This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Friday, as the world marks the end of the journey for Harry Potter and his friends with the release of the final movie in the series "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2" I am preparing to start it all up again.
I'm enrolling in my own Hogwarts curriculum, with J.K. Rowling's books as my texts.
I am fulfilling a promise, made to myself and to my wife, that as soon as the last "Harry Potter" movie was in theaters and my review of that movie was in the can, I would start reading the seven books that inspired the films.
I made the decision, when the second Potter movie was released, that I wouldn't read the books before seeing and reviewing the movies because I wanted my movie experience to be a pure one. My job was to review the movie as a movie, not write about how it compared to the book, and I didn't want any knowledge of the book to affect my enjoyment of the movie.
I learned this lesson the hard way, since I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, the first Rowling book, before I watched Chris Columbus' movie adaptation. One nearly ruined the other for me.
It wasn't a matter of catching what was missing from the book, but rather the opposite. Columbus' telling was so faithful to the book that the movie felt constrained, held back from the glory that it could have been.
Look back to the first Potter movie and think about this: Did Harry's first broom-flying session need to be so long? Was it necessary to hear every word from the Sorting Hat? Or the full math of professor Dumbledore's last-minute scorekeeping that gave Gryffindor the House Cup?
All those were in the book, so Columbus and writer Steve Kloves put them in the movie. The result was a two-hour, 32-minute run time that could easily have clocked in under two hours a more appropriate running time for a movie aimed at young audiences.
Columbus isn't the first director to be reluctant to cut a scene from a beloved book. There are famous stories about producer David O. Selznick wanting to cut the scene in "Gone With the Wind" where Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh) is surrounded by suitors at the barbecue. But fans of the book would have been outraged.
The second movie, "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," I am told by people who read the book, was similarly in line with the source material. It was in the third movie, "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban," that the movies started to veer away from the books. It's also, in my mind, the best movie in the series and I don't think the two are unrelated.
Fans of the books and my wife is among them have told me of several things Rowling wrote about that never appeared in the films. Thanks to those readers, I know about Hermione Granger's civil-rights campaigning for house elves, Ron Weasley's late-blooming Quidditch prowess and several other developments that the movies missed. Some of these moments are annoying little details, while others are to the books' fans vitally important to the characters' development.
Such discrepancies are inevitable since books and movies tell stories in different ways.
Books allow you to linger on a particular detail, as you can re-read a sentence or a paragraph until you and the author have collaborated on assigning importance to that detail.
Movies come at you all at once. Constrained by time and the visual imagination of the director and his or her crew, the movie must pick and choose for you which details matter and which ones don't.
I have lived vicariously through Daniel Radcliffe's Harry Potter for the past decade. I have seen Hogwarts and the rest of the magical world through his perspective and the perspectives of Columbus, Cuaron, Mike Newell (who directed "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire") and David Yates (who directed the past four films). Now I'm ready to view Harry's coming of age through J.K. Rowling's words. It will be like meeting him all over again.
"Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. …