Welcome to part 2! I’m discussing things that the Harry Potter films improved upon in comparison to the books. As a reminder, these points are all my personal opinion, not fact.
If you somehow got here first, check out part 1 here.
With that, let’s continue.
4. Harry’s interaction with Ron and Hermione before going to the Forbidden Forest
This’ll be a controversial one.
Harry goes up to Dumbledore’s office with Snape’s memories just as he does in the films. He learns the truth of his past and his ultimate fate; Voldemort unwittingly made Harry into something akin to a horcrux when his spell rebounded so long ago; a piece of his soul lived inside him, and it would sustain Voldemort even if the rest of his horcruxes were destroyed. Harry must die in order for Voldemort to be defeated.
To Harry’s incredible credit, he accepts this truth. He leaves the office and heads down to the grounds, walking to his “close.” But in the books, he does so quietly. He puts on his Invisibility Cloak and carefully makes his way to the forest, avoiding everyone except Neville, as he felt it was important to ensure there was a backup in case Ron and Hermione don’t make it. But he doesn’t tell Neville what he’s about to do, and he doesn’t speak to anyone else. Not even Ginny. He fears that they will break his resolve, will beg him not to go, and he will not risk this. It’s a powerful moment.
The films do this differently. Ron and Hermione are waiting close outside Dumbledore’s office when Harry exits. Harry, having no other choice, tells them he’s going to the forest to face Voldemort. The two are obviously shocked and tell him not to go, but then Harry explains what needs to be done, in fact referencing the film-canon’s handling of the Horcruxes that I mentioned in part 1. That once he is gone they just have to kill Nagini and then it will just be Voldemort.
And Ron and Hermione don’t argue with him. They don’t refuse or deny, claim there’s another way, or try to stop him anymore. Hermione offers to accompany him, not wanting Harry to be alone as he faces his end, but Harry declines her as he knows there are bigger things. In all technicality neither of them say goodbye. He and Hermione share (to their knowledge) one final hug, and he and Ron look into each other’s eyes.
I like to believe that in the book they would have done the same; they wouldn’t have tried to force him to remain. Some of you may disagree, but I believe Ron and Hermione understood the stakes here. They had stuck with him for many years, fought by his side; if this was what needed to happen to free the world, and Harry was willing to step forward, then they wouldn’t truly stop him.
5. The fate of the Elder Wand
Let me get this out right now; the fact that Harry doesn’t repair his own holly wand in the movie absolutely sucks. That’s a terrible thing. He should have. Makes no sense.
HOWEVER, despite this, the actual fate of the Elder Wand is handled so much better in the film that I can’t even comprehend it. In the book, Harry explains to Dumbledore’s portrait that he is going to put the Elder Wand back (I presume in Dumbledore’s tomb), and so long as Harry dies a natural death its power will be lost. Dumbledore agrees with this decision and lauds Harry for it.
But that’s wrong.
The entire premise of the end for the series lies in the fact that the Elder Wand does not transfer ownership with the death of its prior owner. It can, but this is not a requirement. The Elder Wand will transfer its ownership simply if the prior owner is defeated, and the wand’s definition of defeat is extremely vague. Draco Malfoy “defeats” Dumbledore by disarming him on the Astronomy Tower, and the Wand instantly becomes his. Later, Harry “defeats” Malfoy by forcefully ripping a bunch of wands, Malfoy’s included, out of the young blond man’s hands. And despite the fact that the Elder Wand was hundreds of miles away, the Wand instantly becomes Harry’s. To put it simply, the Elder Wand is fickle as all hell, and will switch its allegiance if the prior owner is so much as disarmed, even if the wand they were disarmed of is not the Elder Wand itself.
Which makes Harry’s decision in the book not just illogical, but extremely foolish! Harry doesn’t need to be killed in order for the ownership of the Wand to pass to someone else. He just needs to be defeated by the definition held forth by the Wand itself. And then he goes on to become an Auror. A literal dark wizard catcher. So we are lead to believe that Harry, in his entire adult life hunting down murderers and thieves and dark arts practitioners, will never be disarmed? Never once? I find that very difficult to believe. I mean, sure it’s possible that Harry truly never was disarmed again until his dying day. But Harry and Dumbledore would have no way to know that while Harry, Ron, and Hermione were standing in that office, deciding the fate of the Wand. That’s a massive assumption to go under, that Harry won’t ever be disarmed or defeated in duel.
And another point to consider; Harry had just announced to everyone in the Great Hall, as he and Voldemort circled each other, that he was in fact the true owner of the Elder Wand. That by disarming Malfoy, who disarmed Dumbledore, ownership transferred to him. Now, I would love to believe that every single person who was conscious in that hall would never do anything to hurt Harry or seek power, but that’s an incredibly naïve viewpoint. Especially since at least some of the Death Eaters not yet killed had to have been conscious. Azkaban or not, this is a loose thread that is asking for trouble. All someone with a bit of ambition or lust for power would need to do is disarm Harry Potter and the Elder Wand is theirs. Sure, they would have to find it, and I admit that might be difficult (or perhaps they would assume that Harry returned it to Dumbledore’s tomb; who knows really?), but it’s still a risk that just simply does not have to exist.
