The Ins and Outs of Book to Movie Adaptations: The Harry Potter Movies (Part Two of Two)

by Theo Sloan

Reviews

December 14, 2020

Welcome back to my comprehensive and incredibly detailed review of the Harry Potter movies, both in terms of how the movies work as an adaptation of a fantastic book series and in terms of how well they stand alone as their own franchise. In my previous review, The Ins and Outs of Book to Movie Adaptations: The Harry Potter Movies (Part One of Two), I discussed the first four Harry Potter movies. So now, let us proceed with the final four movies.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix came out in 2007 and was directed by David Yates. This movie was another massive success and made $942,000,000 at the box office. 

Easily the best thing about this movie is the casting of Evanna Lynch as Luna Lovegood. Luna was already one of my favorite minor characters from the books, and Evanna Lynch just nails her character in every way, from her brutal honesty to her wacky conspiracy theories to the upbeat, slightly spaced-out tone that she always uses, even when talking about dark, depressing topics. On top of that, the rest of the cast is in top shape as well, especially the main trio. Another excellent character this movie has to offer is Dolores Umbridge as the main villain. In fact, she is so great that she is, in many ways, a more memorable villain than Lord Voldemort is, and even though The Goblet of Fire thoroughly botched his character, outstripping Voldemort is still an impressive feat. The pacing in this movie is also excellent, and much of that comes from Yates and his crew’s willingness to cut a lot of scenes from the book in order to keep the fast-paced, somewhat lighthearted tone of the movie. In fact, the movie manages to be completely different from the Order of the Phoenix book in almost every way, yet it still delivers the same messages that the book does. You see, the book is somewhat of a downer. It is very sad, long, and disheartening, although it does feature some excellent moments of levity throughout. But the movie is rather upbeat and funny, with several excellent affecting moments throughout, and it makes for a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Another excellent part of this movie is the montages that are featured throughout — particularly great are the montage of Harry training fellow students to defend themselves and the montage of Umbridge slowly taking over the school. And finally, you can’t have a Harry Potter movie without an enormous, bombastic action sequence at the end, and this one does not disappoint at all. The scene at the Department of Mysteries is tense, exciting, and full of emotional punches that hit in just the right way. In fact, I would argue that the Voldemort possession scene near the end is one of the two most powerful scenes in the entire franchise, with the other one belonging to Deathly Hallows: Part 2

It’s important to note again that The Order of the Phoenix is not faithful to the book, and while I actually like that for the most part, I feel that they cut a little bit too much here and there. For example, in the book, Harry gives an interview to Rita Skeeter that gets published in The Quibbler, and this causes many students to change their minds about him and come over to his side. However, the movie leaves this important development out for no particular reason, which I found disappointing. The movie also does a worse job of fleshing out Harry’s relationship with Cho Chang than the books did, which is really saying something. But his relationship with Cho is not an important aspect of the books, seeing as it never goes anywhere. 

And there’s one complaint I have about the movie. At the beginning of the Order of the Phoenix book, there’s a chapter called “Dudley Demented,” followed by a chapter called “A Peck of Owls,” and these two chapters are the two funniest chapters in the entire series. For some reason, the movie changed both of these scenes, making them not very funny at all and truly rather disappointing.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is absolutely fantastic. It’s one of my favorite movies of all time. As a stand-alone movie, I give it a well-earned 9.5/10. However, as an adaptation, I think it has earned a strong 10/10, because it manages to improve on the book greatly — it cuts out many scenes, and still manages to deliver the same emotional impact and message that the book does. 

Next up is Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which came out in 2009. There are two important new cast members worth talking about: Jim Broadbent as Professor Horace Slughorn and Frank Dillane as young Tom Riddle. While Broadbent does a fairly good job playing Horace Slughorn, Dillane is absolutely fantastic as Riddle, giving off the perfect balance of charm and creepiness. The Half-Blood Prince was another smash hit, making $934,000,000 at the box office. 

