11/07/2013

Harry Potter & The Sorcerer's Stone (2001)

I personally think this particular poster is
some of artist Drew Struzan's finest work
Film: Harry Potter & The Sorcerer's Stone
Alternate Title: Harry Potter & The Philosopher's Stone (original British book-title)
Alternate Versions: Theatrical/Ultimate
Release: 2001, Theatrical
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint
Directed by: Chris Columbus
Next in the series: Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: Harry Potter lives under the stairs in the house of his extended family, The Dursleys. Being an unwanted houseguest most of his life, everything changes when an extreme amount of strange letters arrive at the household.

Hans' thoughts:

Harry Potter as a franchise, is quite the rarity. Nevermind the actual quality of the individual works in the series (movies, books or otherwise). No, what makes Harry Potter special is that for a few years, everyone was talking about fantasy. For whatever reason, right there and then in the early 2000's tons of fantasy stories was being adapted to movie form. This includes series like Narnia and The Golden Compass. I like to think that this is due to the success of this movie, and the other major fantasy movie coming out that year - The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring. Suddenly out of nowhere, two of the biggest fantasy book series get movie adaptations the same year and they both completely wrecked the notions of how niche-genres do at the box office. Suddenly, geekdom took over Hollywood.

Other than that, imagine how risky it must've been to actually pour money into this movie. Here you've got Warner Bros., a major movie-making company since the birth of Hollywood pouring a severe amount money into what? An up-and-coming British children's' book series starring mostly child or somewhat unknown actors and with a high need for special effects! They really took a risk with this, popular books or no we're talking about a movie that needs to believably feature: monsters, ghosts and flying broomsticks amongst other things. Meaning a lot of the budget was poured into the special effects I imagine. You've also got some pretty big names attached to it (Maggie Smith, John Hurt, Alan Rickman). Whoever pitched this movie must've had a tongue made of solid silver.

That's great and all, but how does it hold up today? Well, not too shabby I'd say. With regards to acting, I'm actually impressed with how well some of the child actors did - considering that for most of them, this was their debut. The special effects are still kind of nice to look at, while some of it tends to look a little bit dated (a certain beast in a certain bathroom springs to mind) I have to say I had a hard time telling how old is was at times. The best example of a scene that's aged really well is what I will simply refer to as "The Chess Scene" where the animation was top notch. The movie also presents some stunning shots, the most iconic is probably the rowboats with lanterns crossing the lake in the dark, with the screen panning up to reveal the dimly lit castle of Hogwarts.

Now, I do have some gripes with this movie. While some of it's problems can be explained with "It's a childrens story" I have to point out the flaw of the pacing. The most of the movie is actually paced quite well, you have Harry exploring the wizards alternate world and you get to see how detailed the universe is. From it's own fully realized sport down to what kind of candy is available on a wizards train-ride is in this movie. However, I could have done with some more screen time for some of the teacher characters of the movie. The book did a much better job of setting up the twist at the end of the movie and we could overall just have done with more scenes of the characters going to class. As it stands though, I realize that children probably couldn't have sat through how much longer the movie would have had to be to address that.

As far as kids movies go, this sits in the upper-half of the spectrum. It managed to capture the imagination of millions of children worldwide and turn a whole generation of gamers and TV-slaves into readers, at least for a little while. The movie manages to be enjoyable to adults as well, and I am glad I decided to revisit it.
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