Ossus Library Index Fantasy Movie Index

HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER'S STONE

Directed by Chris Columbus (2001, Warner Bros.)
Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Robbie Coltrane, Richard Harris, Alan Rickman and Maggie Smith

A young boy and his friends discover a plot to steal an artifact of immortality while they attend their new school for wizardry.

 

 

5 stars

April 25th, 2015 on DVD for the 5th time  
   

I finally read the book not too long ago, and it was definitely worth it. While the movie is visually spectacular, the book is very funny, and contains a lot more information, as is to be expected.  The movie does manage to convey the sense of wonder and awe that comes from the pages of the book, and I liked Hagrid a lot right from the start.

 

 

5 stars

September 1st, 2004 on DVD for the 4th time  
   

After seeing the latest Harry Potter movie, Azkaban, I wondered how the earlier movie would feel. Even though it's only been three movies, it seems like we've watched these three actors grow up considerably.

I suppose it's natural given his past, but I don't really like the way everybody fauns over Harry. His name is legendary, so I guess the anticipation made everybody giddy. But that's the reason I like Snape so much. His "clearly fame isn't everything" is hilarious. But he doesn't give Harry any slack, though he protects the boy as much as he would protect any other student. He likes pointing out Harry's deficiencies, though!

Malefoy, on the other hand, is as much of a wimp in this movie as he is in The Prisoner of Azkaban. He runs from Valdemort when Harry stands his ground. In a hilarious scene, when Valdemort is about to attack Harry, we can see the dog Fang and Malefoy running and screaming in the background!

Hogwarts has also changed over the course of the movies. Although Hagrid's house looks pretty much the same, he is much farther away from the main building in Azkaban. Here, we watch the kids walk over straight ground a short distance to get to Hagrid's. I suppose the place is so full of magic that anything is possible.

Finally, I still think this is the best of the Harry Potter movies. It has the magic and wonder of a first-time magic-user. I love the setting scene, of the group of boats arriving, and their first view of the castle. I would love to see, sometime, Harry, Ron and Hermione greet the new first-year students, and watch the sorting hat from the other perspective. That would be really cool.

 

 

5 stars

June 16th, 2002 on DVD for the 3rd time  
   

I stepped into this one by accident, while somebody else was watching it.  And it drew me in just like the first time I saw the film.  I was awestruck once again, and couldn't get up and leave, even though I just recently watched it.  That's a testament to this film's power. 

Unfortunately (or fortunately?) having just written a review two weeks ago, I don't have much to say about it, except that I enjoyed it quite a bit, once again.  And I think the magic was there again, so that I have to bump the rating up once more.  This I can attribute to the wonderful way Hermione is portrayed, so snotty, so wonderfully perfect! 

I was also impressed with the way each character became confident in their own way, at whatever they are best at.  They were multi-faceted characters; they had their strengths and their weaknesses. The director did a good job at foreshadowing with many characters, especially Harry's enemy -look carefully at the first scene where his scar hurts...

The film was also beautiful, and visually intense.  I'll leave it at that.

 

 

4 stars

May 30th, 2002 on DVD for the 2nd time  
   

Truly an amazing show. I am impressed that such large scenery translated so well onto the small screen.  Still, once again, the true masterpieces of this movie were the three young main performers. 

I am completely amazed by the three actors who played Harry, Ron and Hermione. It is not only Harry who has such wide eyes at everything that he sees.  Even Ron, who has brothers and probably an entire family of wizards, gets to look amazed.  And Hermione, who seems to have studied for this all her life, has such expressive eyes that I could see she was also quite amazed at many of the things that she "read about in Hogwarts, A History"!

Hermione was hilariously played, a know-it-all who still does not realize that she doesn't know it all.  She is always correcting the others, and I still love the scene where Harry doesn't know his potions, while Hermione reaches her hand farther and farther to the sky, in hopes that Snape will ask her for the answers. And of course, I can't forget her "light reading", and the look she gives Ron when he questions her about it!

Ron often can't get the spells right the first time, and he seems quite resigned to it -even when his first try blows up in his face on the train.  But when it comes to something that he really knows about, like Wizard's Chess, he is brilliant.  The way he walked confidently across that board, knowing exactly what he had to do, made him seem like a much larger person than he had been up until then. 

The first time around, I didn't catch what spell Harry used against the evil professor.  But paying attention, I realized that in addition to a curse, he was also blessed by her mother's sacrifice, which was antithesis to Valdemort, thus turning him to stone.  But it also occurred to me that Harry didn't need to be a hero, since the head teacher tells him that only somebody who didn't want to use the stone could find it.  Valdemort desperately wanted to use it, so he could never have found it.  Thus he might have searched forever, and given up, except for Harry.  But it does provide a very good conclusion to the story of Harry's rival.

