The “Harry Potter” movie franchise is one of the biggest cinematic series of all time. It is also the best movie adaptation of a book series I’ve ever seen—in my opinion of course. For those who grew up with the Harry Potter movies, we have witnessed the different developments and growth of each character and actor. My childhood was magical because producer David Yates took a chance on JK Rowling’s masterpiece. And as kids back then, the movies were how we were introduced to the wizarding world.
Having read them as soon I was old enough to understand them, I took pride in having finished all seven books way before I even entered high school, and just in time for the premiere of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part I.” Every time someone would ask me if I’ve read the books, I’d reply with a proud “Psh, of course. I would never watch the movies if I haven’t read the book,” or something along those lines. I finished the series before 2010, and that was nine years ago. As often as I have my “Harry Potter” movie marathons, I haven’t touched the books since then.
However, I recently came across a video essay that made me pluck out the books from my shelf again. In YouTuber Quinn Curio’s video titled “Explaining what went weird with Ron Weasley,” she did a whole critical analysis on the difference between the characterization of movie version Ron and book version Ron. Quinn’s 30-minute discussion on Ron’s character made me go through my books as a now level-headed adult who can see past the rose-colored lenses of an 11-year-old, and actually read between the lines. And oh boy do I now realize that the movies are not as perfect as I thought they were. Not in an alarmingly bad way, but in a way that was filled with character portrayals that did not translate well from book to movie.
Here are three points I’ve gathered from Quinn’s video, the internet, and my trip back to the words of JK Rowling:
Movie Ron was scammed
There are a lot of people on the internet who believe that the movies made Ron lame comic relief or even too mean a character. Some even go so far as to say that the movies ruined Ron Weasley, and that they dislike or even hate one of the most important characters in a series they otherwise love. Honestly? They’re not wrong. Even I had my moments when I thought Ron went a bit too far with his snarky comments. The movies had tendencies to make Ron look silly and mean for a joke, and reading the books again made me realize that all that really wasn’t necessary.
Somewhere along the line, Harry went from having two friends who were smart in different ways, to having a smart friend and a lesser sidekick who has his skills, observations, and lines used and uttered by his best friends instead. Yes, there were lines that were originally Ron’s in the book but were given to Hermione instead for the movies. Quinn says that they made Ron a goof to make Hermione a cool proactive role model for little girls to look up to.
This explains the scene in Prisoner of Azkaban where Hermione tries to protect Harry from Sirius Black saying “If you want to kill Harry, you’ll have to kill us too.” This line is actually Ron’s from the books.
It also flies under the radar how often Ron’s characterization in the movies had to be altered to give Hermione, and especially Harry, cool moments. I mean, he is the star, right? He should have the awesome lines…right?
In “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1” (the movie where everyone absolutely hated Ron), we see the effect of Voldemort’s Horcrux on Ron, which makes him say terrible things to Harry. The biggest blow was during their big fight in the middle of the woods. News arrived that Ginny was sent to the Forbidden Forest at Hogwarts. Ron threw a tantrum worrying for his sister and Harry told him that he knew exactly how he felt, to which Ron responded: “No you don’t know how it feels! Your parents are dead. You have no family.” This line sent fans into a frenzy, and people who didn’t know the books light pitchforks at Ron. How insensitive of a best friend is he for bringing up Harry’s dead parents? And hasn’t he become Harry’s family in the past few years?
This didn’t make sense at all because Ron didn’t actually say those words in the book. What he actually said was:
“It’s all right for you two [Harry and Hermione] isn’t it, with your parents safely out of the way?”
“My parents are dead!” Harry bellowed.
“And mine could be going the same way!” yelled Ron.
See how a few words can change a person’s character entirely?
Steve Kloves, the screenwriter for the movie franchise, gets a lot of criticism for bias, especially towards Hermione, because she is, in fact, his favorite. And yes, he actually admitted this.
“I like writing all three, but I’ve always loved writing Hermione,” Steve said. “She’s a tremendous character for a lot of reasons especially for a writer because she can carry expositions in a wonderful way. You just assume she read it in a book.”
In the time period between the book’s release and the movie premiere, Ron was actually more of a fan-favorite compared to Hermione. Even Rowling herself has said in an interview “Ron is just so easy to love.” Hermione wasn’t a character than people often favored.
In the books, Ron is stronger. He’s the voice of reason when Hermione is becoming too academic, and Harry too proud. He’s more than just comic relief and the Boy Who Lived’s sidekick. He wasn’t sorted into Gryffindor for being a wimp, that’s for sure.
