I haven't read the first 6 books since the 6th one was published (5? years ago), which is when I read them originally, and I read Deathly Hallows when it first came out. So it's been a while, and to refresh my memory before seeing the Deathly Hallows movies, I decided to re-read the series, and watch the movie of each one right after reading it, for the sake of comparison. I'm not done yet, but I just watched the Order of the Phoenix movie, and I decided to post a comparison here, mostly as a way to vent about that movie.
So starting off, I think the first two movies did an excellent job. They didn't follow the books to the letter, but that's to be expected, and the mild differences between the books and movies were fine. No complaints at all.
The third book, Prisoner of Azkaban, is the most tightly scripted of the series, and I thought the movie did a pretty good job. I don't mind that they had to leave off a couple of details to keep it from getting too long, but there was one thing that really bugged me.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The whole thing about "The Grim". It's like the makers of the movie didn't understand the novel. In the movie, we're actually shown an obvious outline of a dog in Harry's tea cup, and in the clouds during the stormy Quidditch match. In the book, it was Sirius disguised as a dog that he saw during Quidditch, and the tea leaf thing was just his teacher making stuff up. The whole point was that there was no such thing as "The Grim", so the inclusion of obvious dog shapes in the movie was exactly the opposite of what the book was going for. If they'd left the whole thing out for brevity, I wouldn't have minded so much, but including it in such a way as to point out their own lack of reading comprehension is just kinda embarrassing.
That brings us Goblet of Fire. That was the first really long book, so they obviously had to cut out quite a bit to fit it into the movie format. It was a little disappointing that they shortened certain things, not to mention leaving out the semi-important character of Winky the house elf altogether, but there was only one exclusion that really bugged me.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
They really should have explained why Harry and Voldemort's wands interacted the way they did when they dueled in the graveyard. The fact that they both had cores from feathers of the same phoenix was already mentioned in the first movie, and it only would have taken them 20 seconds to say it again here. Given this fact's importance later on in the series, I was really surprised they left it out.
Other than those relatively minor screw ups, I thought the 3rd and 4th movies were pretty good, though not quite as good as the first 2 at living up to the novels.
That brings us to the 5th book and movie, Order of the Phoenix. I just can't believe how badly this movie butchered the novel. I can accept that they had to shorten it to keep the movie from going too long. For instance, leaving out some of the extra rooms in the Department of Mysteries wasn't that big a deal, and just lead to most of the action in the end taking place in the prophecy room.
But in a book that was very much about setting the mood, and long conversations and explanations, they intentionally had lots of quick edits to the action, leaving out the details that made the book so good. Re-reading this one so soon after re-reading the others, I also realized that this novel actually had more really funny moments than the earlier books, despite its fairly dark overall tone. Yet almost all of those great, funny lines were completely missing from the movie.
In a few places, they reversed the order of events on things, where the original order made more sense. For instance...Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The book showed why Luna Lovegood was often called Looney before the scene where she tells Harry "You're as sane as I am". In the movie, the character opens with that line in her first 2 seconds on screen, before the audience realizes how weird she is, thus completely killing the comedic timing.
Also, the novel has Ron and Hermione talking Harry into leading the DA before the recruitment meeting, while the movie saves that conversation to take place during the recruitment meeting, with everyone else already there. That just doesn't make sense.
But the biggest blunders of the movie were things where they intentionally went against points that were carefully laid out in the novel. For instance...Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
When Fred and George quit school in the novel, it wasn't a sudden decision after an awful detention, as in the movie. They mentioned early on that they'd considered skipping their final year, long before they actually left. And when they did cause mass chaos before leaving in the novel, they intentionally did it in a way that didn't disturb their fellow students' serious studies or exams, leading Hermione to be surprised by their considerate attitude. In the movie, they left in the middle of O.W.L. exams, disrupting a major test.
And in the novel, it's carefully explained why all of the Order of the Phoenix members in the staff, except for Snape, are missing from Hogwarts at the time that Harry has his final vision. But Hagrid wasn't kicked out in the movie, and McGonagall wasn't injured and off campus, leaving no reason why Harry wouldn't have gone to them for help upon seeing the vision of Sirius being tortured by Voldemort.
In the novel, when Hermione lead Umbridge into the Dark Forest at the end, Harry expected her to lead them to Grawp, but she intentionally followed a different path, searching for the centaurs. In the movie, she did go straight to Grawp, who wasn't there at first, and the centaurs just happened to show up. Given that the centaurs had good reason to avoid the area around Grawp, as explained in the book, you'd think they wouldn't have been anywhere near there.
I expect to be similarly disappointed in the 6th movie. I don't remember the exact details now, but I do remember not liking the editing style of the 6th movie when I originally saw it, for exactly the same reason I didn't like that style in the 5th movie. Lots of quick cuts to the action, rather than taking the time to develop the setting and mood.
I haven't seen Deathly Hallows, part 1 yet, so I'm just hoping that they improved the style for that one, compared to the previous two movies. I plan to wait until I finish re-reading the book before seeing it, which will take me another week or two, so I'll still have time to catch it while it's still in theaters, while avoiding the big crowds of the first two weeks or so.