Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago I’ve been thinking about changing things up here at One Movie Each Day. So in the interest of keeping things interesting, I’ve decided to set my normal rotation of theme days aside and do something different.
It’s Potter week+ at OMED!
I’ve already seen all eight of Warner Brothers’ films about the famous boy wizard, but it’s been a while since I’ve seen some of the earlier films, and I’ve never sat down and tried to comment on them. So, my plan is to watch each of the eight films comment briefly on them. If I feel ambitious I might even throw in some additional bonus posts, but I make no promises on that front.
Also of note, since these reviews will probably take on a bit of a different flavor, I’m going to feel free to include SPOILERS for any of the films, (or the books) in any of this week’s reviews.
Best to begin at the beginning, and that means Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, or, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, (if you’re in a country where publishers aren’t worried that children will revile at the mere mention of the once proud field of Philosophy.)
This first film features a far different flavor than most everything that will follow it. Directed by Chris Columbus the film is essentially the story of a lonely orphan’s wish fulfillment. The colors are rich and vibrant, the characters are none too complex, and the major challenges are resolved by friendship, believing in self-confidence, and solving puzzles.
Of course, this isn’t a bad thing for the first chapter in a lengthy saga. ‘Stone’s mission is to establish this magical world, and introduce the characters that populate it. We get to see some depth of character from Daniel Radcliffe’s Harry Potter, but most of the supporting characters are pretty much archetypes at this point: Ron (Rupert Grint) is the good-natured best buddy, Hermione (Emma Watson) is a bookish know-it-all, Malfoy (Tom Felton) is the spoiled rich kid, and so on. The same goes for the adult roles: Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) is the child in a giant’s body, Dumbledore (Richard Harris) is the wise but distant mentor, Snape (Alan Rickman) is the cold, cruel teacher, et cetera, et cetera.
I’m fine with this. This first movie is really, truly, a kids/family film. It paints a picture with broad strokes and primary colors. However, because the world being established here is such a wonderful fantasy world, it doesn’t feel dumbed-down. It’s wonderful and imaginative, and of course we now know that it’s just setting the plate for bigger things to come.
This was the first time I’d seen this first film in a very long time, and what was most struck by about this first film is the remarkable job that the production did in casting the young actors. I’m, of course very familiar with the cast for their more recent work, so it’s a little odd to see them all as little kids again. The task of casting these actors was fairly monumental, they were casting ten and eleven year old kids into parts that would require them to grow-up along with their characters, well into young-adulthood. This isn’t limited to the three leads, it extends to the minor, supporting roles as well. As a case in point, in ‘Stone Ginny Weasley essentially only has to deliver one line, and look vaguely like the rest of the Weasleys, but in the later film’s she becomes a very important character, with a considerable emotional range. It’s a testament to good casting that Bonnie Wright was able to remain with the character from her cameo here, to the title character’s love interest by the end of the series.
Overall, this film is what it is. It’s a light family fantasy adventure. The stakes aren’t too high, and most of the point of the film is to sit back and marvel at the magic of JK Rowling’s world come to life on screen. The movie is light spot of fun in its own right, and an impressively humble beginning in the context of the larger saga, in any case it’s well Worth Seeing.