Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)
Original Title: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
Director: Chris Columbus
Writer: Steve Kloves
Based On: “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s (Philosopher’s) Stone” (Novel Series Book # 1) By: J.K. Rowling
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Richard Harris, Robbie Coltrane, Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, Ian Hart
Country: USA & UK
MPAA Rating: PG
Time: 152 minutes
Genre: Adventure, Family, Fantasy, Mystery
USA Release: 11/16/2001
On DVD (USA): 5/28/2002
Awards: 3 Academy Award Nominations, 7 BAFTA Award Nominations, 1 Grammy Award Nomination
As far a phenomenons go everyone knows of the Harry Potter series, about the boy who lived. It has one of the biggest fan followings around, and by the time the third or fourth book had arrived on shelves people were anxiously waiting for the first movie to arrive in theaters and they were not disappointed.
In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone we meet Harry Potter, a rather skinny boy with glasses and odd scar in the shape of a lighting bolt, living in the cupboard under the stairs at # 4 Privet Drive in Little Whinging, Surrey with his Aunt Petunia, Uncle Vernon and Cousin Dudley. But Harry has a secret, a secret that he doesn’t even know about, after a mishap at the zoo on Dudley’s birthday, Harry begins to receive letters, from a place unknown to him. As his uncle struggles to keep these letters out of his reach he begins to go a little crazy, by packing the family up and going to an old shack. But soon after they are visited by a giant (no, not just someone rather tall, an actual giant) named Hagrid and soon finds out his secret, that he is in fact a Wizard, and that he will be going to one of the best schools of magic, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. While there he meets and becomes friends with Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger (well she tags along more at first). Learns who not to trust like Draco Malfoy and learns more about his past while going to school.
Now for many including myself we grew up just as the characters and the young actors did, we spent our childhoods reading the books and then watching the movies. And for that a big thanks must go out to J.K. Rowling for writing the books and another goes out to Chris Columbus for starting the series on screen. Columbus did a fantastic job of bring the vision from the page to the big screen. And also helped create the look and feel of the sets that would continue to be used through out the entire series, and like the directors to come after him he left a distinct mark of style behind that would combine and separate the series at the same time. Just like with the directing the cinematography was greatly done, although that doesn’t mean there aren’t things I didn’t like, like the few shots that were way to close for a close up (mostly when the use of CGI was being done) it made the scene too claustrophobic and sometime cheesy because of what the actor was doing. But that was only a few shots, other than that they used the set well by giving us the entire space by curving shots around the corner or a far shot so that we could drink in the whole scene. And for what everyone probably expected was that the wonderful and memorable music would be done by the great John Williams, who also invoked other unforgettable music like that of “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones”, and now just like them the Harry Potter theme will forever be instantly identified without even thinking. But even with a lot of positive things happening with this movie, many have said that because the movie followed the book so closely that it was the success and failure because if didn’t leave any surprise or new discovery. But if they didn’t follow the book as closely who knows how it would have turned out, this could have easily been the movie made because of that. Any book that is made into a movie, the idea of there being any surprise or discovery is already thrown out the door for anyone who has read the book, and if big changes were made fans would be upset and the film would fail. And just like with any book to film adaptation there is not way to cater to everyone so there is always a chance things loved by fans will be left out for time sake. With that said Steve Kloves did a excellent job, giving us exactly what we needed, a great story with background as well as action, adventure and mystery.
Another great addition was the supporting cast, having the adults be made up with an outstanding array of great British actors/actresses (a thing that would continue throughout all of the films), all of whom did a superb job in their respected roles, as were the supporting kids. Having this movie be carried by 2 young actors and an actress, all of whom had little to no experience proved that the casting agents got it right, picking the best to play the iconic characters. Emma Watson (played Hermione Granger) did a wonderful job of bringing the character to life, although at times she can be a little stiff but that’s to be expected due to inexperience, but overall a great performance in her first acting role. Although her character is ok with who she is and is probably use to being alone, she would like to fit in for once and she slowly gets that with Harry and Ron, although at first she is a bit of a pest because she is a know-it-all. Like with Watson, this was Rupert Grint (played Ron Weasley) first acting role, and was also stiff at times, but his great comedic timing helped loosen away the stiffness. And he too did a fantastic job playing the some what heroic comic relief. Yes, his character may not be as smart as Hermione or as brave as Harry (but then again who is) but he has a lot of heart, passion and is a wicked chess player. Of the 3, Daniel Radcliffe (played Harry Potter) had the most experience having done 2 other projects, the TV movie “David Copperfield” and “The Taylor of Panama”. But even with that he was just as stiff as the others at times, but all of that was expecting for all of them seeing as they were so young and were suddenly thrust into the shoes of 3 iconic characters in a major film production being the leads, who wouldn’t be a bit stiff? But like the others he delivered a fantastic performance, and to top it off he not only preformed well as Harry but he surprisingly looks a lot like him (really compare the drawings from the book covers to him). His character is much like a new baby, learning that he pretty much knows nothing about himself and that others like Hermione know more about him then he does. And because of who his is, he is forced to grow up fast and learn on his feet even if he doesn’t know what his is always doing.
Now to sum up, although this isn’t everyone cup of tea, this movie envelops everything a kid loves in a story. Lots of action and adventure, with a mixture of mystery, and having it all be done by kid, just gives them more to relate to and dream about. This and the other films will live down in history, not only at the financial success, making it’s 3 young actors instant stars, but also for that sense of adventure that seemed to be lost in the genre that is children’s movies.