I stopped reading the Harry Potter series before the first movie came out, so this was my first time viewing the film. Overall, I feel that the filmmakers were pretty faithful to the heart of the story, even making nods to some of the smaller details that only people who read the books would really appreciate, like the Botts Every Flavor Bean and the spell Ron tries to turn his rat yellow. This tells me that the filmmakers were aware of the huge following of the books and were trying to be respectful to the readers, perhaps to make up for some of the plot changes that had to occur in transitioning the book to film.
Reading the Book and Film
In translating this elaborate story into film, there are a few plot elements that needed to be changed in order to create a movie of an appropriate length and also to avoid confusion for viewers who had not read the books. One of the major changes was the Norbert storyline. For one, the movie does not really seem to stress how dangerous it was to have a dragon, both for personal safety and in terms of legality. In the book, this was spelled out very clearly, creating another level of tension in the plot. Also, in the book, Harry, Ron, and Hermione take the Norbert matter into their own hands and see to Norbert’s removal. Since this is not a major plot element, it is easy to understand why it was streamlined – viewers were presented with what they needed to know, that is the suspicious nature of how Hagrid acquired the dragon egg.
Another important aspect of the original story that was removed was Hermione’s part in reaching the Sorcerer’s Stone. In the book, Rowling was very clear that each professor created a different challenge to prevent anyone from reaching the stone, two of these challenges removing Ron and Hermione from the endeavor. In the movie, however, there is no mention of the professors creating the challenges, an element that would have added some depth to the story line. In leaving out the mention of the professors designing the challenges, the omission of Snape’s potion challenge would have been unnoticeable to uniformed viewers. I am assuming this was another effort to cut time, but I was a little disappointed that this was not included.
Fidelity to the Original
I think another aspect to take into consideration is that this film was created for children. The later films became more serious and dark as the readers of the stories grew older and matured with the characters, but the original film was rated PG and was marketed for kids. Because of this, I feel like the adaptation of the book was spot on for the intended audiences. It provided the major plot elements, stuck true to the defining characteristics of Rowling’s characters, and also provided a level of action and adventure to appeal to young viewers. Delving more deeply into the backstories would have possibly been daunting for young audiences, so keeping the movie fast paced and visually interesting is probably a major factor in the success of this franchise. As an adult reader, I am indifferent to the film. It was successful in many ways, but left me hoping for an emotional connection that just was not there.