Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001): United Kingdom – directed by Chris Columbus
Rated PG by the MPAA – contains some violence
Note: This review was originally published 7.9.09, before I had seen any of the other Harry Potter films.
I had never been interested in anything to do with Harry Potter until my wife got the first audio book out of the library. She figured that if she forced me to listen to the first book, I’d be hooked and we would end up reading and watching through the entire series. She was right. And even if Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is not great literature, it is a fun story that had you caring about the characters and rooting for Harry.
I’ve always wished I could experience things two ways; once reading the book first, then watching the movie, then again a second time experiencing the movie first and then reading the book. Alas, I am but one person and one experience, so I must do experience everything linearly. As a result I try to briefly analyze the differences between the book and the movie, and also merely judge the movie on its own merits.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone a fun movie, to be sure. It is not particularly deep, but it sets up the characters and gives them an adventure or two. It is, of course, missing a lot of the depth that the book provides; reasons for why things happen and who is doing what.
Also, one of the greatest pleasures in the book is the Dursely’s comeuppance, and, conversely, the joy Harry felt in living a normal life (well, as normal as a wizard can.) Of course, these themes are rather hard to include in a film, especially when the movie is already two and a half hours long and the main plot points are just barely squeezed in.
But it is not a bad film. Many of the scenes seemed very disjointed, jumping from one spot to another on a whim. There is very little segueing into another section or sequence. Perhaps a narrator would have added a little extra coherence. The plot jumps around as if expecting the audience to already know the finer details of what’s happening.
The kids are rather cute in this first outing. Their acting isn’t always top-notch, but everyone performs adequately. Hermione (Emma Watson) is particularly enjoyable, as she capturs the smart-alecky and the cute simultaneously. The film looks pretty good for the early 2000’s, though the troll and some of the other CG looks as though they belong in one of today’s video games.
I had fun watching the movie. It’s enjoyable seeing a director’s take (in this case Chris Columbus) on what the book would like, how the characters might speak, and even seeing how well they could pare down or combine plot elements in order to make it fit more evenly. Experienced without the background of the book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone would be a fun time, though with some flaws. As a companion piece to the novel it is perhaps a little lacking.