Disclaimer: Before my mentions are flooded with angry memes of McGonagall side-eyes and Ron Weasley telling me to sort out my priorities, let’s get one thing clear. Of course, the “Harry Potter” book series is infinitely better than the film adaptations, but that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate things the movies did pretty well, OK?
With a collective 4,224 pages spanning seven internationally beloved installments, adapting the “Harry Potter” saga for the big screen is a challenge that would make even the most fearless wizard nervous. Few texts in recent memory have been as fiercely protected by its fans, as J.K. Rowling’s world of witchcraft and wizardry won over a generation of young readers who simply couldn’t get enough. Seriously, if given the opportunity, Dumbledore would probably be like, “Eh, pass. Too risky.”
But from the beginning, the series always seemed primed for the big screen with its fantastical settings and climactic action sequences, not to mention the potential payday that could fill multiple bank vaults at Gringotts. With the development in film technology and, of course, Rowling’s permission, Harry, Ron and Hermione were lifted from the page and onto the screen in 2001 with “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” The wildly successful opening launched a decadelong franchise that brought the magic to the audiences with varying degrees of success, ranging from outstanding (”Prisoner of Azkaban”), exceeds expectations (”Deathly Hallows”) and poor (”Half-Blood Prince”).
So in honor of the 20th anniversary of the first “Harry Potter” book, let’s revisit how the movies expanded on the brilliance of J.K. Rowling’s world and even *gasp* made it better.
1. Kids Just Being Kids
The students of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry were busy. Busy with exams, learning how to apparate without losing a limb, and, oh yeah, the looming threat that the world’s most dangerous wizard might attack the premises at any given moment. With mythology and the prophecies driving the story, oftentimes it was easy to forget that Harry, Ron and Hermione were literally preteens in the first book. Twelve-year-old you could have never.
The films, especially “The Prisoner of Azkaban,” added small touches like modernizing the wardrobe and adding original scenes, to remind audiences that these characters are just kids at the end of the day despite the very adult tasks they faced.
A small but telling example that demonstrates how the books and movies differ in approach is when the Gryffindor boys experiment with candy that gives them the ability to sound like animals. It’s not a particularly important scene, but it was created solely for the movie. Full of laughter, joy and unbridled youthfulness, the scene feels like something young wizards might actually do during a night off from studying and world-saving. Seeing Harry and his roommates actually act their age gives a view into the student dorm life that we rarely see in the books. This balance between the heavy and more light-hearted material is what makes the third film an undeniable standout.
2. The “Double Trouble” Song
Music was absolutely part of the book series (the sorting hat song is no doubt a banger of the highest order), but the movies expertly incorporated song to give the world of “Harry Potter” an added texture.
Just think about The Weird Sisters’ performance at the Yule Ball or Harry and Hermione dancing to Nick Cave (more on that later) and how music enhanced the story in ways that the original source material never could.
But, if we had to chose, the wizarding Grammy would definitely go to “Double Trouble,” a song performed by Hogwarts’ resident a cappella group that we for some reason never hear from again. The foreboding song perfectly hints at at the darkness to come in the third film, while also blessing the world with the world’s first toad baritones. Honestly, we’re still waiting for the club remix.