“Yer a wizard, Harry”―Rubeus Hagrid, Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone.
I remembered the excitement buzzing in the air when the first ever Harry Potter films were about to be released. I was not as internet literate back then. But having read the book i was still excited as hell. And i was not disappointed. The adaptation of the boy wizard offered magic and wonder as the book had. Even as i saw it again before i wrote the review it still possess that quality. This is where it all begun, a solid beginning for our epic journey to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and beyond.
Chris Columbus (an American) was chosen despite Rowling’s insistance that the film need to keep its cultural heritage intact. But with experience directing the family friendly films (Home Alone,Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, Mrs. Doubtfire, etc) under his belt, he was the right choice to direct the earliest films. Harry Potter just turned 11 and just received his invitation to Hogwarts. As the first of its series, just like the book, the film adaptation main task is to established this universe where wizards and witches co-exist with human (muggle, based on the franchise terminology). And as one of the muggle we viewers (who might not a reader in the first place) need to understand how everything worked here. Only after we saw the contrast between muggle (the Dursleys) and the magical folks, we truly begin to embark on our journey from platform 9 3/4.
Hogwarts is based on traditional british boarding school system (i read my share of british children books so i am quite familiar with the concept). They have the same common room, great halls, even head boy/girl system, but now everything become more extraordinary with its talking paintings, moving stairways, and learning magical spells instead of algebra. Everything is truly magical; not so much out of this world, instead its pretty grounded on things we saw/experience on daily basis. There are things that would blow your mind though, like a new sport called Quidditch which was more spectacular on screen than what i’ve ever imagined as i read the passage of the books (and even adapted into actual sports nowadays). The problems young Harry was facing in Hogwarts is not even that different with other children-oriented films: a rivalries at school (with Draco Malfoy), mean teacher (like Severus Snape), or even an exciting adventure to uncover a mystery/treasure (the Philosopher’s Stone). Because the real arc of Harry Potter truly began as the film reach its culmination point (the true appearance of Quirell/Voldemort). If anything the first film is establishing the key player for the franchise. We have the golden trio which are the choosen one (Harry), the sidekick (Ron), and the brain (Hermione), the rival (Malfoy), the mystagogue (Dumbledore), the ambiguous shape-shifter (Snape), and the arch nemesis (Voldemort).
CAST. I do not question the world building of Harry Potter, you can see it through the streets of Diagon Alley and the crooked architecture of Gringotts or through the majestic Hogwarts castle and its vast grounds. But it’s only half of the job. The key that brought the universe to live is actually the characters that will brought us throughout the journey. Daniel Radcliffe brought us to this whimsy universe through his wide eyed wonderment, although his delivery was somewhat stiff and stilted. Same goes to Emma Watson as the studious Hermione Granger. My favorite of the younger cast goes to Rupert Grint which brought Ron Weasley comic-relief to live and Tom Felton‘s spoiled Draco Malfoy who was clearly the most experienced young actor among the kid actors. The adult cast give more in the acting department, which is not a surprise considering they are mainly consists of British biggest talent in the industry (Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, Julie Walters, Robbie Coltrane are few among many, many more). Many fans of the book nitpick the fact that these people are not physical representation of the character in the book. I am pretty happy with the cast though, i think despite they manage to embodies the spirit of their respective roles, and for me that’s all that count.
PAGE TO SCREEN. The Philosopher’s Stone (or Sorcerer’s Stone) is very loyal to its source material. Even most of the dialogue seemed like it is lifted directly from the book. Screenwriter Steve Kloves clearly know what the film needed at this stage, with the material only around 200 pages thick, streamlining the plot was not a necessity. Omitted events from the book were not integral to the plot nor the entirety of the series (yes, including the Snape’s logic riddle that would be hard to portrayed on screen). All in all it is a faithful adaptation. Just like its book it mainly became an introduction and basis to the upcoming volumes.
Just like the John Williams’ Hedwig’s Theme which will resounds throughout the entire franchise, this movie is a classic children film where whimsical adventure meets magic wand, odd creatures, and owls. It has its teaching moments, establishing the value of bravery and camaraderie between friends, things that will be found much later on as the franchise mature and grew a little darker.
It was,for all intent and purposes, an amazing start.
HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER’S STONE / HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE (2001)
GENRE Fantasy, Children, Adventure
DIRECTOR Chris Colombus | PRODUCER David Heyman | WRITER Steve Kloves | MUSIC John Williams | CINEMATOGRAPHER John Seale | EDITOR Richard Francis-Bruce | DISTRIBUTOR Warner Bros Pictures | COUNTRY United States, United Kingdom | BUDGET $125 million | RUNNING TIME 152 minutes | RATING PG for some scary moments and mild language | RELEASE November 16, 2001
STARRING Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Tom Felton, Robbie Coltrane, Richard Griffiths, Richard Harris, Ian Hart, John Hurt, Alan Rickman, Fiona Shaw, Maggie Smith, Julie Walters, Harry Melling, Tom Felton, Warwick Davis, Matthew Lewis, Oliver Phleps, James Phelps, Bonnie Wright, Jamie Waylett, Josh Herdman, Devon Murray
DID YOU KNOW? The final scene was actually the first scene was being filmed. You can still see Daniel Radcliffe with green contacts (later removed since its irritate his eyes) and Emma Watson with fake buck teeth (which also removed as it was hindering her speech).
This post has been the part of Harry Potter Appreciation Month at KaramelKinema. Snape would like to thank you for your time :D