Harry Potter in a Marvel World
What would Harry Potter be like if it was made in a post-MCU world?
Every so often, there are franchises that come along and change things. Star Wars and Star Trek are prime examples, both responsible for changing film and television forever. But more recently one only has to look at the latest box office to see the franchise that has fundamentally changed movies in the last decade — and continues to change it with every subsequent movie that comes out. That’s right, it’s the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
But honestly, the MCU owes a lot to another franchise that’s long been over: Harry Potter.
Harry Potter proved that adapting the source material — and sticking closely to it — was what the fans wanted. Even if other studios failed to learn that lesson (and continue to; ironically, Warner Bros. now falls into that category), Marvel certainly took it to heart, and stayed true to what made Marvel comic book characters so iconic and endearing.
I just finished re-reading (or re-listening) to Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and as I sit here now, rewatching the film version, I have realized a few big things. Firstly, you can clearly see how much more attentive the writers were in sticking to Rowling’s word — at least in the dialogue. Whereas Sorcerer’s Stone changed lines and added new ones (in fact, most of the iconic lines from that movie are not in the book, including “She needs to sort out her priorities.”), Chamber of Secrets lifts quite a lot of the dialogue right from the page (I always wonder why book adaptations do change so much of the dialogue… I mean, it’s already written for you… I feel like that’s an easy day at work for someone writing the screenplay, but maybe that’s just me… and also probably why I’ve never tried to write a script).
Of course, you can’t adapt a book directly to screen, verbatim; the latter Potter movies would have been four to five hours each (not that I’d complain about that). There’s trimming involved, and things get left out. But rewatching the first and second movies right after reading the books — and knowing that they are probably the two most faithful adaptations in the franchise — I also realize what we lost in translation. Frankly, we lost a lot of character moments.
We lost a lot of Harry’s sarcasm and wit, and little moments that build on the relationships between the characters that just make the books so rich, and by direct comparison, the movies a cheap imitation. Now, I’m not complaining about the movies; I love them, I’ve loved them since I first saw them, and I’ll love them until the day I die. But I can’t help wonder how the series would have been different if it had been made today, after the Marvel Cinematic Universe had come along and shown us all how it was done.
I mean, think about Endgame. What made that movie special to me — you know, besides the Portals scene — were the little interactions between characters. The moments between the action, like Tony interacting with Morgan, or Nebula and Rhodey sharing some witty banter and meaningful conversation. It was Thor and Rocket talking in Asgard. It was the characters arguing about how time travel worked. These moments that enrich the characters.
By and large, the Potter movies lack a lot of that. I mean, they don’t, really. If you’ve never read the books, you wouldn’t notice it. And if you haven’t read the books in a while, you probably won’t either. But Rowling weaves moments like that throughout every chapter, snippets like Ginny’s reactions to each new attack, or his conversation with Nearly Headless Nick (and Nick subsequently helping Harry avoid detention with Filch). The books are so rich with these moments that the movies couldn’t possibly include them all. But I wonder if, with the MCU as a guide, would the movies have worked to incorporate more of it? Would the final battle in Deathly Hallows Part 2 have included some of the more humorous moments — like McGonagall attacking Death Eaters with an army of marching desks or Trelawney throwing her seeing eyeglasses at them from the balcony. Would Chamber of Secrets or the other middle films worked more of the everyday, between classes and plot development moments into the fabric of the story (the only film to truly manage this was Half-Blood Prince, and it is not a coincidence that it remains one of my favorites)?
I mean, it would have been impossible for the movies to capture it one hundred percent; adaptations always lose something in translation. And Harry Potter really pioneered the idea of adapting a major franchise into a major motion picture series, and sticking to the source material as close as they could. There’s no doubt that Harry Potter changed film as much as it changed books, and I think it obviously had some part to play in the MCU being the success that it is. I mean, Harry Potter was one of the first major franchises to treat the source material with such reverence and respect, to go to such lengths to build a believable world (one that was so well done, the sets are still standing and now a tourist attraction), and to attract such a high caliber of acting talent to stand alongside the kids who would play some of the most iconic characters in history. Without a franchise like Harry Potter, I don’t think we get a franchise like the MCU.
