Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Reviewed by Falstaff
The “Harry Potter Question” is one that has definitely seen a lot of discussion on the Sorcerer’s Place boards. Conversations about the Harry Potter books have been deep and extensive; however, there is no question about the success of the novels’ translation to the big screen.
No film of 2001 (other than perhaps the long-awaited The Fellowship of the Ring) was more eagerly anticipated than the screen version of J. K. Rowling’s vastly successful and critically acclaimed first novel. With knowledge of the high expectations of devoted young Potter fans, the filmmakers claimed beforehand to be intensely aware of those expectations and swore to be faithful to the book.
In fact, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is probably one of the most loyal film adaptations of a book that I have seen. Major kudos go out to screenwriter Steven Kloves for his collaboration with Rowling on a script that not only does justice to the book, but also stands upon its own for the unread moviegoer.
Although Harry Potter may be slotted as a children’s movie, it is done so fantastically well that viewers of all ages will without a doubt enjoy the charm of the film at some point or another.
The two-and-a-half hour movie does a good job of combining plot movement with introduction into the rich world of wizards, magic, and monsters. The movie may seem a bit episodic for the first hour and a half or so, but enough of the mystery of the Sorcerer’s Stone and Harry’s background is sprinkled throughout that the main plot of the movie is never lost or forgotten. The many early adventures of Harry, Ron, and Hermione are put together brilliantly by director Chris Columbus to create a world with depth as well as excitement.
John Williams’ music is classic here, and every bit of his charming score is enjoyable, helping to set the tone of every scene of the movie.
Of course, no good fantasy movie is without special effects, and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is no exception. The spell effects, while nothing truly stunning, are good nonetheless. The strongest point of Harry Potter’s SFX is the creatures. From baby dragons to three-headed dogs and mountain trolls, each creature is highly detailed and exciting to watch. The action sequences, especially the Quidditch match and the Wizard’s Chess game, are also very thrilling on the screen. Indeed, the SFX of this film definitely make the PG rating a serious one: the monsters provide some frightening moments, and some scenes may be a bit much for some children (a screaming book and a villain rotting into dust come to mind).
Arguably, the strongest point of this movie is the casting. Each role in the ensemble is perfectly cast, major and minor parts alike, and some characters may be exactly what readers may have pictured in their heads as they read the book.
Daniel Radcliffe’s Harry is wonderful, and he captures the essence of the young Potter’s spirit and emotions. Rupert Grint and Emma Watson, who play Harry’s pals Ron and Hermione, are perfect for their roles. Grint carries off the humorous redheaded Ron beautifully, and Watson’s overachieving Hermione is often much more believable than any of the other young actors in the film. Although the inexperience of the young unknown actors is often obvious, they are good nonetheless, and carry off their roles very well.
It is the veteran actors who give the film its incredible depth of character, however, and the strong cast put together here is simply perfect. Richard Harris’ Dumbledore is one of the most memorable characters of the film. Harris exudes wisdom, and as an expositionary device, he has no match. Robbie Coltrane’s Hagrid is funny without being ridiculous, and is sentimental without being an emotional mess. Maggie Smith, as the stern yet just Professor McGonagall, is also perfect in her role. My personal favorite was Alan Rickman, whose portrayal of Professor Snape is delightfully dark and nasty, even if he is not the villain.
All of these things, as well as the incredible sets, beautiful camera-work, and some very well-done cameos (John Cleese’s Nearly Headless Nick is sure to create a smile or two), combine to create a movie that is not only visually stunning, but well-acted and character-driven, as any good film should be. In short, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is a fabulously charming picture that will most definitely be one of the benchmarks in fantasy filmmaking for a long time to come.