Like a young, bespectacled boy on his way to wizarding school, I’m about to go on an adventure. I’m the one person on Earth who hasn’t been exposed to the Harry Potter series. I know about the movies because I know about all movies but I haven’t watched them nor have I read any of the books. My knowledge about J.K. Rowling’s creation is limited, covering only the basics: I know humans are called muggles, I know wizards use odd latin expressions to cast spells and I know that big-eyed, floppy-eared…thing is called Dobby. It’s time for me to immerse myself in the cinematic treasures of Harry Potter. Will I come out on the other side as a die-hard fan or just some shmuck who spent countless hours essentially watching a bunch of kids go to school?
The journey begins with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the 2001 film that started it all. I remember when the film came out and how excited my peers were. They raved about the casting, the special effects and the promising start to what would be a long, classic movie series. Now I’ve seen what they have and I’m pretty excited to see where it goes next. I can only imagine it’ll involve a lot more Harry, Ron, Hermione, and a lack of parental supervision.
From the opening scene, the movie is iconic. John Williams’s Harry Potter score has quite an effect on the audience, even an HP newbie like myself. It just sounds magical. That magic is in other aspects of the film too, from the imaginative direction from Chris Columbus to the set design to, of course, Rowling’s story. There is a lot of love and care put into the movie because the creators knew how special this series was going to be to millions. They spared no expense, only limited by the special effects technology of the time and the usual growing pains that come with casting young actors.
The story revolves around young Harry after he learns that he’s a wizard. Not just any wizard but the wizard that people have been waiting years for. Sadly, his parents were slaughtered by Voldemort, the evil character that people talk about all the time, though only in hushed tones. Seriously though, they speak about him all the time. They can never say his name, as if that limits his power somehow, but it feels like he’s the topic of every conversation.
Why do they talk about Voldemort so much? Because he’s coming back. That’s the core of the plot for Sorcerer’s Stone. Voldemort is using the titular stone (and some disturbing drinking habits) to gain power and take on a human form again. Harry, Hermione, and Ron take it upon themselves to unravel the mystery and prevent Voldemort’s return. They’re kind of on their own because it seems like all the staff at Hogwarts are completely oblivious to the coming danger. It’s unfortunate that three kids have to stop the rise of the baddest guy of all time but I suppose it shows their gumption. School isn’t easy, kids. Sometimes you have a pop quiz, sometimes you have to halt the reemergence of an evil sorcerer bent on your destruction.
The plot of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is a little disjointed and cluttered. In fact, the plot doesn’t really pick up until after an hour into the picture. Aside from Voldemort’s scheming, there are scenes about Quidditch (a sport where a bunch of young children fly and attack each other at neck-breaking heights), scenes about the different houses of Hogwarts (I want to say I’d be a Gryffindor but some days I feel like a Hufflepuff) and scenes about friendship and coming-of-age. While the film doesn’t necessarily meander, it certainly comes dangerously close to feeling aimless at times. However, once the plot really starts chugging along, it’s quite fun. There’s even a great scene with the kids playing a life-sized version of chess. Deadly chess. You know, stuff children do!
Overall, I enjoyed the movie though it certainly suffers from typical book-to-film adaptation issues. It tries to fit in so much that it verges on overstuffed. It never tips over the edge, thankfully, but at two-and-a-half hours, there was some stuff that could have been cut. I can understand why they didn’t edit stuff out though. This was the first Harry Potter film, fans were beyond excited for the cinematic take on their favorite book series. I’m glad the devoted readers got to see so much but for casual viewers, the movie feels a bit episodic and jam-packed. That being said, it’s jam-packed with some pretty nifty things. Harry learning (and conquering) Quidditch, that weird hat that talks to the students, and the whole Gringott’s scene are all fun to watch.
More than anything, Sorcerer’s Stone shows a lot of promise. You can tell the filmmakers were excited to dive into Rowling’s world and the audience was as well. It feels a lot like the first episode of an anticipated show. The pilot might not blow your hair back but you’re more than ready for the next installment. That’s how I feel at the conclusion of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I didn’t fall in love with the movie but I am eager to see what’s around the corner.
MVP of the film
Hagrid (played by Robbie Coltrane): Hagrid is just so damn likable. He’s big, he’s huggable, he’s kind of stupid (did you see the birthday cake he made?). He’s the type of guy you want in your corner, a big softie who is also able to wreak havoc if need be. Seeing him put the Dursleys in their place, knowing they can’t do anything to intimidate him, is delightful.
Random questions/comments about Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
- Was it necessary for Ron to ride on the knight in their game of human-sized chess? No one had to sit on any of the other pieces? You’re putting yourself in danger for no reason, Ron! Don’t be a hero!
- Will they explain why Voldemort eventually loses his nose?
- Hagrid’s dragon comes back, right? That thing was adorable!
- Same question for the centaur, though he wasn’t nearly as cute as the dragon.
- The world is a darker place without Alan Rickman. He will be missed.
- Maybe Hogwarts should just get rid of Slytherin if it’s only going to produce a bunch of slimy, untrustworthy wizard students?
- Imagine this film directed by Steven Spielberg, as was originally the plan. Now, imagine Haley Joel Osment as Harry, as was also the plan. Finally, imagine it all as an animated film. Yes, that was also part of the plan.