So the film provides a very easy and simple solution; Harry destroys the Elder Wand. He just snaps it in half and tosses both pieces into a ravine. Bravo, movie Harry. You should have repaired your own wand first, but at least this way I can just pretend you did it off screen. The Elder Wand is destroyed; doesn’t matter who defeats you now. Even if someone found both pieces, we know that sticking a wand back together never really works well (see Hagrid and Ron). The Elder Wand, of course, could repair such a wand, but it can’t really repair itself so…
I recall Rowling herself saying the movie’s ending makes more sense as well, though I can no longer find a source on that. I admit that may be a false memory, but the film’s events are just too logical to ignore. Harry is taking a massive gamble in the books, but plays it very safe in the film.
(BONUS) The reveal that Harry is still alive
Okay,so this is a bonus opinion since I like the event as shown in the book *and* as shown in the film equally, for different reasons. Let’s break it down.
In the book, after being “killed,” Harry is carried into Hogwarts by Hagrid, who places him down on the ground between Voldemort and the defenders of Hogwarts. Voldemort starts announcing his new world order when Neville runs up, wandless, and is promptly knocked prone. Voldemort, in a show of strength and cruelty, summons the Sorting Hat from the castle, places it upon Neville’s head, and sets it on fire. Neville breaks free of the Body-Bind Curse placed upon him (owing to Harry’s attempted sacrifice earlier), pulls Gryffindor’s Sword from the Hat, and in one stroke lobs off Nagini’s head. At the exact same moment Grawp comes around the corner screaming for Hagrid as Voldemort’s surviving giants bull-rush him, a battalion of parents and siblings of the defending Hogwarts students (and in my mind a number of loyal Slytherins as well) rushes up to the castle led by Professor Slughorn, and an army of centaurs charges into the Death Eaters and unleashes a volley of arrows. Harry, in the confusion and turmoil, pulls out his Invisibility Cloak and covers himself with it, and only Hagrid seems to realize (after he disappears) that Harry is suddenly gone. He doesn’t reveal himself until the battle is nearly over, with Mrs. Weasley having defeated Bellatrix and Voldemort about to kill her in retribution. Harry pulls off his Invisibility Cloak and screams out a Shield Charm to protect her, revealing himself to everyone.
Now, that is badass. And I love the reveal. It’s confusion and pandemonium. Voldemort is throwing spells left and right but none of them are sticking, because Harry’s sacrifice protects everyone in Hogwarts just like his mother’s sacrifice protected him 16 years earlier. His Death Eaters are firmly losing as what represents the entire magical world rushes out to face him, Harry now a martyr for their cause against the Dark Lord. I honestly think that, if Harry really *had* been dead, Voldemort would have lost. He was dueling equally against Flitwick, McGonagall, and Kingsley. Yes, he threw them aside when Bellatrix went down. And yes, Mrs. Weasley probably would have died as well. But then an entire hall full of combatants would have rounded on him. I truly think, in this moment, that Voldemort would have gone down.
But then Harry reveals himself, like a mighty messiah stepping forth into the sunlight. Not dead. Alive. Calm and collected, and knowing that he’s won.
But I also really like how the movie does it.
Because the movie, in a way, has it’s own messiah moment. Hagrid carries Harry to Hogwarts just as in the book, but in the film he keeps Harry in his arms as Neville stands up to Voldemort. There is not as much pandemonium or confusion in the film version; Grawp does not come running around the corner, the centaurs don’t attack; it’s relatively subdued. But then Neville cries out that Harry died for everyone there, that it’s not over, and draws out the sword from the Hat.
And Harry tumbles out of Hagrid’s arms, very much alive and still fighting as he launches a Blasting Curse at Nagini.
It has a different tone and pacing than the book, but this scene is still great. The zoom in on Voldemort’s face, complete and utter shock and disbelief that he failed to kill Harry. That he still LIVES. And then the complete and utter hilarity that is half of the Death Eaters screaming in fear and quite literally noping the fuck out of there. Their all powerful Lord assured them that Harry would die, that they would win, and here the boy has come back from the dead and shown up Voldemort for at least the second time. You have to imagine that a majority of those Death Eaters had to have been thinking “Nope. Fuck it. He’s unkillable. I am not dying to that immortal child I am out.” Even Voldemort looks back at them as they flee, realizing that he is losing forces. It’s brilliant, and while I can’t say I’m a fan of the prolonged combat that takes place inside the castle immediately after this moment, and I vastly prefer Voldemort’s actual death scene in the book to the film, the specific moment when Harry jumps back up is something I really like.
And that is that; the (six) things that I think the Harry Potter films did better than the books (or at least were equal to them). I do find it interesting that a majority of these changes came in the last film; I don’t know what that says about me or the films/books as a whole, but it’s certainly an interesting pattern.