Harry’s hubris was gone
Despite stereotypes about people with glasses, on the false nerd-to-jock dichotomy, Harry is actually more of a jock. If you’re shocked by this and have always thought of Harry as the “outcast” because of his humble beginnings living with the Dursleys and being treated like a rag doll by his cousin Dudley, then you haven’t been paying as much attention as you thought you were. When he arrives at Hogwarts, he’s the ultimate superstar: popular for surviving Voldemort’s killing curse, and becomes the youngest seeker in the century. See? A total jock.
His grades are fine, but he’s not as much of an intellectual as Hermione is. He only goes out of his way to learn new spells if he needs it for some life-threatening situation—like when he learned how to conjure a Patronus Charm to fight off dementors in book three. And although he tries to be really polite he can also be judgemental, and often takes a lot of time for him to change his mind about things. Quinn Curio’s observation is that Harry’s stubbornness in the books is actually one of the main reasons that the plot twists work.
What’s missing with Harry in the movies is his internal narratives. Because despite the similar intentions that book and movie Harry have, we are spared of his thoughts and inner dialogue, which are very essential aspects of his character. Harry actually tends to be that jock that thinks he has it all sometimes, but we never get to see most of it in the films because they’re too busy painting him to be the hero that he already is. Like come on, the title of the films is his name, isn’t that enough to point out that the story is about him? Movie Harry is too smooth, too good, too much of a hero. The removal of his inner dialogue left key aspects of his character to our imagination. And trust me, in the books, he was way more angry and judgmental.
Making Ginny boring AF
This is probably the point I’m most angry about, and it’s because I’m the biggest Harry and Ginny shipper. This ship refused to sale within the movie fandom, making me completely heartbroken and alone as a fangirl back in the day, but now I know why and I have the movies to blame.
Ginny Weasely is one of my most favorite characters in the books. Why? She’s one of the strongest female characters to ever grace the wizarding world. She speaks her mind, especially because she was raised with six older brothers. While she was a little quiet in the books at first, she quickly stepped up as a character who proved she could hold her own and wasn’t afraid to tell anyone how she felt. She was nothing like the wallflower the films made her out to be and her rambunctious attitude was part of what made her such a great role model for young girls. She was her own person, the strongest witch in Dumbledor’s Army in book five, and became a Chaser for the Gryffindor Quidditch team in her fifth year. She even became Seeker to replace Harry when he missed the last match it book six.
It was Harry that was the ultimate awkward fool when it came to Ginny. The moment he realized how attractive she was and started having feelings for her, he was all over the place. Meanwhile, Ginny was having the time of her life, acing her classes, and kissing lots of boys! What does the movie Ginny have to say about this?
Her relationship and eventual marriage to Harry is what officially makes the Boy Who Lived a member of the Weasley clan. And I agree when Bustle says in a discussion on why Ginny Weasley is so likeable: that it’s important to address that Harry and Ginny’s relationship is drastically different in the films.
For one, Ginny doesn’t pine after Harry throughout the books like she’s seen doing in the movies. She is far more than the romantic plot device she appears to be in the films. While she has always had a crush on Harry, she doesn’t let her unrequited love consume her (Harry had a lot going on at the time). Instead, she moved on, dated other guys (Dean Thomas, wooo go Ginny), and lived her life. The movies also show Ginny doting over Harry, while book Ginny treats Harry as she would anyone else—sass and all. Book Ginny complements Harry well because she is a fully-developed character who doesn’t become a shadow to the Golden Boy as film Ginny does.
Movie Ginny is barely on the screen and comes off quite flat as a character. While Bonnie Wright does an amazing job portraying the youngest Weasley child, her character’s lack of depth comes from all the magical moments the producers and directors left out of the films. What infuriates me more is Bonnie’s and Daniel Radcliffe’s (Harry Potter) height difference is so perfect for their characters, but the films refused to utilize this detail. She is anything but a minor character in the books. She was a crucial factor in the Battle of Hogwarts and Harry’s overall growth as a person as he finally found someone else to care for beyond friendship.
There is definitely more to unpack with Ginny Weasely’s character, but the bottom line is: She deserves more justice than she had in those movies.
I can go on and on about more discoveries while re-reading the “Harry Potter” series, but the main truth remains: A lot of the characters in the books were not given enough substance and room for the audience to understand their circumstances. And as brilliant as Harry Potter is as a wizard, he didn’t defeat the Dark Lord all on his own, and he definitely isn’t perfect. He’s a human (but magical) like the rest of the characters in the books, and every bit of a teenager like the rest of the students at Hogwarts.
Despite this overanalysis, I still remain firm in saying that the “Harry Potter” films are the best movie adaptations of a book I have ever seen. Nothing has come close to what the franchise was able to conjure, and despite the nitpicky aspects that keep it from being perfect, I would still call Hogwarts my home because of it. I will never get tired of watching them again and again.
But through a more critical lens of course.
Photo courtesy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1
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