Fundamental problems aside, the movies themselves are awful for the most part.  Like the Batman franchise, the people at the helm have no clue about what to do with the material.  It’s dysfunctional, all over the place, amateurish attempts at audience manipulation.

Despite a pretty detailed (if simplistic) world in the books to draw upon, the movie-makers seem unable to work with the material.  They are simply unable to craft scenes that get to the heart of the plot, let alone draw out nuances implied in the text.  A lot of time is spent throughout all six movies watching scenes thrown together without logic or understanding.

Unless you’ve read the books most of the scenes are extremely confusing.  Half the time I was wondering what was going on or what the significance was of what had just happened.  So much looked like filler that could have been cut out.  That’s not an endorsement.  If you need recourse to the books to understand the film it’s a poor adaptation.

I don’t buy that there’s too much to fit into a movie.  You could literally tell the story of all seven books in one movie.  People want to believe all of it is important, but it really isn’t when you are talking the short-term medium of the film.  You want the whole thing made visual, clamor for a TV series.

Given that we have a film a book (and two for the finale!), not only is it possible to fit in the essentials but more than a few nice touches.  It’s possible, and it’s been done before for other adaptations.  These movie-makers just aren’t up to the challenge.

This isn’t a manifesto or a detailed analysis (I just ain’t that interested), but here a few major goof ups from each of the films that illustrate what I’m talking about.  I’m not even going to touch the theme that some of these ideas are pretty basic Dungeons and Dragons awfulness, that’s fish for someone else to fry.  I’m assuming that you at least buy the world as it is even if it doesn’t please you.

Spoilers are a-comin’ in, ahroo!

HP & The Sorcerer’s Stone
Too much time is spent getting us into the world of Hogwarts and not enough developing the main conflict (the race to reach the stone).  For example, once it’s established that the letters are going to keep coming until Harry goes to school, move on to the next scene people.

Instead we get a ridiculous scene where Harry’s foster family somehow manages to go to an island lighthouse just off the coast and hole up there so we can go through this again.  Never mind the believability, this just wastes time.  The point was made very well clear the first time that Harry’s Destiny is ON.  The Call To Adventure doesn’t take fifteen minutes for goodness sake!

The time they wasted on that could have been used to shorten the movie (and improve the pace) or make room for a longer scene to allow themes to develop better.  I’m biased, but for example they could have put back in the deleted scene with Snape.

It’s an interesting scene because it demonstrates his incredible knowledge (and it’s a clue for viewers as to the identity of the “prince” in movie six), as well as drives home the point that there’s something about Harry that is personal to Snape—look how close the man gets even as he applies realistic skepticism to the fanciful image of Savior Harry.  It’s a character “tell” as well as a good lesson.

HP & The Chamber of Secrets
In the first film, a hostile giant troll roamed the halls of Hogwarts without getting jacked by all sorts of magical defenses one would think the professors in a magical society would have.  We can fan-wank (that is, imagine given our meta-story knowledge) that “the man with two faces” being in a professor’s position disabled those, allowing the troll free reign.

In this movie we have a gigantic snake-like creature roaming the halls turning people to stone.  At least, I think that’s what was happening.  One wonders why the basilisk didn’t poison the victims for good measure, but Voldemort (in the form of Tom Riddle via mental possession of Harry) isn’t exactly eating with both hands here.  Which makes me wonder how he’s still alive, because crazy people tend to make mistakes in high-stakes games.

Anyway, it’s hard to imagine a gigantic snake moving through the halls without somebody else noticing.  Even more so in a restrictive environment where Harry can’t walk through the halls at night without the risk of someone giving him detention.  This thing is gigantic (maybe sixty or seventy feet long), and not exactly quiet or likely to leave things like wall hangings or furniture intact as it slithers about.

I think the basilisk is made huge because Hollywood movie-makers equate size with power.  The basilisk really should have been a lot smaller.  The strength of the tooth Harry uses on the book is in the poison, not the size.  Really, you have a poisonous monster that can kill you if you look at it (or petrify you if you see the reflection), does it really need to be that size and stretch all credibility?

Go to YouTube and watch what constrictor snakes only fifteen feet long do to guys trying to capture them on nature shows.  Now imagine that if it bites you or you look at it you’re dead.

HP & The Prisoner of Azkaban
There’s a scene where Sirius Black, the super evil second-in-command werewolf to Voldemort, shows up to initiate The Big Reveal of the film.  He’s really a good guy who was framed.  Lupin, the new tutor for Defense Against The Black Arts and Harry’s new trusted friend, has been protecting him.  And he’s also a werewolf (but a different kind).  The real bad guy is rat-tooth man who has been masquerading as Ron’s rat all along.  For fourteen years.

