There are so many young adult book to movie adaptation out there that it’s easy to forget where it all started. . Now “Divergent” has come out on Blu-Ray and “The Giver” just got released this weekend, I thought it would be a good time to go back to where it all started. “Harry Potter” changed the trends in Hollywood and became a phenomenon in pop culture. Amidst all the popularity, the series is currently the highest grossing series of all time and that includes over “The Avengers” franchise.
But box office sales and tickets do not constitute quality. It more so can be viewed as what the general public is interested in seeing, but good movies can gross plenty of money equally with the bad ones. So where does “Harry Potter” fall under? Without beating around the bush, the easy answer is this: in the former rather than the latter. I, like so many in this current generation, grew up with the franchise. As I got older and more mature, so did the films. Now without bias or blind nostalgia I am going to go back and review each one of the Potter films. The franchise that for better or for worse started the whole young adult craze and spawned countless imitators. The first chapter in the saga is “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” is a thrilling first adventure that lays the groundwork for the rest of the franchise and the story. It’s the most lighthearted of the films that provides movie magic for filmgoers of all ages and characters you won’t soon forget.
“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” follows a 10 year old boy named Harry Potter. Harry lives with his Aunt and Uncle and his insufferable cousin, Dudley. He has no knowledge of his parents other than he knows they died when he just a year old. But soon he learns that he is not just any ordinary boy. On his 11th birthday, a half man-half giant comes and tells him that he actually is in a fact a wizard, and so were his parents. A world that is kept secret for the view of the ordinary people, or as they call them, Muggles. Harry will be attending Hogwarts school of witch craft and wizardry. In that world, he learns he is famous because he is “the boy who lived”. He then learns a dark secret from his past and why his parents are also dead. Him and his new found friends also fret endlessly over the question, what is the Sorcerer’s Stone?
Unlike most of these new young adult adaptations, I actually read the book, in fact all 7 of them. I said in my “Divergent” review that I didn’t understand the mentality that the movie had to be like the book. I think I should rephrase what I said there. I think that with all things being equal we would prefer to see the story intact and as faithful as possible. However in moving the story from the written page to the big screen, things will most likely have to be changed or altered. For Potter fans, this first film (clocking in at 152 minutes) nearly retains almost all of the books contents. Even more is kept in the 159 minute extended cut. For any Potter fan this is a dream come true. The story is well told from screenwriter Steven Knowles. This isn’t the richest of the source material but it doesn’t have to be, it’s still an extraordinary adventure.
The world of the book is presented on screen in eye popping images and special effects that at the time were out of this world. Even 13 years later most of the visuals still hold up well today. The design of the castle, the creatures, and every corridor and costume design are all wonderfully realized on the big screen. The world feels so complete with so much detail and thought behind it. It’s a world that draws you in and casts a spell on you. Eventually, all you want is to be a part of this world.
Remember when you first watched “Wizard of Oz”? Dorothy steps out of her house and into the world of Color. Then you became in love with the magic of movies. Remember in “Jurassic Park” when you believed that Dinosaurs were alive again? This is the grace of movie magic. Stuff like that is hard to do nowadays because special effects are so evolved. However this does have that magic. From the moment you enter the world of Harry Potter you feel that magic and that harkens back to the movies of old.
One of the toughest things in the film industry is casting good child actors. It can really make or break a film. Thankfully the filmmakers found some outstanding child actors that all stuck around throughout the series and got progressively better. Daniel Radcliffe is a work of pitch perfect casting as the likeable Harry Potter. He is the perfect young hero for our generation for us to take the hero’s journey with. Around him is Rupert Grint as his loyal best friend Ron Weasley and provides good comedic relief but never falls prey to just being the funny guy. Emma Watson plays the smart and resourceful Hermione Granger. There are countless other child actors too and they are wonderful. It’s the older veteran supporting cast that really help out the young ones and elevate them. Veteran actors like Alan Rickman, Richard Harris, and Maggie Smith, all of which blend into their roles so nicely. No, I don’t see Hans Gruber in Alan Rickman’s performance, I see Severus Snape, and only Snape. The actors really sink into their roles and you won’t see them, you’ll see the characters.
Director Chris Columbus, although not the greatest director to ever live, pulls out some of his best effort here for this towering production. He infuses such heart into this film that is boasted by the now classic themes in John Williams score. He crafts a family film that everyone can enjoy without him having cater to one specific audience, and he finds that happy medium that so many movies aim and miss for.
This isn’t the movie with the most action sequences and it is the most lighthearted of the Harry Potter franchise (there are much darker waters ahead) but yet this succeeds. Great acting from both the kids and adults, some exciting adventure, thrilling special effects and a world that feels so real. The first Harry Potter, going back and reviewing, is actually even better than I recall it. Chris Columbus provides a wonderful first chapter that has such heart and magic.