But I can’t help wonder what the series would be like if it were made now, and with movies like Endgame as a point of reference on how to bring more of the small moments to life. The MCU excels at these moments, and I think, if made today, Harry Potter might have done better at it, too. Not to mention the filmmakers would have the benefit today of knowing how the series ends, which caused more than a few inconsistencies between flicks. It’s one of the few reasons I’d tolerate a reboot. One day.
Revisiting the Chamber of Secrets was very interesting. I remember reading somewhere that Rowling once said there was a lot in common with Chamber and Half-Blood Prince, and it is very clear in the book. It is the first time we see a Horcrux (though we don’t know what it really is at that point), and it is really the jumping-off point for the story to come. I always thought Goblet of Fire was where the story began to build on itself, but it is clear Rowling was really building up from this book (of course, even Sorcerer’s Stone has connections, but with the Horcruxes in this book, it really feels like the point of no return).
It is this book when we should have realized Rowling had something truly spectacular coming ahead. It has always been one of my least favorite books (and one of my least favorite movies, too), but revisiting it not only brought a newfound love for the second adventure at Hogwarts, but it made me realize how essential it is.
A few things I re-discovered include:
- I think it is interesting to see how Ginny started off having a major fan-crush on Harry, especially knowing that later on, they would actually fall in love.
- Dumbledore freaking tells Harry he’s a Horcrux in this book. I’m not joking. He literally tells Harry that he’s a Parselmouth and whatnot because Voldemort transferred “a part of himself” to Harry. We were all just too dumb to realize the significance of this until the end of the damn series. Rowling’s a genius. I don’t care what anyone says nowadays. Fight me.
- I wonder if the diary was something like a Pensieve. I mean, it contains a piece of Voldemort, specifically the part of him that he put into it while he was still at school (I can’t remember, did we determine if this was his first Horcrux?), but how Harry is able to view Tom’s memories is very similar to how he later views Dumbledore’s and Snape’s memories in the Pensieve. So I wonder if the science behind it (the magical science, mind you) is the same.
- Also, I always forget it, but we have to remember that the Voldemort he encounters in this book was never defeated by Harry- he only learns of this through Ginny- and the Voldemort that Harry faced in literally every other book has no knowledge of this encounter with Harry in the Chamber of Secrets. Kinda like how the Thanos that the Avengers fight at the end of Endgame has absolutely no knowledge of anything that happened in Infinity War besides what he sees in Nebula’s memory banks. Just a fun little nugget.
- I mentioned in the last article how we get a few nods to things to come in the next books, like the mention of memory charms, but in this one we get a plethora of Easter Eggs, including mention of Azkaban (remember Hagrid was sent there), our first real mentions of the Ministry of Magic and the inner workings of the school (the Governors and such), and we even seen how the Vanishing Cabinet that Draco fixes and uses in Half-Blood Prince was damaged (remember I mentioned Nearly Headless Nick helping Harry avoid detention with Filch? He did so by causing a distraction, having Peeves knock over the Vanishing Cabinet directly above Filch’s office).
- I know everyone wants Rowling to publish that encyclopedia she’s mentioned in the past, but I’d love a behind-the-scenes book of some kind. I’d love for her to just write about writing the series, share how early she had figured out certain things, how early she was planting things that she knew would come back later. I’d find that a very interesting read/interview.
- I always praise the movies for their perfect casting; I mean come on, Alan Rickman! But honestly I think the best casting in the entire franchise has to be Kenneth Brannagh as Gilderoy Lockhart. Hands down.
Revisiting Chamber of Secrets might be one of my favorite revisits yet, as it really made me think about a lot of things. It made me think about what was to come in the series, and clearly it made me think about how these books were adapted to movies, how the movies worked, and how they’d be different if they were adapted today.
I’ll never complain about the movies; like Star Wars and Indiana Jones, the Harry Potter movies were a formative part of my childhood and are, to this day, a fantastic series of films. But one day I’d like to see them try again, only to see how differently they do things. Will the success of the MCU be a reference for the next version of this franchise? Will hindsight help the filmmakers better structure the plots of each movie? Will a seven-season TV series be a better way to bring Rowling’s world to life again? I’m sure one day these questions will be answered.
But until then, these eight movies remain some of the best cinematic adaptations of any books ever put to film, and a clear stepping-stone for later franchises like the Marvel Cinematic Universe to rise after it. And, as always, returning to Rowling’s literary world is just as magical a treat as it was the first time I ever read the book.
Oh, and now on to possibly my favorite book in the entire series: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Stay tuned.
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