The best aspect of this movie, besides Evanna Lynch as Luna Lovegood, who only appears in three scenes but leaves a bigger impact than most of the main cast members, is Draco Malfoy. After five movies of Malfoy being a minor, non-threatening, barely-there, petty rival for Harry to confront two or three times, Tom Felton finally gets a chance to shine as Malfoy, and he most definitely does that. His character becomes menacing, and far more importantly, interesting and complex. Malfoy’s inner conflict throughout the movie is fascinating to watch, and his final confrontation with Dumbledore is rather moving. It is all in all a great performance. I also think that Emma Watson does a particularly good job here, simply because her lines are delivered a bit better here than in the other movies. The scenes in Dumbledore’s Pensieve are also done very well, from both a visual perspective and a storytelling perspective. The movie gets the necessary information across very efficiently — there are no uninteresting, long scenes of exposition. Alan Rickman is also really good as Snape, and the mystery surrounding whether or not he is a traitor is handled fairly well. And the action is done very well: I especially enjoy the scene in the cave with the Inferi. 

But the movie does have its flaws. With regard to Dumbledore’s Pensieve, there are a few memories in the book that Harry and Dumbledore look at and discuss that were cut from the movie. I think this was a poor decision — those memories provide Voldemort with a bit of nuance, and by leaving them out, this movie neuters Voldemort even further and makes him less interesting. However, I do understand that pacing is very important in these movies, so I cannot be too mad about this. I also have mixed feelings about a scene in which the Death Eaters show up at the Burrow on Christmas Eve and burn it to the ground. It is unfaithful to the book on a number of levels: it never even happens in the book, and the Burrow is supposed to be under powerful Death Eater-proof wards. This is why it is used as a safe house for the Order of the Phoenix. But the scene is also well done, so it’s hard to stay too mad at it. 

The biggest issue with this movie is that it’s unfaithful to the Half-Blood Prince book. In the book, the main plot revolves around finding out who the Half-Blood Prince is, learning about Tom Riddle through Dumbledore’s memories, investigating Draco Malfoy, and Harry’s romantic interest in Ginny, and the elements that get the most attention are the former two. However, in The Half-Blood Prince movie, almost the entire movie is taken up by dealing with the teen drama and romantic relationships of the main cast, and while it is rather interesting in the book, it becomes incredibly frustrating in the movie. The main reason for this is that Daniel Radcliffe and Bonnie Wright have the chemistry of water and oil. As a result, all of their scenes together are unbelievably awkward — one of my favorite parts of the scene at the Burrow I mentioned earlier is how it interrupts a long, drawn-out scene in which Harry and Ginny have no chemistry. The other main romantic subplot is a love square between Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger, Lavender Brown, and Cormac McLaggen. I am not exaggerating when I say that this subplot is the worst subplot in the entire series. It’s nonsensical that the filmmakers chose to leave this subplot in at the expense of some of Dumbledore’s Pensieve memories. These romantic subplots are awful, and they, more than any other aspect of this movie, hold it back from greatness. Harry Potter is an action, adventure, and fantasy movie, not a romantic comedy. Therefore, the main focus of the movies should always be the action and the adventure. I’d like to compare romance in the Harry Potter movies to cinnamon. In small quantities, it’s great, and it can often spice up the story and make things a bit more interesting. But when the movie is primarily cinnamon, the audience suddenly feels like choking and wants it to end. There are a few other small things that frustrate me — I wish they spent a bit more time with Quidditch and Harry’s investigations of Draco Malfoy and the mysterious Half-Blood Prince. But the romance is the main problem.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince gets a lot of things right, but it gets a lot wrong as well. Therefore, my movie score is a strong 8/10, but as an adaptation, I unfortunately have to give it a 6/10. It really is a shame, because The Half-Blood Prince is my favorite Harry Potter book, yet the movie, while good, is far from the best one.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 came out in 2010. It was a resounding success at the box office, making $976,999,000. I enjoyed these last two movies.

