PG-13 for strong fictional language, toothy goblins, palpable on-screen chemistry between actors who aren’t supposed to be romantically involved
When you add it all up – the critical acclaim, the box office records, the pop culture ubiquity – I think we can all agree that the Harry Potter film franchise has failed miserably. So here’s my fix, in four easy steps:
1. Cut the minor characters.
Try to imagine how the 8th film must look to someone who hasn’t read the books.
UNFAMILIAR ACTOR: Remember so-and-so, from back around the third movie?
HARRY POTTER: Uh… maybe.
UNFAMILIAR ACTOR: I don’t know how to tell you this, but… he’s dead.
HARRY POTTER: That’s… so sad?
The seven novels totaled thousands of pages, which left ample room for detours and sidekicks. Onscreen, though, these characters congeal into an amorphous crowd of interchangeable British people. Lupin may be dead, and in the book that’s tragic, but in the film I couldn’t pick him out of a lineup stacked with house elves. Don’t try to make me weep for a character you forgot to develop.
2. Make Ron funny.
While slavish text-loyalists may leap to the defense of this irredeemable character, I say cut the crap. Ron is worthless. He whines, he fumes, he acts out, and he’s bad at everything. Usually, you’d give a character like this a sense of humor, but unfortunately J.K. Rowling outsourced that function to Ron’s twin brothers. If you started with the archetypal “best friend” character, and sucked out all the good parts, the oozing residue would be called Ron Weasley. So here’s what you do: cut the twins, give Ron their sense of humor, and then, instead of killing off a bunch of forgettable sidekicks in the final battle, have Ron die heroically, clearing the path for my third suggestion.
3. Have Harry and Hermione get together.
When you cast a bunch of 11-year-olds to shoulder your multi-billion-dollar franchise for the next decade, you’re lucky to get two actors as talented as Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson. The filmmakers seemed to realize this, and over the years, wedged the two of them into scene after scene together, consigning Rupert Grint to the margins, where he posed a minimal threat to himself and others. If you’re just watching the movies, then every instinct will tell you that Watson and Radcliffe should get together. But no: according to the time-lapse epilogue, the prettiest girl in school picks the unfunny redhead over the savior of humanity, while the savior goes for the redhead’s forgettable little sister.
4. Focus half of the final film not on Harry Potter, but on the heir to the franchise: Neville Longbottom, Snake-Slaying Action Hero.
This one, at least, they got right.