Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone


Dir: Chris Columbus (Only the Lonely, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Rent)
Regular Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Richard Harris, Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, Robbie Coltrane, Tom Felton, Matthew Lewis
Additional Cast: Ian Hart, Sean Biggerstaff, Zoë Wanamaker, John Hurt
USA/UK, 2001

Originally Seen: At the Fox Theatre in early 2002. Although I had read & enjoyed the book I was really seeing it as a part of my then-annual 'see anything that has Oscar nominations' race. It was nominated for Art Direction, Costumes and Original Score.

Revisited: May 29, 2009 *

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is a wonderful introduction to the world of magic, mystery and muggles (non-magic folk). Although the muggles are nowhere near as interesting as the witches & wizards in the film. We start with a very young Harry Potter (played by Daniel Radcliffe) whom along with the audience has their eyes opened this world where school classes are based on different kinds of magic making over math. Hooked yet?

The film has has a wonderful underdog-turned-appreciated feel to it and plays with outsider/insider themes which give numerous opportunities for demonstrating friendship or engaging with enemies. Friendship is a strong theme in the film, and it was fun to revisit this with characters at their beginning stages after we have seen them grow so much over the years. When you consider that source material is the first of seven books by J.K. Rowlings, you know we are in for a long and intricate journey ahead.

Although there are many fantastic characters in the film from the ever persistent Hermione (Emma Watson), the gentle and wise headmaster Albus Dumbledore (Richard Harris), to the bumbling groundskeeper Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) there is one character in particular who pulled me right into the films world and kept me there from the first viewing. The character is Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) as the teacher who takes no crap and with a performance that is over dramatic, melodramatic and perfect in every way. I giggled in delight every time he is on screen, even though he's the teacher you'd never want to have.

One of the beautiful things about the film is that it blends the magical with the practical. Released in 2001 and mere weeks before Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, it was one of the first times we have seen visual effects so seamlessly added to a film. Instead of showing something extraordinary just to boast talents (creative, magical or CGI) everything shown fits in the world in a perfectly logical way in terms of the world and the story. Each magical moment makes sense and has a specific meaning in the world. This also reflects how well the original work was written and then adeptly adapted.

It was fun to revisit the film in its entirely with focused attention as I did for this countdown, but it made me realize how many times I've seen the film. I watch it during the holiday season while making cookies or wrapping presents, I watch it if I'm down and like Star Trek: Generations it is a film I used to use if I had a bout of insomnia (I know it sound-for-sound for the first 15 minutes). I even have it on VHS which has literally worn out and won't play anymore and has been replaced with a DVD.

Although I'm sure it could be argued it isn't the 'best' film of the series, it I think it will always stay my favourite because it began the series that is all about magic.

Shannon's Overall View:
I love it
I own it in glorious full screen (DVD) and worn-out due to watching so many times VHS version
I'd recommend to fans of magic, fantasy and adventure

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© Shannon Ridler, 2009

* in anticipation of the release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince on Wednesday July 15, 2009, I am doing a weekly countdown to watch & review of the first five Harry Potter films


Jenn said...

I can't believe it's only 5 weeks away! I might try to do a recap for them as well, though I'm not sure I'll get a chance to blog much this month.

Shannon the Movie Moxie said...

I know! I'm really looking forward to it especially because I'm doing my best to stay away from the trailers. Revisiting the films keeps me busy in a spoiler free way!

I hope you enjoy watching them, although - how could you not ? :)

Ryan McNeil said...

While I dig the Potter films immensely, and likewise the brilliant books that they're based on, I must admit that the first two films are my least favorite.

When I saw them in 01/02, I thought they were pretty good...but later, in comparison to what Cuaron did with the third film, it felt like the first two weren't as good anymore.

I've also never been the biggest fan of the fact that the first two movies try to jam as much from the books as possible into the film. Movies 3, 4, and 5 felt a lot more focused for me.

Great idea for a blog series...and count me in as someone who can't wait to see "Prince" in five weeks!

Jamie said...

I just loved reading your review of this film. It reminded me what it was like to fall in love with it the first time and then over and over again. I've let many of the HP movies keep me company when I've wrapped presents or had a cold. Whenever I revisit this one, I'm struck by just how young our magical friends were when we began this brilliant ride with them.

I simply can't wait for the next installment - of the movie and of your HPII review!

Anonymous said...

Wow, you're right, we're 5 weeks away now - woot woot!!

Looking forward to hearing what you have to say about the Harry Potter movies . . . perhaps I'll do something similar to pass the time as well :-)

Shannon the Movie Moxie said...

Oh, I like that 1 and 2 jam a lot into the films - gives it lots of repeat viewing value to see new stuff everytime but still on first viewing makes sense. I've heard a lot of people mention that they think 3 so much better first 2 but I don't, I just think they are different. Also, as the characters grow so do the theme so it makes sense they get darker.

Oh Jamie they really are young aren't they? It's kinda crazy not only to see the main actors as they grow up but also the entire supporting cast of Hogwarts! I love it for that.

It does feel like it's just around the corner, almost? I'll be so relieved and excited when it's out!

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