The best thing about this movie is the acting. It is a rather character-driven movie, and a good chunk of it is spent following Harry, Ron, and Hermione as they camp in the woods to hide from Death Eaters and plan. As a result, it is incredibly important for both the writing and the acting to be top notch, and they are. Daniel Radcliffe in particular gets his chance to shine, but Emma Watson and Rupert Grint are both excellent as well. The action in this movie is great too. There are four distinct action sequences: the trio’s infiltration of the Ministry of Magic; the first attempt to kill Voldemort’s snake, Nagini; the escape from the Rookery, Luna’s house; and the escape from Malfoy Manor. The scene at Malfoy Manor is my favorite because of a poignant part at the end of it, the result of the death of a recurring minor character. I think that death is handled very well. 

And there are some flaws: there are several times throughout this movie when Ron’s character is not handled quite right. I also find it disappointing that the movie abandoned the scenes in which Harry and Hermione learn more about Dumbledore and his flaws. The middle is a bit slow at times — splitting a book into two movies is truly a blatant money-making scheme that almost always dampens the quality of both movies. Fortunately, these two movies are both still good.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is a very good movie. It has great action, good acting and interesting writing, and it sets up the finale very well. As a movie, I give it an 8/10, and as an adaptation, I also give it an 8/10. It is a well-rounded movie to set up the finale. 

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 came out in 2011. It made $1,342,000,000 at the box office, earning the title of the most successful Harry Potter movie. 

The pacing in this movie is great. The action begins near the beginning of the movie and does not let up for the vast majority of it. And somehow, the movie still manages to have time for jokes, heartfelt character moments, and other slight pauses that give the audience just enough room to breathe before getting thrown back into the action again. The action scenes in this movie are amazing. There are two main action sequences: the Gringotts robbery scene, which ends with the escape of Harry, Ron, and Hermione on the back of a dragon, and the Battle of Hogwarts, which takes up about half of the movie. The action is engaging and fun to watch — this is especially important, because most of the movie is an action scene. There are also some incredibly moving moments, stemming from the many character deaths. It is difficult to watch the ending of this movie without getting at least a little misty-eyed when certain characters who have been around since the beginning die. The other character moments are great too: Luna Lovegood’s two scenes are the best in the movie, and McGonagall’s duel with Snape is an epic scene. 

There are only a few flaws to mention here. Voldemort’s computer-generated imagery is still unbelievable, to the point where it makes it difficult to take him seriously. And the romantic relationships are done badly again. Harry and Ginny’s relationship is especially hard to take seriously, because in the entirety of this movie, they only have one scene together, yet the audience is supposed to buy their being married in the epilogue. I suppose Ron and Hermione’s relationship is done a little bit better, but it’s still not great. The epilogue is quite bad. It doesn’t include many interesting character interactions, besides the ones among the new generation of kids. But we haven’t had eight movies to make us care about those kids, and there won’t be eight movies in the future to do that, so they don’t matter much. I think that the epilogue, if there even needs to be an epilogue, should have shown something interesting, such as cleaning up magical Britain after the war is over, or a scene in which Harry and Draco come to terms with their differences after Draco helps Harry in the battle of Hogwarts.

Despite my few complaints, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is still an excellent movie and one of my favorites in the series. With that in mind, my movie score is a well-earned 9/10, while my film adaptation score is a golden 10/10. So there we are — I have written a review for all of the Harry Potter movies. I’ll end with a summary of my rankings for all of the movies.

Movie TitleRating (Out of Ten)
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix9.5, as a stand-alone movie
10, as a book adaptation
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 29, as a stand-alone movie
10, as a book adaptation
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban9, as a stand-alone movie
9.5, as a book adaptation
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 18, as a stand-alone movie
8, as a book adaptation
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince8, as a stand-alone movie
6, as a book adaptation
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone6.5, as a stand-alone movie
8, as a book adaptation
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets6, as a stand-alone movie
6.5, as a book adaptation
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire6, as a stand-alone movie
3.5, as a book adaptation

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