Adaptations & Expectations.
My youngest children have just completed a family rite of passage, having finished reading all the Harry Potter novels. This of course led to a viewing of all the films and the usual dinner table debate as to which instalment was the best.
I was remind that both the first Potter film, The Philosopher’s Stone, and the first Lord of the Rings film were released within a month of each other in the autumn of 2001. As a lover of both series of books, my anticipation levels were sky high. One film impressed enormously and the other disappointed, if just a little.
If you are a fan of a book then it’s almost impossible to watch an adaptation without judging whether it lives up to the story you had in your head. For me the difference between the successes of the films came down to a matter of scale. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone just wasn’t big enough, and I mean that in a literal sense. The great hall at Hogwarts was too small and the rolling grounds of the school – so vividly described in the book – were missing altogether. The lightness of its tone felt wrong too. By contrast director Peter Jackson, in his creation of Middle Earth for The Fellowship of the Ring, showed me a world that went way beyond anything I had imagined.
As the Harry Potter series continued the films improved, both in their scope and their tone, which became better matched to their source material. Perhaps the shortcoming of the first couple of films was due to them being produced before the book series was finished (so that the wizarding world was brought to the screen before it was fully formed) in contrast with The Lord of the Rings, which had been around for decades and inwardly digested for years by writers and artists.
Inevitably Harry Potter will one day be rebooted for a new generation. I’m hoping that when it is, with the benefit of hindsight, the tone – and the scale - will be spot on right from the word go.
By Tom Brookes
From our weekly column in the Oswestry Advertizer, published on 17th May 2018.