I watched the Ben Affleck film Argo last night. Then I went to Wikipedia to find out more about the alleged “true story” it was based on, only to have my suspicions confirmed that the film was so inaccurate that it might as well have been fiction. This got me thinking about another series of popular films that was riddled with inaccuracies and half-truths, and I just wanted to jot down a quick blog post to make a note of some of the more obvious ones
1. Contrary to the films, Harry Potter did not have magical powers, although he did teach himself a few sleight-of-hand tricks while he was locked in a cupboard, and he had indeed been observed talking to a snake. Innate magical powers have never been a pre-requisite for entry to Hogwarts. Also, the “Ministry of Magic” (as it is informally known in and around Hogwarts) is not a separate “shadow government” but is in fact a branch of the Home Office. The “Minister for Magic” is actually a civil servant; his actual title is “Permanent Under-Secretary for Prestidigitation.” The current incumbent is Sir Kingsley Shacklebolt, KCMG.
2. The Hogwarts Expresss leaves Kings Cross at 05.30, not 11.00 as depicted in the films. There were never any Dementors on the Express, as depicted in “Prisoner of Azkaban”. Speaking at the film’s premiere, one former student described it as “absurd” that Dementors would be up and about before midday, adding that they were “really not all that dedicated.”
3. The character of “Dean Thomas” is entirely fictional.
4. In “Philosopher’s Stone”, Harry is selected for the Gryffindor Quidditch team and becomes Seeker in his first year. In fact he did not join the team until his third year, and was a Beater. The player turnover on the team was also much higher than depicted in the books.
5. Harry’s owl, Hedwig, stayed at in the Owlery at Hogwarts during the summer holidays. It would have been cruel to take her home and lock her up in a tiny cage all summer. Also, contrary to the films, Hedwig was not killed by a Death Eater, but lived into her early twenties and had a long and happy life.
6. The portrayal of Dementors in “Prisoner of Azkaban” was criticised as “racist” by Brian Caton, the General Secretary of the Prison Officers and Dementors Union. “I’m appalled by the depiction of our members as these nightmarish, humourless figures in ragged black robes who suck all the joy and happiness out of a room,” said Caton. “This kind of irresponsible misrepresentation can only promote even more violence against hard working public servants who already do a very challenging job.” The film’s director, Alphonse Cuaron, responded by saying that the story was “heavily fictionalised… it has to work for audiences,” and that Caton should “lighten up and stop ruining people’s entertainment.” “Maybe he should concentrate on getting his members to smarten up, have a bath and grow a sense of humour,” added Cuaron.
7. In “Goblet of Fire”, Cedric Diggory is killed by Peter Pettigrew with the Avada Kadavra spell. In reality he badly bruised his right ankle, but was otherwise unhurt. The portrayal of his fate stands in contrast to that of Colin Creevey, who was depicted as surviving in “Chamber of Secrets” even though he was actually eaten by a gigantic snake.
8. Contrary to the events of “Order of the Phoenix”, Dolores Umbridge never taught at Hogwarts and never held the titles of Headmistress or High Inquisitor. She attended Hogwarts for three days as part of a Ministry of Magic health and safety inspection team following the injury to Cedric Diggory.
9. In “Half-Blood Prince”, Harry almost kills Draco Malfoy with a spell called Sectumsempra. There is no evidence that any such spell exists. As the spell’s supposed inventor, Severus Snape, later said, “You can’t just pull a brand new incantation for severing body parts out of your arse.” A further inaccuracy in the sixth film is that Malfoy spends most of it plotting to kill Albus Dumbledore. In fact a subsequent enquiry cleared him of all involvement, and Malfoy himself has admitted that he spent most of his free time that year in a disused girls’ toilet trying to kill himself
10. The battle of Hogwarts as seen in “Deathly Hallows Part II” never actually took place. The remaining Death Eaters had surrendered six weeks earlier after Voldemort (more commonly known by his real name of Bruce Riddle) had been hospitalised owing to severe carbon monoxide poisoning caused by faulty central heating at Malfoy Manor. Consequently the school was never in any real danger.