The longest Harry Potter book is also the shortest movie?

Harry Potter series pages compared to run time.

I can get flamed for a lot of things on the internet but claiming Order of the Phoenix to be the worst movie adaption in the franchise isn’t one. It’s not a bold claim by any means and I have some numbers above to show for it. That right there should tell you something is off. Does it make any sense for the longest Harry Potter book to also be the shortest movie?

Yes, the book did get criticism for being long and even J.K. Rowling admitted that she could have edited some parts out of it. But that should still give us a movie longer than just 139 minutes. This movie could only be as short as it was if they decided to skip significant chunks from the book. And boy did they skip the most important plot points in the entire series. The mistakes made in adapting this movie affect not just itself but the entire series. So, if you have never read the books and wonder why the movies didn’t make a lot of sense, you know which movie to blame. But let me fill the gaps and explain where they went wrong adapting an otherwise great book.

Professor Trelawney
Professor Sybill Trelawney
  • The Lost Prophecy: Remember her? Well, there is a reason why Dumbledore hired an aloof teacher such as herself at Hogwarts. Professor Trelawney serves a much bigger purpose in the books and for some reason, she wasn’t even in the fourth movie. Her ‘Lost Prophecy’ itself is slightly complex and has significant consequences for multiple characters including Severus Snape and Neville Longbottom. And that has consequences in the prior and subsequent movies. How and why they decided to skip such a crucial plot point is baffling. Simply put, what Sirius Black was to the third book and what the Triwizard cup is to the fourth, the Prophecy is to the fifth. The movie has an embarrassingly incomplete version of the actual prophecy and absolutely no context. It doesn’t explain what it did to Harry, Voldemort or how it made Severus Snape the double agent we see in the subsequent movies. I suggest you visit the link at the bottom of the article for a detailed analysis.
  • Sirius Black: Another character that barely had anything to do in the fourth movie. He just pops up again in this one because it’s time to die. The bond between Sirius and Harry is never fleshed out in the movies. The book, however, has a special relationship between the two characters because of a common loss in James Potter. Harry looks for the father the never had and Sirius looks for the friend he lost. This lack of development results in a death that’s more of a shock rather than a real gut punch.

Now, there is a lot more to the books than what I’ve mentioned above. The exams or OWLs given by fifth-year students are explained a lot more in detail. Dumbledore’s army has a much better battle sequence in the Ministry of Magic. Umbridge is far, far worse. Sirius has tons of interactions with other members of the Order but can’t contribute in any real way being an escapee. It covers this frustration of his very well and describes how useless he feels. But these are far beyond the scope of a 140-minute movie and would just ruin the pacing. But the two points highlighted hold a significant part to play in the overall movie storyline and deserve more explaining. And I do have a small fix in mind.

Dumbledore’s army in the movie is just for character interactions and something to get Dumbledore kicked from Hogwarts. The movie spends nearly fifteen minutes building Dumbledore’s Army ending Harry and Cho kissing. Harry and Cho unexplainably never interact after their kiss, so that was pointless. And the entire time spent with the army is never utilized moving ahead. The books have the students using that training in their OWLs and we get the amazing Battle of the Department of Mysteries. The movie mostly has them yelling Stupefy along with a couple of other spells. We really didn’t need fifteen minutes of screentime for that.  Swapping some time from those fifteen minutes for more interactions with Sirius would have made his death more impactful.

In the books, Harry never made any use of his Occlumency lessons. He never learned much to begin with. His lessons did end abruptly once he learned about Snape’s embarrassing past. But he does learn more about his father when he asks Sirius and Lupin about what he saw. And by the end, Voldemort severs the link between them once he realizes Harry can look into his mind as well. Also, the fact that he detested the emotions Harry had. Neither of the two stories are explored in the movies. So it would have been pretty much the same without the Occlumency lessons. In the movies, it is assumed Voldemort stopped looking into Harry’s mind moving forward just based on this one scene.

Harry possessed by Voldemort in the end of Order of the Phoenix.
Harry possessed by Voldemort in the end of Order of the Phoenix

Ultimately, there are just too many plot threads that need justification and the screen time lacks for it. I know it’s an easy answer. But apart from Building the army and the Occlumency lessons there really isn’t a lot of wasted time. And unfortunately, explaining the prophecy in detail would still require at least five minutes of additional screen time.

Despite being the longest Harry Potter book, it is still my favorite in the series (this I can get flamed for). And it just pains me to see it adapted so poorly. Maybe we should blame the producers or maybe the screenplay by Michael Goldenberg. We’ll never know.

The Lost Prophecy by the Harry Potter Fandom: https://harrypotter.fandom.com/wiki/Sybill_Trelawney%27s_first_prophecy

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