Let me preface my reviews of the Harry Potter movies by apologizing for talking about the books so much. This is a series of which I am incapable of separating the novels from the films. Some people are able to see them as two distinct works of fiction, but I am not one of them. I fell in love with the wizarding world through ink and paper first, and find the books nearly perfect. The movies both delight and infuriate me (though mostly I’m delighted).
So here we go… Sorcerer’s Stone (I’ve only read the American version, and Philosopher’s Stone just sounds wrong to me.) is a very faithful book-to-film adaptation. As a massive fan of the series, it was a magical experience watching this for the first time in the theater. There are scenes in this film that I swear were plucked directly from my imagination and transported to the screen. Of course, creating this world visually was kind of easy. JK Rowling’s descriptions of the people, places, and creatures that make up the Potter universe are so vivid that the filmmakers had half the work done for them. The real challenge was in translating the actual story to the screen. Obviously some parts of the story needed to be cut for time. There were a few missing scenes that I would have liked to have seen on the screen, but for the most part Sorcerer’s Stone gets it right.
I always find it a little strange watching this movie, because it is very much a kid’s flick. The entire film is colorful and funny, with just enough danger to frighten youngsters but with the promise of a happy ending to reassure the audience. This is worlds away from the final few movies in the series where nothing is certain and the danger often feels insurmountable. Sometimes I forget just how innocent the characters were in the beginning, something this movie captures perfectly.
Sorcerer’s Stone is a fun movie, but no where near the best in the series. In fact, this is one of the few series I can think of that gets better as it goes on. It’s evident watching this that there are so many more secrets to be reveled, so much more room for the characters (and the young actors portraying the leads) to grow. This movie achieves the same goal as its namesake book does: introducing a magical world and leaving the audience wanting more, in the best way possible.
I’m not sure how you even begin to review these films. The Harry Potter films are the most consistent film series I can think of in terms of quality. For a series that contains eight films, I cannot think of any other series of movies that manages to maintain such a high standard across all films, and even increase that standard as the series progresses.
The first Potter film picks up with 10 year old Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe). He is an orphan forced to live with his wretched aunt and uncle (Fiona Shaw and Richard Griffiths) and their horrible son Dudley (Harry Melling). As his 11th birthday approaches, the Dursley home begins to receive mail for Harry, offering him a spot in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Turns out Harry’s parents were wizards and he is being asked to follow in their footsteps. Eventually, Harry is allowed to attend this school and he soon finds out he is famous and nearly every child knows the name Harry Potter. He is the only person to survive an encounter with the evil wizard known as Voldemort. Along the way he meets his best friend Ron (Rupert Grint) and the brainy Hermione (Emma Watson). The three become friends and eventually save the school and stop the still alive Voldemort from returning by using the mystical Philosopher’s Stone (Sorcerer’s Stone for you yanks).
It was interesting going back and watching this film again. It is definitely not as good as the later films, but there is a charm to these films that not many others capture. J.K. Rowling has created a world like no other with her Harry Potter stories and director Chris Columbus has brought it to the screen faithfully. The escapism that this film offers is what sets it apart from other films. Star Wars is the only other series I can think of that allows you to enter another world that is so different from your own and be swept away.
The child actors could have been the weak link in this film, but they are fine. The cast of experienced adults that have been acquired make up for the fact that the three leads are still finding their feet. They all improve in future instalments, but right now, Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson are just ok. They do not detract from the film being good though.
I liked this film. It is a thrilling first adventure in the Harry Potter series. It establishes the world of Harry Potter really well and leaves enough room for it to grow and be explored further in future films.