Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001) / Fantasy-Adventure
aka Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
MPAA Rated: PG for scary images and mild language
Running Time: 152 min.
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Robbie Coltrane, Richard Harris, Maggie Smith, John Hurt, Warwick Davis, Tom Felton, John Cleese, Alan Rickman
Director: Chris Columbus
Screenplay: Steven Kloves (based on the book by J.K. Rowling)
I have not read any of Harry Potter's adventures, so take the review for what it's worth, as I will not be comparing the film and how faithful it may or may not be to the book. I won't be saying what is missing in the film that was in the book, I won't be saying what the film adds that is not in the book, and in fact, I won't be talking about the book at all after this first paragraph. I had no interest in reading Harry Potter when it was released, when it became a mega-million seller, and I still have no interest in the books now that I have seen the film. It's just not my thing. That said, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone does not really need the book in order to be appreciated, as it's a well-made and highly imaginative film adventure tale all on its own.
Harry Potter (Radcliffe) is an orphan growing up in the house of his aunt and uncle, both of whom regard magic users as freaks, including Harry's murdered parents, renowned wizards themselves. His new caretakers recognize the magic world is coming to claim Harry to their ways as well, and they are hell-bent against this, until one day they can no longer keep him from his destiny as a wizard. He is sent to Hogwarts, a school for the young to learn witchcraft and wizardry, and there he learns to hone his craft. However, sinister things are brewing around an object on the premises, the Sorcerer's Stone, which grants the user immortality. The being that wants it most may have direct ties to the murder of his family and Harry isn't real keen on letting that happen.
It may take approximately 45 minutes before the film becomes truly interesting, but once it does it's an entertaining flick the rest of the way. There are two things which makes Harry Potter a good film: the very doses of imagination supplied by the writing (mostly by J.K. Rowling originally) and the outstanding sets, costumes and special effects. Harry Potter is a treat for the eyes, with a depth in imagery so complete that it almost commands another viewing just so catch all of the details you may have missed the first time around. Fans may be glad to know this is a film that is obviously made by people who care about crafting a good adaptation, and not by corporate hacks looking to make quick cash slapping together a sloppy story to exploit an already huge franchise. There is no skimping involved, nor is there a typical Hollywood rearranging of the story to inject a romance or to make the plot linear (in fact, the main plot involving the Stone is merely hinted at throughout most of the first two thirds of the movie.)
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is really nothing monumental in terms of filmmaking or even storytelling, In fact, it does have a familiarity to it that leads to a certain lack of surprises, despite the fanciful nature of the narrative. However, it does deliver a quality whimsical fantasy and sets itself up well for the inevitable sequels to follow. Beautiful sets, gorgeous special effects and a fantastic score by John Williams (The Phantom Menace, Sabrina) are the real highlights to this impressive production. I haven't even mentioned the formidable cast of veteran British actors in all of the important supporting roles. If the rest of the Harry Potter series of films can maintain the high visual level of this first film, I can see good things for the future, and I don't need a mirror to do it.
-- Followed by Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II.
©2002 Vince Leo