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Total satisfaction not guaranteed

The Harry Potter films are a motion-picture paradox in that they do not have a target audience that will praise the films as perfection. Instead, the films attempt to follow the books so closely that people who have not read them will be left in the dark while those who have will be disappointed with necessary omissions.

Each of the J.K. Rowling novels follows a year in the life of young Harry Potter while he attends the wizard school of Hogwarts. Harry, who lost his parents as an infant, develops throughout the series, much of the time through personal reflection.

The personal development so vivid in text gets lost in the films. Viewers who have not read the books grasp for the meaning in some of Potter’s actions while readers fully understand the connotations. The lack of character development, along with the necessary condensing of the novels, leaves gaping holes in each film. Readers easily fill in these holes, but non-readers are left in the dark.

So that’s it, then? The films are intended to be colorful filler for the fans of the book series? Well, not really. While it may be true that fans of the novels seem to get more enjoyment out of the films than non-readers, a bit of disappointment cannot be avoided.

While attempting to appease the hoards of loyal Potter readers, the filmmakers have put upon themselves the impossible task of directly adapting a novel to the big screen. Unless you plan on making a 12-hour movie, direct adaptation becomes implausible. So instead, the filmmakers adapted what they thought was the most important two hours of each book.

While the effort is appreciated, diehard fans of the novels, such as myself, walk away from the films wanting more. Don’t get me wrong, I was very excited to see the films and thought each of them was excellent, but I just couldn’t help wanting the inclusion of certain details , no matter how diminutive. As an avid reader, I expect film adaptations of my favorite books to disappoint me, so when filmmakers try to appease me, I welcome it — but at the same time, I get greedy.

So in the attempt to make everyone happy, filmmakers have not wholly pleased anyone. But who needs to wholly please just one group? I know that as a fan I will be waiting anxiously to get my copy of The Prisoner of Azkaban when it is released on DVD, and I am sure someone else who has not read the books will be just as anxious.

So if no one will like The Prisoner of Azkaban 100 percent, who should go see it? You rarely go to a film and like it 100 percent, so go and give The Prisoner of Azkaban a try; it may meet your standards. However, I have to say that readers of the novels will enjoy the film more, simply because literature aficionados rarely get a chance to see such direct adaptation.

Contact Chris Wagenheim at