Got that?  All of this is revealed onscreen so fast I could barely understand what was happening.  Other than a vague hint that something is amiss with Lupin, and the sudden additional screentime of Ron with his rat familiar (the function of rat familiars is never explained), there are no hints to any of this throughout the entire movie.

No sooner does Harry start to comprehend that his new friend has deceived him (like all the other adults) then the movie drags to a halt, as the plot has to assimilate these new developments and make some sense of them.

Hollywood loves the surprise ending, but they nearly always fail because it isn’t the audience that should be surprised.  It’s the characters.  Movie-makers always focus on the audience instead of the characters.

HP & The Goblet Of Fire
My favorite WTF moment is in the beginning of the film.  You have a camp of what must be tens of thousands of wizards with their families and friends.  If I understand the context it’s an international grouping so you are bound to have all sorts of people with different points of view, life experiences and magical training.  The magical arena must be seating at least fifty thousand people.  All the big dude dinners of the magical world are there, including Dumbledore.

As near as I can tell, a half dozen Voldemort supporters (called death-eaters) attack this gathering with what look like crappy fire bolts.  These thousands of wizards run screaming home as the camp burns up in flames.  There’s a panic, but only Harry gets trampled into unconsciousness (without any physical or psychological after-effects from such a traumatic experience).  The death-eaters then disappear without taking any casualties.

Nobody talks about how six wizards terrorized thousands without a scratch.  If it was just the section that Harry was in, why isn’t this portrayed?  Not that this would explain how they escaped without a scratch or why everyone panicked, given that the magical world is so violent and random.  It makes no sense at all.

I mean, at this point in the series are we supposed to be taking all this as fantastical metaphors of some kind?

HP & The Order Of The Phoenix
Two-thirds of the film is used to build up a repressive, insane bureaucrat as the villain.  The students band together and train to learn magic despite the bureaucrat’s attempts to crush them (without any interference from parents, faculty or the slight majority of bureaucrats who voted Harry “not-guilty”).

When the big moment of confrontation comes, the community doesn’t band together to remove this madwoman from power and put her away.  Harry and Hermione lead her into the forest where she conveniently disappears.

Do the efforts of the students mean anything?  No.  They neither defeat the madwoman nor show off their new skills (and foresight) fighting off a Voldemort attack.  Do the efforts of the madwoman lead to tragedy when the students are unprepared, showing how one must not surrender to repression?  No.  It’s all filler.

The movie might have well started with Dumbledore and Voldemort fighting, then ended with Prime Minister Whats-his-name saying, “Voldemort is back!”

HP & The Half-Blood Prince
Traitorous Malfoy lets the bad guys past the now-activated magical defenses into Hogwarts.  Okay, Trojan Horse idea done to death but it works.  Malfoy’s inner struggle might prove interesting if they focus on it.

Nope, all about young lust for half the film.  And letting the bad guys in is all part of the cunning plan to let the death-eaters see Snapes kill Dumbledore.  Because Voldemort, being enough of a chess player to beat the chess challenge in the first film, does not understand the concept of sacrificing pieces to set up a checkmate.

Lets see, most powerful good wizard dead.  Second most powerful on bad guys side (or at least pretending to be and thus needs to stand by while atrocities are committed).  Near as I can tell just Miss Crabapple, The Mini-me Magician, and a handful of no-liner professors left.  Students are totally unaware and vulnerable.  Bad guys have run of the place.

Do the evil death-eaters, led by crazy woman who kills people at the drop of a hat go on a rampage?  This is their chance to wipe out all the students and professors unsympathetic to their cause.  They should have a list of the dozen or so people they’d spare, given that Malfoy and others have been observing events at Hogwarts for six years now.

Do they take this opportunity to loot for powerful magical items and destroy any parts of Hogwarts not suitable to the new Voldemort order?  Do they even take Harry Potter with them as a prisoner?


They blow up the dinner hall furnishings and burn Hagrid’s hut for dramatic vandalism appeal (which comes off as funny, not tragic, because Hagrid is always an un-serious character and thus the butt of jokes).  Then they depart.

This is never explained.  There’s no excuse for this kind of plain lazy movie-making.  We aren’t talking about Critters 2:  The New Batch!  I mean, to explain why they don’t go on a mass murder rampage, all you have to do is have the following occur:

Random death-eater: “Crazy woman whose name begins with a B, I sense the dementors are coming.  We’d better split, sister.”

Crazy woman whose name begins with a B: “You’re right.  Even though we could take on fifty thousand wizards in the fourth film, I feel an intestinal grip coming.  Lets leave it for the next two films.”

Sadly, Hollywood continues only to be able to make good movies by accident.  But all is not completely lost, stay tuned.