Movie Reviews

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Rating: 9 out of 10
Movie Details: View here

Cast:
Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter
Rupert Grint as Ronald 'Ron' Weasley
Emma Watson as Hermione Granger
John Cleese as Nearly Headless Nick
Robbie Coltrane as Gamekeeper Rubeus Hagrid
Warwick Davis as Professor Flitwick
Richard Griffiths as Uncle Vernon Dursley
Richard Harris as Headmaster Albus Dumbledore
Ian Hart as Professor Quirrell
John Hurt as Mr. Ollivander
Alan Rickman as Professor Snape
Fiona Shaw as Aunt Petunia Dursley
Maggie Smith as Professor McGonagall
Julie Walters as Mrs. Molly Weasley
Zoë Wanamaker as Madame Hooch

Summary:
Harry Potter is a fun and fanciful movie that is incredibly faithful to the novel.

Story:
There’s a magical, supernatural world hidden underneath our real world. It is populated by creatures and objects from myth and legend. This world is filled with witches, wizards, trolls, goblins, dragons, centaurs, ghosts, and much more. The population of this world is basically made up of wizards and witches and they think nothing of their bizarre surroundings. It is all perfectly normal to them and they generally ignore our real world. At the center of this supernatural realm is a school called Hogwarts. It is a boarding school just like any other, but students are taught the principles of magic. The professors are all powerful magicians who teach the kids about spells, flying on brooms, wizard history, and more.

The real world and the magical world generally remain blissfully unconcerned with each other. The magical folk even refer to regular human beings as “Muggles”. However, occasionally, Muggle children who show magical potential are recruited from the real world to become wizards or witches. This is where Harry Potter comes in.

Harry Potter is an orphaned 11-year-old boy who lives with his evil Aunt Petunia, Uncle Vernon and their fat spoiled brat son Dudley. They despise Harry and treat him like dirt because they never wanted him. He was literally dumped on their doorstep. Harry also has strange things happen around him that he can’t explain. This greatly upsets the Dursleys because it brings instability into their lives and they punish him harshly. What Harry does not know is that his parents were actually powerful wizards who were graduates from Hogwarts. They were killed when an unstoppable evil sorcerer named Voldemort attacked them in their home. The sorcerer intended to kill the infant Harry, but was instead driven completely away for some unknown reason by the baby. The only evidence of the attack was a lighting bolt-shaped scar on Harry’s forehead. Harry was taken by Professor Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts, and left with his aunt and uncle. Not wanting Harry to become involved with the magical folk, Harry’s aunt and uncle kept the truth about his parents hidden from him.

However, when the school comes for Harry to take him to Hogwarts for training, he jumps at the chance. Anything is better than his current situation. When he arrives at the school, Harry comes to find out that he’s a living legend. Famous for driving off the evil Voldemort, he is admired by everyone there – including many of the professors. This actually causes problems for Harry because it makes some students instantly jealous of him while at the same time he doesn’t know if he can possibly live up to their expectations of him.

As Harry begins his lessons he makes friends with fellow students Hermione and Ron, explores this new world, and attempts to find his own identity among his peers. Along the way Harry and his friends uncover a plot at the school to resurrect the evil Voldemort. Can Harry Potter stop it from happening?

Rated PG for some scary moments and mild language.

What Worked:
I was a big fan of the original book, and I was incredibly impressed with the movie. It was amazingly faithful to the novel which everyone has read and loved. From the story to the characters to the scenery, everything matches perfectly with J.K. Rowling’s novel. It’s a rare thing to see a movie end up so close to the original source material. The minor changes are so small that you probably won’t even notice them.

The casting was incredible. Daniel Radcliffe IS Harry Potter. Rupert Grint IS Ron Weasley. Emma Watson IS Hermione. These young actors had a lot of pressure going into this film, and their performances were spot on. They really carried the film. Considering the hype of this movie, that’s a lot of weight to put on the shoulders of these kids, but they pulled it off.

The supporting cast is absolutely perfect. Alan Rickman is slimy and intimidating as Professor Snape. He was a wonderful choice for the role. Robbie Coltrane is funny and gruff as Hagrid. He adds a lot of the humor from the adult side of things.

Chris Colombus has created a visually impressive and rich world. Diagon Alley was so eccentric and alive that it seemed like a real market. Hogwarts is populated by ghosts and is decorated with paintings that move. It all comes together to create a wonderful and imaginative universe that you’d love to dive into. I was also amazed at how well he blended the dark scenes with the lighthearted moments.

The Quidditch match was fast paced and spectacular. Think of it as a cross between soccer, basketball, basketball, football, the Star Wars pod race, and the speeder bike chase from Return of the Jedi. It was a very cool scene and was a high point of the film (though it was a bit shorter than I liked.) It was also cool to see both boys and girls playing in this magical game. In fact, they make a good point to show all the different ages of kids at the school.

The creators of Harry Potter have created a great film for both children and adults. I believe this will satisfy those who have read the books and those who have not. And at 2 ½ hours, I think you’ll find you got your money’s worth, too. I am eagerly anticipating the sequel now.

What Didn't Work:
The special effects weren’t all that special. I was impressed with the content of the visuals and what they were trying to do, but many of the effects weren’t technically impressive. Some of the effects shots were obviously bluescreened in the Quidditch match. Other scenes had fake looking CGI creatures. For example, a centaur that makes a surprise appearance looks obviously CGI, but what he says and does is more interesting that what he looks like. The effects don’t matter much since the story was good, but people with an eye for these technical details may not be impressed.

I was also a little disappointed that they put some language in the film. For a kid’s movie, you don’t necessarily want your kids repeating some of the words. However, I shouldn’t be too surprised by them because they are in the books.

Finally, though I loved the book and I loved the movie, I’m not going to rush out and see it a second time right away. It was good, but not one I felt obligated to have multiple viewings of. I can’t really say why that is, though, but you’ll still enjoy it.

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