Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
Release date: November 16, 2001
Director: Chris Columbus
Novel by: J.K. Rowling
Screenplay by: Steve Kloves
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Richard Harris, Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, Robbie Coltrane, Warwick Davis, Ian Hart, Tom Felton, Matthew Lewis, Julie Walters, Richard Griffiths, Fiona Shaw, John Hurt, Bonnie Wright
Nearly ten years after its release, the story of The Boy Who Lived, penned by J.K. Rowling, feels… terribly dated at the hands of Chris Columbus.
For those not yet familiar with the story, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone — changed in America to “Sorcerer’s” because they were worried American kids wouldn’t know what a philosopher is or wouldn’t be attracted to it… Mmmkay — tells the story of a little orphan boy named Harry Potter, who on his 11th birthday discovers that he’s a wizard… and not “just” a wizard. In fact, he’s a legend in the wizardry world where he’s known to have vanquished some truly evil dark wizard called Voldemort — a.k.a. He Who Must Not Be Named.
Then there’s magic school.
And Voldemort is out to get him~
The opening scene in Philosopher’s Stone is all sorts of wonderful. It feels a bit like an 80s film, but in a good way. It’s mysterious and intriguing. A white long-bearded old man called Dumbledore, quite wonderfully played by the late Richard Harris, and a cat whose shadows shape-shift into a woman, a matronly but quite respectable Maggie Smith, playing McGonagall.
Then there’s a giant on a flying motorbike carrying a baby with a scar in the shape of a thunderbolt. Harry Potter is like a celebrity baby, so he’s better off living with relatives that are going to despise of him.
When I first watched the film, without reading the books, I did feel the magic. It was the world, the classes at Hogwarts, the transfiguration lessons, potions class, charms, and defense against the dark arts. It was how Chris Columbus put the whole book into the film, which made me want to read the books. However, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone suffers from repeat viewings. It feels tedious — despite the magic — and it makes you wonder when the plot is going to get going.
It’s understandable, it’s the first film and we must establish the world. We must learn about Diagon Alley and Gringotts, we must meet the characters. However, hitting the 1-hour mark — nearly halfway into the film — we still haven’t gotten the plot going. It feels like they forgot that what works as reading material, either in a book or a screenplay, doesn’t necessarily work on the screen… or Kloves was just lazy and formatted Rowling’s words into screenplay format.
The worst part of re-watching Philosopher’s Stone, however, is how dated the special effects look. From the awful CGI used on Fluffy the three-headed dog, Norbert the dragon, the fakery of the Quidditch games, and CG Voldemort.
But like I said, I still feel the magic… I always liked how adorably insufferable Hermione is, while the giant wizard chess is one of my favorite scenes, as well as the speech of how great a wizard Harry is. Perhaps the saddest moment in the film is when that extremely cute Harry was sitting in front of the Mirror of Erised looking at his parents.
Magical… but not good for repeat viewings.