They just don’t get it, do they?
They think that they’re exploiting a fad. They’ve taken a fun adventure story about magic and wizardry, and make millions by translating it to the big screen. They think these books hit a zeitgeist, and that the creative and often funny world of Hogwarts is simply a matter of CGI effects and epic punch lines.
These foolish, foolish men. They understand nothing.
Harry Potter was a classic from the moment it was published. My mother, who is a raving Anglophile, gave me a copy of Philosopher’s Stone for Christmas when I was 17, saying “they’re very popular in England.” I love children’s fiction, so I wasn’t as offended as some 17 year olds might have been at being given a book that was clearly marketed for the under 12 set. I gobbled that book in a day, and then bored my friends at school by raving about it. They didn’t get it. So the kid’s a wizard. That’s nice.
…then Pottermania hit Canada, and suddenly all my friends were on a first-name basis with characters that I had known and loved for several years. It was amazing and delightful.
Why do my friends, who have no interest in Dahl or Lewis or Cleary or Pullman or any of the other children’s books that I breathe like air, love this particular set of books?
The answer is because they are amazing. These movie producers think it’s because of Quidditch and Every Flavour Beans, and maybe it is, a little. But Harry Potter was an instant classic because it is filled with those timeless themes of human existence – love, sacrifice, mistaken first impressions, the contrariness of human personality, and finally… triumph over those who would hurt us.
Watching Half Blood Prince last night, I got the distinct feeling that the people who wrote the screenplay and directed the film had asked some English majors “What are the themes of Harry Potter? What is the heart and soul of the story? Of all the story lines in this book, which are the most vital to the meaning of the book?” and when they had their answer, they said “Okay. That’s what we’ll cut out.”
If they had done it by design, they could not have been more successful at cutting out the heart of the story, and leaving a hollow, empty shell.
The themes of Harry Potter are simple (Spoilers coming):
Sacrifice – Harry’s parents, his godfather, and eventually Dumbledore himself, give their lives to save him. Ron sacrifices himself in a chess game, Dobby accepts terrible punishments in order to warn Harry of danger, and Bellatrix Lestrange goes to Azkaban rather than denounce her beloved master. From the start to the finish, characters make terrible sacrifices for those whom they love. Finally, the series is ended when Harry makes the ultimate sacrifice.
In none of the books is this so much apparent as in Half Blood Prince. The theme of love, and Dumbledore’s belief that it is more powerful than all the dark magic in the world, is discussed openly and clearly. From the discussion of Tom Riddle’s mother to Dumbledore’s giving his own blood to enter the cave, to Dumbledore insisting that he should drink the potion, sacrifice is one of the most important themes of this book. To bring that through, all the movie makers would have had to do was focus on this scene, instead of that scene, insert this line instead of that, and they could have had a movie which made people go “whoa…”. But they didn’t.
They even removed Dumbledore’s final sacrifice, in which he saves Harry instead of defending himself in the split second before he is disarmed. The fools, the fools didn’t understand the importance of this.
Deceptive First Impressions – One of the biggest, most ubiquitous themes running through this series is that of people being deceived by appearances. The surprise endings are one of the hallmarks of these books. Those who seem evil are innocent, and those who seem harmless are the culprits. In HBP, Harry begins to trust and revere the Half Blood Prince, hoping that maybe this is even his father’s writing in the book. Meanwhile, he fights with Dumbledore about the faith he puts in Snape. When Harry discovers that Snape is responsible for his own parents’ death, his trust in Dumbledore is put to a terrible test. This scene is so vital. It makes it all the more important, all the more tragic, when Snape shatters that trust, both in Dumbledore and in the identity of the Prince. And they cut it out. I get the feeling that they had no concept of the point of the HBP story line, and would have cut it out completely if it weren’t for being written right into the title. “Let’s minimize this,” they probably said “it doesn’t seem very important”. Sure, because they know better than JK FUCKING ROWLING. I’m sorry, have any of THESE writers written a modern classic? No? Well then don’t mess with the point of the story!
Parental Love – The love of a parent, and the loss of it, is a very common theme in children’s books. It takes the place of the romantic love and loss that occurs in adult novels. HBP is unique in that Harry is old enough to be seeking romantic love, and yet, as an orphan who has just lost yet another parent figure, he is still seeking that father-son bond with someone. Dumbledore takes Sirius’s place. His fatherly love for Harry, confessed so touchingly at the end of theprevious book, is made apparent in so many tiny ways. Knowing that Harry is uncomfortable with demonstrated emotions, he does not hug Harry or ask Harry about his feelings. Instead, he is solicitous, asking Harry if he is physically okay after apparition, and repeating over and over that he values Harry and Harry’s life over himself and his own. He even allows some anger to show when he talks to the Dursleys, accusing them of neglecting Harry. When Harry mentions his conversation with Scrimgeour, and how he had frankly agreed to being “Dumbledore’s man through and through” Dumbledore was moved to tears by this show of loyalty. And they cut it out.
Without all of that, without the affection, without the trust, Dumbledore’s loss means so much less. You need that relationship established to see how truly disturbing it is when Harry force feeds poison to his “greatest protector” while Dumbledore lies crumbled and begging and protesting on the ground. With a couple of words, with a couple of scenes replaced (like the bizarre M Night Shyamalan rip off scene) they could have made a movie which made the audiences weep. We would have wept for Harry, for Dumbledore, and for our own dead loved ones. They could have touched us. But they didn’t.
Oh, you stupid, stupid move makers. You think that you made the story better by burning down The Burrow and cutting out the meaning? You thought you could improve upon the greatest story writer of our time? You fools. You absolute fools. Your movies could have been classics, cherished by generations along with the books. But they won’t be. Give it 25, 30, 40 years, and someone will decide to redo it all. They will try to undo the mess you have made by making remakes of these movies. And you and your labours and your millions of dollars will be lost to the sands of time.
But the story, yes, the story will live on.