Why the Books Should NOT Be Compared to the Movies

by Vincent Surjadinata

Since the release of the film adaptations to the Harry Potter films, it has come to my attention that many of us fellow Harry Potter fanatics have a tendency to compare them to the novels. Being so dedicated to Harry Potter and all, this is of course, inevitable. I myself have been a fan of the series since just before the fourth book was released and have done the same thing out of my control. But I feel like one of the very few that think comparing these books to their film adaptations is just wrong.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was released here in Australia just yesterday and I went to see it in the evening. Most of you of course have noticed how different it is to the novel, I saw all your complaints in forums. To me, I found it the very best film so far. Not only because Azkaban is my favourite book in the series, but because the change in director and the introduction to its own individual script made it so unique and different from the rest and, of course, an even better film.

Even though all three films were by the same screenwriter, the different directors still made the films quite different. Don’t get me wrong, I love all the films, but with Philosopher’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets, it was obvious that Chris Columbus tried too hard to be faithful to the novels. What I saw in the first two films was adaptations of various scenarios in the novels chucked into the film, and filling in the gaps with the explanations and links in the storyline. I was so impressed by Azkaban, because it was so different to the novel and for once had its own individual re-written screenplay while still being truly faithful to the spirit of the novel. This is how I wanted the other two films to be like, and is why I love the third movie so much.

It is possible to create an individual script for a film adaptation, but still be faithful to the novel. Azkaban presents that so clearly. I believe that you should just take all the films how they are and accept them instead of sitting down complaining about it all – I’m very proud of all three films, but mostly with the third. If you wanted so much from the book to be placed in the film, you are not being realistic. Don’t hate the films because they weren’t identical to the novel, that’s just completely unjust. If you love the books so much, then keep reading the books. There’s nothing better than your own imagination, like visualizing things in the novels according to your mind. The films are just an extra bonus for Harry Potter fans like you and I, so why complain about them?

As Stephen King says about film adaptations of his own novels: “Books and films are like apples and oranges, they’re both delicious but they don’t taste the same.” I’m going to say the same thing about Harry Potter. You should be enjoying them individually as novels or as films. If you dislike the film adaptations that much, then why bother with them? If you love the intimate details in the novels, then the most logical thing to do is to just stick with the novels. I love the books and the films by themselves, and I view them both differently. Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy) himself even stated that the Harry Potter films are the most faithful to their source that he has ever seen, and I totally agree with him. So if people are complaining that they’re not faithful enough and have missed out too much from the novels, then clearly their expectations are way too high, and that’s just being totally unrealistic.

Too many people keep saying how this and that are not included in the films. I even saw some time last year in a forum for Chamber, someone that actually took the time to list every single thing in the novel that was missed out in the film and said that they should have been included. It was the most unrealistic thing anyone ever said in a forum, and obviously that person did not get it. Though I mentioned previously that it is inevitable for a fan to notice how different the films are to the novels, the most sensible thing to do is to view them for what they are. Look at the film as a whole by itself – Was the screenplay good? Did the film’s script make sense? Comparing it entirely to the novel is completely unreasonable.

I love the books by themselves, and I love the films by themselves. I was not one of those that complained that things were missed out in the films. When I learned that the Quidditch Final win would not be included in Azkaban, I admit that I was disappointed at the time. But after seeing the actual film and realizing why they did miss it out, the whole difference in the script just made me proud of it all. All the negative things I have to say is that the first two films lacked construction in their screenplays, being made with various sections and then having the gaps filled in with the explanations and talk. Azkaban was completely smooth and coherent because of its improved script-style, and I had never been prouder of a Harry Potter film. I give my biggest compliments to Alfonso Cuaron for taking a huge risk and succeeding with it.