to follow. I don’t think the films were ever as convoluted as, say LOTR or Star Wars. In fact, in comparison, they were really simple. The 7th part of an 8 part series is NOT going to, and really shouldn’t, rebuff newcomers on everything they haven’t seen. They need to start from the beginning, or at least at the 4th or 5th films. How do you propose they rebuff the audience on the previous 6 parts at parts 7 or 8 of the franchise. It simply can’t be done.

      • PurrPrinThom

        I think you misunderstood me. I don’t know anyone who hates the series, but my brother especially was frustrated when things weren’t explained. I agree, LOTR and Star Wars are more complicated plot wise, but they still took the time to explain all of their various backstories and complications, whereas the Harry Potter films banked on the audience having previous knowledge and would simply skip over explanations. nI agree with you about newcomers, but I think this is where our misunderstanding lies. My brother, and my main example, is not a newcomer. He’d seen all of the movies and read the first three novels. Its not as though he was coming into the series blind. He’d had just as much background, if not more, than the majority of fans who solely watch the films. My point was, as someone who has read the books and joined the films, my brother’s experience of only viewing the last five films and not reading their respective books made me realise how much was skipped over or poorly explained by the films. nnI don’t expect newcomers to the last two films to understand what’s going on, that’s ridiculous, but I agree with original article that the films miss explanation. When you have audiences coming away from films saying “well that’s a plothole” when in actuality it isn’t, the films just failed to include the explanation readers are privy to, I feel the movies have dropped the ball a little bit.

  • I think commenter @purrprinthom:disqus makes a good point. While I wouldn’t accuse someone of not being a “real fan” etc. if they have not read the books, I think that the films have major problems and require extra explanation for some of them to make sense. There have been film adaptations of books that have become classics in their own right, and I don’t think that the Harry Potter films will be among them. I’ve long thought that the film companies, because they know a large portion of the audience are already fans of the books (or know someone who is), sometimes don’t put in the effort they should to make the movies make sense to an audience that hasn’t read the books. The companies take for granted that a person’s friend or an online Wiki will make up for their bad decisions in the filming process. Something else to take note of is that most people don’t obsessively rewatch the films; if it only makes sense after a person has rewatched it, paying really close attention to certain frames, and looked up lots of information, then anyone except an obsessive fans may feel confused instead of enjoying the story. It’s one thing to have to look up something because you don’t remember or want more information or whatever; it’s another thing when major plot points are left out and stuff doesn’t fit together properly.nnnAs for the original article by Spenser Milo, I agree with the overall point, though I disagree with some of the details in the criticism and suggestions for improvement. (For instance, I don’t have that high an opinion of movie 6, and I think some of the improvements he suggests to the Yule Ball would actually make things worse.)

  • Gabe Stackhouse

    I couldn’t agree more. The movies were loved by fans of the book series because they got to see the magic brought to life, and in that regard they did marvelous. By themselves, however, they were mediocre films at best.nnThat fact makes me somewhat sad, seeing the treatment that Lord of the Rings and A Song of Ice and Fire have gotten. Hopefully sometime down the road this will get rebooted and get the adaptation it deserves, whether that be through movies or TV.

  • Melissa Savage

    Couldn’t agree more. I don’t know anyone who only likes the movies, or who would bother watching them without having read the books.

    • ProfWimsey

      Well, given that the number of people watching the films was several times greater than the number of people who read the books, obviously you don’t know a big proportion of the viewership!

  • Hedwig

    I loved the films. And I think that that is in part because I went into the cinema not expecting what many other fans seemed to expect. nnnI didn’t expect, nor did I want, a word for word visual recount of the novels. That’s not what was promised, and that simply wasn’t achievable. As films, I thought they were fantastic. nnnYou’re right, many of them after the third simply don’t explain enough. But the films are based on a book series. It is their responsibility to bring the story to life. There is no room in films to include many of the smaller details – even if they are important. If people choose to go to movies that they know are based on books, and yet deliberately choose not to read the books, then it is their own fault if they do not understand. It is not the responsibility of the filmmakers to do JK Rowling’s job. The details are available – whether or not people choose to access them is their decision.

  • ProfWimsey

    The big problem with the Harry Potter films was that they spent too much time trying to replicate scenes from the book, and too little time trying to communicate Rowling’s story. The reason why the Lord of the Rings films were so much more successful critically and commercially was that the filmmakers took the story, and then asked: “how do we best communicate this via film?” A lot of Tolkien fans hated that, but the public and the critics responded in a very positive way. (We are seeing the same thing with the TV series adaptation of Game of Thrones, which also puts story before narrative.)nnnThe first two films in particular were disastrous: if you had not read the books, then you would have had no idea that there was any story there at all. And that is a shame because the actual *stories* were pretty good. nnnShould the Harry Potter films ever be redone, then it will have to be along the lines of other successful adaptations: story first and foremost. When evaluating any scene from the book, the two questions have to be: 1) “how does this scene contribute to the story?” and 2) (assuming that the answer to 1 is not “nothing”!), “what is the best way to make this point cinematically?”nnnRemember, for every viewer who had read the books, there were many more who had not and who had no intention of doing so. The big reason why the box office plummeted so far after the first two films (an average of a 20% drop after each one in all of the major markets) was because the non-readers were bored by the lack of story-telling. The films only started to retain audience once they started to tell stories, but by then it was too late for the films to rival the other major series in ticket sales.

    • Hedwig

      The non-readers knew the films were based on the books. Common sense would say that not everything will be expressed in the films. Your best chance of understanding is to read the books. nnnI’m not saying the Harry Potter films expressed the entire story, because they didn’t. However, to go to a film KNOWING it is the film adaptation of a book series, having not actually bothered to READ that series, and then complain that it doesn’t explain enough, is pretty ridiculous. nnnIt’s not the job of the film to tell the story fully. It is the job of the films to visually represent as much of the novel as possible, which is what they did. And they did it fantastically.

      • TristansMommy

        whoa, whoa, whoa… “It’s not a job of the film to tell the story fully.” Actually, that is exactly the job of a film– or, more accurately, to tell A full story, even if it can’t tell THE full story. Obviously, the films can’t encompass everything from the books, but the job of the filmmaker is to adapt the story from the books, and tell it on screen. I LOVE the books, even now, at almost 30, and after having read them so many times… but a story has to be adapted for different mediums in order for it to work, and that is just common sense! I don’t dislike the movies, but I did notice they’d be super hard to understand if you hadn’t read the books… and to expect everyone who goes to see a movie to read the books first, in order to understand the story, is ridiculous.
        On a related note, the changes made to Game of Thrones, and it’s adaptation to the screen, have been so amazing and well-done… I’m in awe of the creators and writers who succeed so masterfully in doing this!

  • rothbriele

    It’s been nearly three decades since we saw the ultimate John Knitter movies. We’ve had lots of time to indicate on the sequence, both as separate movies and as modifications. Spenser Milo of Depending on Nothing has an viewpoint that may seem extreme to many die-hard fans: The Knitter movies just are not very excellent.

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