Fantastic Beasts is making one of the biggest problems with the Harry Potter movies worse, not better. Counting the prequel series, there have now been ten movies set in J.K. Rowling's Wizarding World (with three more at least on the way), together making $7.7 billion worldwide and only one (this year's Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald) having scored a negative assessment on critic aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.
Despite such obvious commercial success and a slew of successful spinoffs from the movie world, the Harry Potter movie series are hotly debated in all tiers of fandom. They are admittedly strong adaptations of Rowling's phenomenon-creating books, yet as with any literary adaptation, not everybody's imagination is accurately presented on the big screen; some felt the magic was lost as the series went along, with darkness of image mistaken for darkness of mood. Where the Harry Potter films are most divisive, though, is not in their interpretation of the world, but the story they chose to leave out.
It was long held that, fitting of J.K. Rowling's skill as a storytelling, if the movies followed the books, no amount of questionable filmmaking decisions could hurt the narrative. However, as the novels grew in size, so too did the differences. And while it had been assumed that some of these gaps would be cleaned up by lore-heavy prequel Fantastic Beasts, so far the new series is only making things more confused.
- This Page: The Harry Potter Movies Cut Out Dumbledore's Backstory
- Page 2: How Fantastic Beasts Is Struggling To Fill The Dumbledore Gaps
- Page 3: Fantastic Beasts Shouldn't Be Movies
Harry Potter's Later Films Messed Up Voldemort & Dumbledore's Backstory
The Harry Potter movies were always going to have to cut things down by nature of being two-hour adaptations of a dense secret world, and that's before taking into account the increasing length as Rowling went on (to the point Warners wanted to split The Goblet of Fire in two, and eventually did with The Deathly Hallows). However, most of the cuts and alterations in the early films felt like they were for the benefit of the whole. It was only with The Order of the Phoenix where A-plot elements were cut, often at the expense of more distant character moments.
The first major removal was the full extent of Trelawny's prophecy, which revealed the destined connection between Harry and Voldemort, albeit with one massive wrinkle: Neville Longbottom fit the exact same rulings (born in the end of July to parents who thrice defied the Dark Lord), with Harry only becoming the chosen one when Voldemort attacked him. The movie side-stepped anything involving the Neville possibility, removing a key factor of regret and doubt from Harry's arc (and a subversive look at the destiny trope), while also meaning that his friend's transformation into a dashing hero is only the result of puberty and nothing more. In fact, it's become something of a fan theory among movie-only fans that he could have filled Harry's role, despite it being so overt in the books.
Things got even more removed in The Half-Blood Prince. Although the subtitular character of the book is Severus Snape, it is undeniably Voldemort's story; he's entirely absent, yet through a series of spiraling memories, the Dark Lord's heartless part is laid bare. And while Gaunt family politics and the love potion used to conceive Tom Riddle may not seem like massively essential to the story at first glance, they are fundamental to understanding the differences between Harry and his opponent (not to mention plainly fascinating). The movie cut almost all of it, leaving only moments that tie directly into the Horcrux mission at hand. Making this more frustrating, the space left by these story choices was filled not even with Snape scenes but excess love-quadrangle teen drama, of which the films had thus far had an adept balance of.
But the biggest removals came in The Deathly Hallows, again to a character physically absent but still important. It was here that Albus Dumbledore's true past came out: his close relationship with future dark wizard Grindelwald; his father sent to Azkaban after attacking muggle boys how bullied his squib sister; how that same sister died in a duel with Grindelwald; and that Aberforth, now landlord of the Hog's Head Inn, really liked goats. This reframed the once sage character, showing the human cracks in his Gandalf-like facade and making the film's eventual reveal - that Harry had to die to defeat Voldemort - all the more devious. Once again, this was only alluded to in the movies, mainly for the benefit of books fans who already knew all the secrets.
There are a lot of other ways where the movies seemed to remove the wrong elements, in part down to the ending of Rowling's tale not being known until the time of the fifth movie (Kreacher was almost cut from The Order of the Phoenix, while Dobby sat four movies out before making a return for an emotional death in The Deathly Hallows - Part 1), but it's these discussed aspects - all of which are clearly important without knowing the story's end - that leave the biggest hole. There is an argument to be made they aren't fundamental to Harry's hero's journey, but they do inform the expectations and obstacles that he's battling through and against, and their absence greatly simplifies the plot.