We have all thought about it, discussed it, argued over it. If we could have taken over with dictatorial authority, exactly what would we have changed in the Harry Potter films? Here are my top 10 changes – what are yours?
The films, of course, were never going to be perfect – and they certainly weren’t helped by the fact that the books weren’t completed when filming began. Still, there are always things you wished had made it in, and other things that made you wonder why they had bothered in the first place.
Personally I’m a firm believer that a lot could have been rectified by giving Maggie Smith all the screentime, but in the absence of that, these are the 10 things I would change given the chance.
1. Bring back Ron Weasley
This one belongs right at the top. In the books, Ron Weasley was, amongst other things: funny, brave, unsure, dim and helpful, often simultaneously. In the films, Ron Weasley was mainly confused. Maybe he was wondering the same thing as me – why had they given all of his lines to Hermione? The films make Ron out as the awkward third wheel, but from the books we know it should be Harry and Ron BFFs for life.
Sure Hermione is great, who doesn’t love Hermione? But Ron has the common-sense, and the insight to everyday Wizarding life, that idealistic Harry and supersmart Hermione often lack. It was great to see a powerful female role-model, it’s just a shame they had to downgrade Ron to achieve it. He’s Harry’s best friend, a fabulous character, and deserved to be more than just the weird guy lurking while Harry and Hermione had important conversations.
2. Buy Michael Gambon the books
Mike, I promise, they don’t even take that long to read, and it will really be worth it. The many personalities of Gambon!Dumbledore (including Anger Management Dumbledore in Goblet of Fire) almost gave me whiplash. It’s a shame, because Gambon is a wonderful actor, but as he didn’t take the time to read the source material, and no one bothered to fill him in, he was very hit-and-miss.
With a character that is so obviously a fan favourite, it was so essential to get him right, and it was just never quite there. For me, his best moments were in the Kings Cross scene, and it made me dream of how good his performance could have been. Seriously, buy the man an audiobook or something, he could have listened to it in the make-up chair while they glued on those kilometres of hair.
3. The ‘Deathly Hallows’ Mess
The most complicated book was split into two parts to cover all of those twisty plot points, and yet most of the time seemed to be a dedicated to a montage of camping and dancing. These last two films could have their own list, but I’ve restricted it to my three top picks.
3a. Exploding people
I’d like to thank Warner Bros. for taking the time to make sure I got my 3D money’s worth. That must be it, what other justification could there be for floating little bits of Voldemort, Bellatrix and Nagini into my face? I must have missed the chapter in Deathly Hallows where Harry learned “forget this magic business, just blow him up.” This was just unnecessary, not to mention expensive. Voldemort may be evil, but he wasn’t a piñata to blow apart.
3b. The Voldemort-Harry showdown
Why they decided to make the culminating fight a Benny Hill-style chase (complete with Harry’s brilliant idea of assassination through cliff jumping), I couldn’t tell you. It must have seemed very cinematic and thrilling on paper. You know what would have been more cinematic and thrilling? Having Harry and Voldemort battle it out in front of everyone, while Harry explained the entire point of the series to Voldemort and everyone else.
3c. What are the Deathly Hallows?
This one isn’t just personal taste – it was the name of two films. So at some point, it would have been nice to have been given an explanation of what was going on here. If you hadn’t read the books, I expect you’d be asking: if the wand was super-powerful, how could Harry snap it so easily? What was that stone he dropped in the woods? Didn’t he have an invisibility cloak before, what happened to that? What was actually the point of the Deathly Hallows?
4. Where were The Marauders
Oh, so many problems. Without even getting into the semantics of why 21-year-old-dead-James was played by a forty-something actor, where was this storyline? If we hadn’t spent quite so long with the shrunken heads in the beginning of Prisoner of Azkaban they could have easily fit this in. The revelation about the Marauder’s map and James’ animagus form were both incredibly influential during Harry’s maturing.
This omission echoed throughout the subsequent films. The importance of patronuses, the life debt of Peter Pettigrew, the parallels between Harry and James, the uneven relationship between Harry and Sirius, and even Lily and Snape – all things we could never really hear about, because they skipped it in Prisoner of Azkaban. And when they had the chance to make up for this in Order of the Phoenix, they didn’t even include the most essential “Mudblood” part.