“Reading, Writing, Rowling” Episode 23: “Harry Potter: The Movies”

Whether you love the movies or hate them, this episode will open your eyes to the challenges and artistry of the Harry Potter movies.

 

 

In this episode, Janet Batchler, screenwriter (Batman Forever, Pompeii) and professor at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts, helps us understand the Harry Potter movies, what we love about them, and why – as well as what bothers us about them and why. Professor Batchler and Katy, along with returning guests Kat Sas and Elizabeth Baird Hardy, talk about the value of critically examining the Harry Potter movies to understand the technical challenges of film adaptation.

We consider how the movies operate as an extension of the Harry Potter world. How concerned should we be that the films will eclipse the books in the popular imagination? (Our answer, in short: Don’t worry.) Janet helps us to see the advantages and disadvantages of the film medium for conveying stories; for example, a lack of access to Harry’s thoughts is balanced by the films’ ability to deepen our understanding of other characters, played with such relish by memorable actors. Janet emphasizes the importance of casting – and Chris Columbus’s role in doing that – in making the film series successful. And yet, do the very appealing castings of Snape and Draco, for example, smooth over their villainy too much?

With help from our listeners (thanks for your input!), we discuss the changes, additions, and enhancements the films provide – including Hermione’s Obliviating of her parents, Slughorn’s story of Lily’s charm, and Voldemort’s possession of Harry in the Ministry of Magic. But not everything worked well, and so we also talk about the changes that puzzled, disappointed, and angered us. The scene in which the Burrow burns down gives us a rich opportunity to talk about why the filmmakers decided to invent that moment and why this might actually have been a good idea… or not. What do you think?

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