Friday, July 23, 2010

Pop Culture Smackdown!! The Battle for the Boy Who Lived

So much of popular culture these days is recycled. Books are made into movies; movies are remade into newer movies; then the updated movies end up having four sequels before someone decides to turn the whole concept into a TV show and then write a novelisation based on the TV series.

Are there any original ideas left? With all these differing versions of the same thing, I’m throwing down the gauntlet and declaring a Pop Culture Smackdown!!

Which version is better? Who will ultimately prevail? 

In today’s bout we have the cultural juggernaut that is Harry Potter. In the red corner – the book series that started it all; in the blue corner – the world-wide multi-million dollar movie franchise.

The problem in translating book to film is that you have to deal with those that loved the book, and baulk at the thought of any changes. Nobody wants to incur the wrath of those that will potentially come and watch the adaptation, but sometimes changing things is necessary, especially for a new medium where sub-plots vie for attention and the moviemakers have to also think about pleasing the audience ignorant of the book. Unfortunately for fans these differences can make or break their enjoyment. What many fans consider to be key scenes in the books are sometimes marginalised or completely ignored in the film.

With the movies finally coming to an end (if you haven’t already watched the trailer for The Deathly HallowsDO IT!!) it’s time to finally declare a winner in the actualisation of JK Rowling’s Wizarding World. Do the movies live up to the hype of the book series?? Or do they surpass the expectations of the millions of rabid fans?


HOW THE BOOK IS BETTER: Introduces us to this vivid world and tells a rollicking tale of supernatural adventure that leaves us wanting more.

HOW THE MOVIE IS BETTER: A relatively faithful adaptation, the movie visualises everything that had formerly lay dormant in the fans' imagination. The first time Harry goes to Diagon Alley almost feels like it’s the first time we’re seeing magic as well. The initial casting of the indomitable trio also earns the movie bonus points.

DEFINITIVE VERSION: The book. Being so faithful to the book is both the movie’s strength and weakness.


HOW THE BOOK IS BETTER: The first book was the setup, and this one is the payoff. All explanations of the wizarding world are left behind and the plot quickly plunges into a dark adventure.

HOW THE MOVIE IS BETTER: With no serious plot changes, the film expands the Wizarding World visually. Hogwarts seems to expand and deepen before our very eyes.

DEFINITIVE VERSION: Close call but the book, mostly because this movie marks the beginning of writer Steve Kloves making Hermione the proud owner of many of Ron’s lines which I’m really not a fan of.


HOW THE BOOK IS BETTER: The introduction of the Marauder plotline advances the storyline beyond a children’s book series. The arbitrary events that occurred in the first two books finally get some clarification and make the story feel that much more urgent and chilling.

HOW THE MOVIE IS BETTER: Visually stunning! The first of the movies that felt cinematic as opposed to a pure adaptation doggedly following the canon of the book’s storyline.

DEFINITIVE VERSION: The book. The movie cuts out much of the plot and it needs to explain more than it should.


HOW THE BOOK IS BETTER: At 640-pages, the book is full of fascinating detail about Hogwarts and Voldemort lore.

HOW THE MOVIE IS BETTER: It condenses the book's first 100 pages into a thrilling 20 minutes. The whole movie zips through the narrative, transporting viewers from the mundane to the magical in no time flat.

DEFINITIVE VERSION: The movie. Most of what was dumped was superfluous, allowing the movie to concentrate on the main strong storyline.


HOW THE BOOK IS BETTER: A huge opus - the plot leads us on a emotional ride that culminates in the most dramatic climax so far.

HOW THE MOVIE IS BETTER: It's not easy to take the longest Harry Potter book and streamline it into the shortest HP movie, but director David Yates does a pretty good job of it, creating an Order of the Phoenix that's entertaining and action-packed.

DEFINITIVE VERSION: The movie. The book definitely got bogged down in all the politics of the advancing plot, often feeling slow and dragging.


HOW THE BOOK IS BETTER: Shit goes down! Starting a lot more light-hearted than the last few books (the romantic entanglements are hilarious), the plot quickly descends, with a conclusion that suggests more alarmingly the deep dangers Harry and his friends have gotten themselves into.

HOW THE MOVIE IS BETTER: Visually stunning. Although the plot may be dealing with the intricacies of teenage romance, Hogwarts itself seem darker, emptier and more ominous than ever before. Its cheery corridors are now replaced by gloomy Gothic passages.

DEFINITIVE VERSION: The book.  The movie starts off promising, but the serious botching of the ending makes the movie feel like something huge is missing and makes certain important plot developments less poignant.

Clearly my own opinions of the Harry Potter universe fall in the book-is-better sphere. But that may just be my inner HP fangirl self shining through.

What do you think? Did you enjoy the books more than the movies? Which ones do you think worked best? How faithful do you think they will be to The Deathly Hallows? Comment ahoy!


  1. I'm with you, I feel like the books transport me deep into Harry's world. Loving this blog!! Wish I was as clever and as witty as all of you xo Kelly

  2. I'm totally with you on the books Kel, however I have to say that now when I re-read the books (such a nerd) before I go to see the applicable movie....I am picturing the actors and scenery from the movie in my head! So I think the movies help me enjoy the books more. One thing I'm not a fan of in the movies is that they seem to make the endings, more often than not, a little corny. I especially remember one of the movies (I think it was the prisoner of Azkaban) ending with a warm and fluffy scene in the Great Hall, with the students clapping at something and all looking happy. But maybe that's just because JK does such a good job of winding up the books but leaving something for the next installment. Overall, I have to say I love them all in their own way...but can't wait for The Deathly Hallows. So glad it's in 2 parts!

  3. I love the books and the movies, and agree, the movies add to the books, but I love the books just a little more. I think those somewhat corny endings you refer to Kirsty are essentially there for the "kids". We must remember that's who the HP universe is primarily aimed at :) That, and if Chris Columbus has anything to do with anything, the schmaltz level is turned up to 100.

  4. It's inevitable that ideas for movies will run out. There can only be so many things to write a story about, especially in the narrow-minded minds of Hollywood writers. In 100 years will it just be today's movies remade in 3D, or some other cool technology we don't even know about?

    But in this case I'm pretty glad... both the books and the movies are all winners.