In case the obvious intentions of this and upcoming posts aren’t clear, I intend to watch and review every Harry Potter film, up to and including this summer’s Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. This is quite a task indeed, but I felt the need to spice things up a bit around here, and I’ve an inexplicably great fondness of the series; books, films, and all. Hope you enjoy!
Directed by: Chris Columbus
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson
Having lost his parents shortly after birth, Harry Potter has since been forced to live with his mother’s sister Petunia, her tyrant of a husband Vernon and their overweight spoiled brat of a son Dudley. Harry’s life seems as miserable as can be, living day after day in the cupboard under the stairs, that is, until mysterious letters begin to show up at the Dursley household in the days leading up to Mr. Potter’s 11th birthday. Little does he know, the letter is actually a notice of his acceptance to the renowned Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry, where he must follow in his parents footsteps and try to live up to the standards surrounding his very existence, all whilst discovering the dark truths that are very much a part of the wizarding world and the dangers they pose. Finding friendship in the likes of Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, the three soon embark on the first of many adventures at Hogwarts.
Naturally, when adapting an acclaimed piece of literature of any sort for a theatrical release, it’s more often than not a big undertaking. After all, who wants millions upon millions of angry fans cursing the very existence of such a production? Needless to say, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone just so happens to be one of these undertakings, and then some. Right off the bat, it’s relatively easy to determine that Chris Columbus’ efforts stay painstakingly true to the source material, which many have praised and some vehemently loathed on the basis of very few liberties being taken with something as overly popular as the Harry Potter series. However, it’s hard not to acknowledge that both Columbus’ by-the-book direction and Kloves’ spot-on screenplay are geared more towards pleasing fans of the book who’d like nothing more than to see their favorite young wizards’ lives play out right before their eyes. Hell, even if you’re not all too familiar with the books, this first installment is a simple enough watch to garner even a small liking towards the Potter universe.
Although I do appreciate Sorcerer’s Stone for what it is, it’s easy to see that the overall lightheartedness of Harry’s first foray into the wizarding world seems to be geared towards a much younger target audience, given an altogether heavier focus on elements such Diagon Alley and, of course, Hogwarts. With the central characters being as young as they are, this is undoubtedly to be expected, but seeing your favorite moments from the first novel play themselves out right in front of you is satisfying yet mildly disappointing, mostly due to the heavy reliance on one’s imagination when reading something as unique as this. Disparities aside, activities such as Quidditch are always a joy to watch, and an ample amount of light humor and suspense don’t fail to please, even if I’m a bigger fan of the dark and often brooding nature of later Potter films.
The casting choices are also a pleasant surprise as Radcliffe, Grint, and Watson provide us with very convincing portrayals of each of the three protagonists, and Robbie Coltrane proves to us that he could possibly live out the rest of his life convincing adolescents and small children that he’s the real Rubeus Hagrid, as creepy as it sounds. The late Richard Harris’ portrayal of the omniscient, infinitely insightful Dumbledore is also very admirable, and it’s truly a shame he’s no longer able to provide us with similar efforts. All in all, the entire cast is essentially what has set the precedent for future entries into the series and what casual viewers and die hard fans alike will expect from them, especially Radcliffe and friends.
To wrap it all up, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is a slightly more than acceptable adaptation of J.K. Rowling’s acclaimed novel of the same title. While some may find it difficult to appreciate a shot for shot retelling of the story like Columbus has provided us with, most will be able to enjoy the film for its sheer sense of whimsy and lighthearted appeal. If you’re like me however, you’ll find it hard to appreciate it to the fullest on the basis of a certain fondness for the darker and more appealing nature later installments such as Cuarón’s Prisoner of Azkaban have sported. To put it plainly, calling Sorcerer’s Stone a bad film or even a mediocre one would be unfair, yet calling it a great film would be equally absurd.