For a certain generation the Harry Potter books, and the accompanying films, will always have a special place in their hearts.
I know that because I am one of those people. Seriously, if you cut me with the sectumsempra curse I’d bleed Harry Potter or at least I sort of would.
You see if I were to confront an oddly specific boggart, which only took on Harry Potter-themed anxieties, I know exactly what it would transform into.
The boggart would take the form of the Harry Potter Blu-Ray Box Set because – and it’s taken me years to admit it to myself – I don’t like the Harry Potter films.
Now before you, all grab your wands and start scouring the web to find out where I work, there are a few caveats I need to address first.
I don’t hate all the films, The Prisoner of Azkaban and The Goblet of Fire are in my mind the best in the series. Both manage to work as adaptations and as films in their own right.
Meanwhile, Christopher Columbus’ much-maligned Philosopher’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets are just about passable, mostly thanks to nostalgia, but also because they succeed in establishing the Wizarding World.
So where do things all go wrong? Well, it all starts with The Order of the Phoenix and continues throughout Half-Blood Prince and The Deathly Hallows Parts One and Two.
I honestly think those four films are pretty rubbish, not because they’re badly acted (although I’m not a massive fan of Daniel Radcliffe or Emma Watson’s performances) nor are they let down on the technical side.
These films fail in my mind for one specific reason. They don’t successfully adapt the story told in the books and fail to live up to the expectations those stories set in any way.
Take The Half-Blood Prince as an example.
I hate Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince movie more than Voldemort hates being prescribed nasal sprays and it’s probably the only one I have only ever watched once.
And this is despite Half-Blood Prince being my favourite book. Why do I hate it then? Well, the issue is that the film version cuts out everything that made that book interesting.
I love both the mystery surrounding the identity of the Half-Blood Prince and Voldemort’s origin story, however, both elements are severely cut down so we can focus on the dull as dishwater teen love story.
Deathly Hallows and Order of the Phoenix both suffer from the same problem, cutting out interesting plot elements to focus on bizarre character moments – the Harry and Hermione dance scene from the penultimate film springs to mind.
I blame two things for the failure of the later films the first is the most obvious.
The books became absolutely enormous, so big in fact that it would take a screenwriter of immense talent to whittle them down to something filmable.
Secondly, I think it clear that Steve Cloves who wrote the screenplays for every Potter film struggled with the last few films. That or he didn’t work well with David Yates as his first few films – up to and including Goblet of Fire – are pretty tight.
In fact, I’ve long maintained that you have to have read the books at least once to wrap your head around Half-Blood Prince which is horribly muddled.
Ultimately though the weight of expectation is probably the real reason why I don’t like the latter half of the Potter films, there was just no way they could ever live up to the world I’d built in my head.
And that’s why I like Fantastic Beasts more than the Harry Potter movies because it’s not based on any source material, and therefore I’m never taken out of the film when it fails to live up to my expectations.
This means when I watch Fantastic Beasts I don’t sit there and think ‘oh that’s not what I thought that character looked like’ or ‘I wish they hadn’t cut that subplot’.
Instead, I just watch and enjoy the film for what it is, which after eight films where the exciting story elements were dropped comes as sweet relief.
More than that though there’s the fact, and I’m sorry to have to say this, but it’s indisputable that the main Fantastic Beasts cast are better actors than the ‘big three’ (Harry, Hermione and Ron).
I know it’s harsh but let’s be honest, as good as the adult cast were, the central trio in the Potter films just aren’t as good as the Beasts lot, especially Radcliffe and Watson who were awfully wooden even in the last film.
Compare this with Academy Award-winning actor Eddie Redmayne and yeah, it’s not even really a competition is it.
At the time of writing, I haven’t seen The Crimes of Grindelwald (although the early reviews aren’t great) so who knows maybe I’ll regret writing this come Saturday, but as of right now I stand by it.
Fantastic Beasts is better than Potter… when it comes to the films.
Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them: The Crimes Of Grindelwald is out now.
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