Unlike many fans, I originally found the Harry Potter films better than the books. I often have either liked the changes or cuts better in the movies, or, at least, didn’t mind them.
But now I like both equally. In fact, there are scenes that I favored more than the movie portrayals, or disliked it when the filmmakers cut them out.
This post, however, will include details that I noticed in the movies. And just them – not the books.
1: In The Chamber of Secrets, there were mostly younger kids as extras
Did anyone else notice that most scenes with Hogwarts student extras had few to no older students (like 5th year and up)? Most looked like 1st and 2nd years, maybe a few 3rd and 4th years.
Did the filmmakers have a different vision in mind that maybe most of the older students in the previous movie, The Sorcerer’s Stone, were 7th years and there were a lot more 1st years in The Chamber of Secrets? If so, that’s surprising (and probably not accurate), especially since they broke child labor laws at least once when filming the Harry Potter movies.
In the film industry, anyone under 18 has a mandatory limit of 4 hours on a film set. That’s why many times, teen characters are played by adults in their 20s, sometimes even 30’s (which I think is way too old), but rarely actual teenagers. That’s a different topic, though.
2: From The Prisoner of Azkaban and on, the students have new uniforms, wear street clothes more often, and the Hogwarts campus looks totally different
Unlike the previous observation above, this reason has been revealed. The scenery looks different, because the filming location was changed from Scotland to New Zealand. I believe it was because they wanted a more fantastical-looking environment.
Students are often shown in street clothes when they’re not in classes, because the director wanted to make the kids show more of their personalities instead of just wearing robes the whole time.
Speaking of which, the reason the uniform look changed—like how the stripes on the ties are thinner, and the girls wear tights instead of socks to the knees—was never explained—I don’t think it was.
3: Characters control their emotions far more than in the books
Many people dislike this. In The Order of the Phoenix, there is a scene, where Harry talks to Dumbledore shortly after Sirius’s death scene. Harry is calm in the movie, while he is angry and out of control in the book.
Most people were disappointed by that and liked his extreme rage in the novel. I, however, thought the film’s portrayal was completely fine. In fact, I’ve always found the characters being calmer in the films than in the books a lot better (no offense, just my personal opinion). I think it’s because I prefer to be spoken to calmly, and often expect it, regardless of reason.
4: Speaking of controlling emotions, Hagrid and Sirius are calmer in the films than in the books
Well, maybe not Sirius in The Prisoner of Azkaban, but definitely in The Order of the Phoenix. The scenes where he yells, such as when he demands that Snape not give Harry Occlumency lessons, and then forces Harry out of it, were removed from the 5th installment’s film adaptation. That actually satisfied me,
Movie Hagrid is far more likable to me than book Hagrid. Why? Because he controls his anger and emotions a lot more in the film franchise.
I saw the first four movies before I read the books. I noticed that Hagrid had explosive tempers a lot in the novels, and it didn’t please me. I was often glad when those extreme anger outbursts were cut out of the movies or changed to much calmer tones.
Yes, it’s a significant trait for giants and half-giants, and Hagrid may be friendly in the novels. But I think it’s more emphasized in the movies.
5: Music classes at Hogwarts exist in the movies
Fans constantly point out the lack of core education classes at Hogwarts, such as math, English, science, and social studies. Even though the film franchise doesn’t include liberal arts courses, they do have music classes.
There is the scene in The Prisoner of Azkaban, where the school chorus performs in the great hall, and again in The Order of the Phoenix, where Flitwick is having them rehearse their voices. He also mentions teaching choir practice again in The Half-Blood Prince.
There is also an orchestra in The Goblet of Fire in the Yule Ball scene and a band playing at the third task in the same movie.
I don’t recall the if music played during the third task in the 4th installment of the book series. But I do remember that a vocal band performed during the Yule Ball scene. It did, as well, in the film—but after the brief orchestra, that didn’t exist in the novel.
6: The actors playing Lily and James Potter were much older than their characters
Yet, the crew did not bother to make the characters older in the movies. The actress who played Lily was in her 30’s when they filmed the first movie. The actor who played James was in his 40’s when they filmed the first installment. J.K. Rowling was actually offered the part of Lily, but I think she turned it down.
That being said, she could’ve told them that they were only 21 when they died. Unless she wasn’t allowed to, or she forgot, and when she finally remembered, it was too late.
Clearly, the casting person had a very different vision of Lily and James. They probably pictured them much older. Once the 7th book was released, readers discovered that Lily and James were much younger than how the films portrayed them. In fact, it’s apparently still a common misconception that they died in their 30’s—which is not surprising.
The filmmakers had every right to make those characters at least 10 years older than in the books, even if J.K. Rowling demanded that they didn’t. Authors usually don’t get to have any creative control over their book’s film adaptations. J.K. Rowling was one of the few exceptions and it was only because she was an incredibly big-name author.
Anyway, the filmmakers could’ve cast younger actors from the start or when they found out Lily and James’s real ages (which probably wouldn’t have been an option, though), or put youthful makeup on them to look younger, or—just simply made them older in the movies—which I think would have been smarter. You can read more about this topic here.
Nothing would have been messed up as a lot of elements were already cut and changed. In fact, I think it would have been smarter for the filmmakers to make Lily and James older, since the actors were already middle-aged.
Did you notice anything different in the films that didn’t happen in the books? Please let me know in the comments section if you wish.