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BLOG Harry Potter And The End Of An Era

Steven Ellis reckons that Warners should have learnt a few lesson or two from the extended editions of The Lord Of The Rings

We’ve come to the end of an era; the last Harry Potter film is currently putting millions of bums on seats in cinemas all over the world and breaking records left right and centre while it does so. After twn years, eight films, almost 1,200 minutes of film and the childhoods of several cast members, JK Rowling’s epic tale of witchcraft and wizardry has reached its conclusion on screen.

After seeing the final film – and enjoying the hell out of it I might add (the battle of Hogwarts was as spectacular as I hoped it would be and everyone got a good send off, even if it wasn’t exactly the same as in the book) – I’m still left with the same slight disappointment that each film since the third one has brought me.

It’s a disappointment that many readers of the books have voiced upon seeing the films; I preferred the book. The film makers messed something up in translation. Some things just seemed to be badly explained in the film or not explained at all. They left out my favourite character moments. Background and secondary characters were given short shrift. Everything not relating to Harry, Ron, Hermione and their central plot was pretty much left out. The world was somehow smaller when put on film. It’s a long list of book to film translation complaints and it happens to some degree with any book to film project.

But what chance does a film have against the rich and vivid imagination of the human mind? The books are always going to win with those who’ve read them, aren’t they? The arguments voiced aren’t new complaints. But they are now set in stone. These Harry Potter films are the Harry Potter films we have. These are the Harry Potter films we’ll always have. And there will be no next one to redeem the disappointment of the last one.

Since the first ever film made from a book there has been the old “I preferred the book” chorus from book-reading filmgoers. But with Harry Potter I completely agree with the sentiment. Last week I asked a friend who’d see the film before me if this Potter film was any good, and her immediate response was, “I’m glad I read the book.” And that is always my first thought with Harry Potter films, I kind of feel like I need to read the books to understand the films. The books are richer, and so much more detailed. Deeper in a way film just can’t be. And the films seem to skip over bits that are important; it’s like they rely on you to have read the book to fill in the blanks. Now I understand that a film can be deemed too long for a cinema going audience, so certain scenes and plots have to go and the narrative has to be streamlined for a theatrical release, but surely not to the detriment of that narrative. But all is not lost: there is a life for films after they leave the theatre. And they don’t have to remain the same for DVD or BluRay – they can be made longer. The filmmakers could have done something to bridge the gap between book and film a little more…

Upon leaving the cinema after seeing Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part Two I was left with the same thought I’ve had for the last four or five films; Warner Bros. have really missed a trick here. The trick I’m talking about is Peter Jackson’s extended Lord Of The Rings DVDs. The books they said were un-filmable. Not only did Jackson make three damn good theatrical releases, he also made three fantastic extended cuts with more character moments and more dialogue and more depth. Extra scenes seamlessly cut back into the theatrical versions to make a richer, deeper experience for those who wanted just a little bit more of the books.

If only they’d done the same with the Harry Potter series. It’s not like it would have been that difficult. Leavesden Studio has been pretty much a Harry Potter production line for the films for the last ten years. They had the sets, they had the time, and they had the cast and the crew. Filming more of the character moments and background world would have been easy. An extra 30 minutes to an hour for each extended cut; all the little moments, character back story, background plots and secondary characters; all the little things that open up the world of Potter. I reckon extended version would have made a hell of a lot more sense to those who hadn’t read the books, and made those that had a little bit happier in the long run too.

With extended cuts the filmmakers could have brought more of the pages of the book to life. They could have explained about the Marauders Map. They could have shown Neville’s parents in hospital. They could have shown Tonks and Lupin’s relationship. They could have fleshed it all out. They could have done any one of a hundred scenes from the book that they missed from the films. They could have given it all so much more depth and scope. And they could have explained it all better. And include the things they sometimes forget to explain at all from film to film. I’m not saying they had to film every single line and scene. But they could have done so many things to flesh the films out in the DVD/Blu-ray format. This might have gone some way to fixing the problem of having plot points they’d dropped or not filmed for the earlier films which later became important and prevented the apparent shoe horning of some plotting into the later films.

All the little thing I, and many others, wish they’d seen in the films might have made it in. And Warner Bros could have made a hell of a lot more money too.

But still. This is just a “what if” idea. Like I said; they missed a trick. We have the films we have and they aren’t all bad. And if the films aren’t good enough for you, the books are still there too. And if that doesn’t do it you could always try the fanfic…