Harry Potter and the Deathly Exposition


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To all 'Harry Potter' Purists this for you guys!!!

Thanks to Underdog for the article

Screenwriting Tip #20: Exposition

In 'Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix', J.K. Rowling writes an entire chapter at the end devoted to exposition. It makes sense within the context of the story as she wanted the character of Dumbledore to explain everything to Harry. However when the film was released, a lot of fans cried out in agony because they didn't get this "moment" from the book, that the filmmakers didn't care about the emotion nor integrity of the source material. What these people don't seem to realize, however, is that most of the "information" that Dumbledore gives to Harry is either already known, or is just plain ol' common sense. Unless a detail is absolutely crucial to the development of the plot as presented in the films, it should be left out. Plain and simple. I've read the Order of the Phoenix book, the same one that everyone else has, and there's not a thing in that chapter-long exposition that needed to actually be stated in the film.

Fast forward to 'Deathly Hallows'. At the end, when Harry finally confronts Voldemort, we don't get a fight between the two. Instead, the author opts for more exposition. Now, before you write me off, please note that I loved this in the book. I really did. I understand why it's important and why it makes sense, and I thought the dialogue was great. Though, when it comes right down to it... it's more exposition. We know. Everything that Harry tells Voldemort is stuff that we're already very much aware of. Sure, it's nice to get it into words, especially as a verbal torpedo delivered straight at Voldemort, but we know that Voldemort didn't own Snape. By that point we will know what we need to know about the Elder Wand's possessive lineage. There is not a single shred of crucial information that the audience will get had they kept that dialogue in the film.

Yet again, though, before we've even reached July, people are 100% convinced that this was a bad move, and that once again, the writer and director have opted for action instead of exposition. Uhm, well... yeah. That's what screenwriters and directors do. It's a common rule of thumb to be short and concise about the exposition, but deliver on the action. Film is a visual medium. It can be used to tell a story in any number of a way, but the basic attitude that all filmmakers have, especially if they're creating something like this Harry Potter installment that promises a lot of action and suspense, is that the spoken word is not as powerful as the imagery. Like it or not, that's what the basic idea of film is. Show, don't tell. The audience will know that Snape didn't belong to Voldemort after we see Snape's memories so there's no reason whatsoever to reiterate it. Again it's a very nice moment in the book when Harry lays this all out to Voldemort, but that's a book, where you're reading words and not seeing action up on a screen. It works in two entirely different ways.

These filmmakers are not out to destroy your precious source material. Just take a look at them. Part 1 was a gamble by itself. It contained hardly any action and was heavy on exposition, but it was also very careful and very creative when it came to how that exposition actually played out. When I look at both installments, after seeing the first and hearing about the second, it's clear to me that their intention was to get a lot of exposition out of the way in Part 1 so that they could focus on the action and emotional prowess of Part 2. Just as David Heyman said, without the split, they would have lost Snape's memories. Do you guys know how studio persuasion works? It's not easy. The idea that the producers went up to the studio execs and said hey, in order for us to actually do this final installment any justice whatsoever, it will have to be two films, and the first film won't have very much action, it will be mostly storytelling. I can't imagine how hard they must have fought for that.

So you're upset that you're not getting the great dialogue standoff between Harry and Voldemort. I get it. I can relate, as I loved it. But I'm looking at the other side of the deal here too. I got two films to cover one of my favorite books of all time and through that, I don't have to lose arguably one of the greatest moments in storytelling. And as much as people liked the dialogue between Voldemort and Harry, a lot of people also felt short-changed in that this long-time-in-coming standoff between hero and villain was nothing more than a few words and yet another Expelliarmus vs. Avada Kedavra shindig, that Harry, once again, was only victorious out of "sheer dumb luck." In the film version, Harry must face Voldemort this time without all the Horcruxes destroyed by that point. The audience will be on razor's edge knowing that Harry cannot do a thing until Nagini is killed. I'm sorry but this is far more exciting and intense than what the author wrote. No offense to her, again it was fantastically written in the book, but I do indeed want the film version to show me the end all, be all standoff that it can be and it sounds like they really came up with a way to make it exciting even for people who have read the book.

Don't look at this as the filmmakers ignoring what Rowling wrote, or that they're only trying to make it more action packed because they don't care about the story or whatever. It has nothing to do with that. They simply know that they're making a film version and that some of the stuff in the book simply wouldn't have translated as well to film, as effortlessly written into the book. David Heyman, Barron, Yates and Steve Kloves aren't out to ruin your day. They're just trying to do the best job that they can do with the source material that they have. You've read the book and you know what happens. Isn't it just a bit exciting to get a slightly different approach with more intensity and less exposition?

Another example, the Chapter 1 of the book 'Half-Blood Prince' (exposition) was not included in the film version. For me, when I was reading that particular chapter, I thought it would be a b*ring film scene and thanks to the Davids. Instead, they added the scene where Death Eaters the world of Muggles (action), it was visually fabulous.

Thanks to Underdog for the article
Photo by Warner Bros. Pictures

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