I still have trouble with getting through the traps, though they are still very cool.  Is there more than one key to get through the door?  Did Hermione actually create sunlight with her wand against the plant, and not just light in general?  And how did the bad guy win Wizard's Chess so thoroughly and not leave any traces? Many of the names, such as the two groups that were not featured with cast members, seemed to be created to sound absurd, and for no other purpose.  But I love the fierce dog is named Fluffy, and the cowardly dog is named Fang!

As for the DVD itself, although it is nice to have the movie in widescreen, and the theatrical trailers were pretty cool, the second disc is almost completely useless.  It is not worth paying full price for this set, because the second disk is almost completely for kids.  But even kids, I'm sure, will get bored with the simple games they can play, since after a few tries (one try for those who were paying attention) the solutions are obvious, and don't appear to change the next time they are played. 

One game, however, is worth playing, for there is no other way to find the seven deleted scenes.  I think it's a bit ridiculous to have to go through this game, and to find the Philosopher's Stone in the mirror, every time we want to see these missing scenes.  And I don't know if they are worth watching more than once, either.  They are quite short.  However, many of them would have made certain scenes make a little more sense. 

The interviews were good, but not great.  I would have preferred some featuring the main actors, as well.  And where is a making-of feature?  Surely they could have put even a TV feature on the DVD to make it more interesting for those of us beyond the reach of those games?

But we buy the DVD for the movie, right?  And the movie was still fantastic.  It lost some of the wonder of the first time seeing it, but I think that can be recaptured (with a bigger TV?) through the wondrous gazes of the main characters, and the playful music through it all.  I could have done without the Home Alone-like screams in unison by the three kids.  But, as I said below, the small faults in this film are more and made up for by the beauty and wonder that it shows us through children's eyes.

 

 

5 stars

December 11th, 2001 in the Theatre  
   

Wonderfully presented, terrifically acted, and with such interesting characters, I thought that the slight holes in the plot were more than made up for.

I understand what it is like to watch a book being turned into a movie.  I dread it every time.  But for things that I love, I just have to see somebody else's visualization.  So it was with Dune (both the movie and the mini-series).  And so it will be with the Fellowship of the Ring this month.  And so it has been for a long time.  But I never read the Harry Potter books, nor have I any interest in reading them.  I have enough on my plate, thanks.  So I probably enjoyed this movie more than the true fans.  

I've read elsewhere that fans of the books will find the movie lacking, and that people who are not fans will not understand the movie or find it boring.  I certainly didn't find the movie boring, and I understood it perfectly.  I just loved it.

The pursuit of magic is something that I love watching.  Harry was given just enough prelude before joining Hogwarts school of Wizardry, letting us know what a miserable life he leads in the cupboard under the stairs at his wicked aunt and uncle's house.  Though now that I think of it, I don't think he looked miserable.  He certainly wasn't Cinderella, though they always abused him verbally.  So we laugh when his cousin is locked in the python cage after Harry inadvertently let the python loose by making the glass disappear.  And we continue laughing when the letters of his acceptance into Hogwarts keep arriving, driving his uncle mad.  

Once at Hogwarts, Harry gains friends and enemies.  But they are the enemies of childhood, and they don't mean more than being bullied a little bit.  Draco and he become rivals, where that blond kid is obviously enjoying being perverse (indeed, his hwole fraternity seemed to enjoy bullying).  But no real harm comes of it, except that he tattles on Harry and his friends about being out past curfew, after which Harry nearly gets attacked by a ghost from his past.  Draco gets to look disappointed every time Harry gains the upper hand, and we grin in triumph after Draco is forced to share the punishment with Harry and go into the Dark Forest.

Harry works completely together with his friend Ron Weasley, and the class know-it-all, Hermione, with whom they grow closer and closer after every minute and every danger they face.  Ron stutters a little, and is obviously just an ordinary wizard, not able to do many of the spells the first time around, though he is obviously a great strategist.  Hermione has studied for Hogwarts for all her life, so it seems.  She knew a few rudimentary spells before arriving, and knew all about witchcraft when asked. To watch her dangling her hand in the air when Harry doesn't know the answer to several questions is just hilarious.  The actors who played both these characters were amazing.  They were cute (especially Hermione), and displayed such a broad range of emotions so very effectively.  

The hero of the story isn't featured too much more often than his friends, in a pleasant surprise.  But with the screen time he has, he also does an amazing job.  This is a character who takes things in stride; after living with his crazy aunt and uncle, no wonder he barely flinches at a three-headed dog.  He stares in wonder even as we do at the sight of a perfectly medieval shopping lane where he can buy all his school supplies.  As he enters the grand hall at Hogwarts, the amazement is all over his face.  His eyes widen at every supernatural sight.  

In fact, the scenery was absolutely beautiful.  Even the countryside where the train passes through, all the way to the dark forest, where they encounter a unicorn and a centaur.  The sets were obviously designed with love and so much care.  They were beautifully medieval, with just a hint of other-worldliness to them.  And the clothing was a mix of contemporary and old style.  It was funny to watch Harry walk through this medieval world wearing jeans and flannel!  

The plot revolves around the Philosopher's Stone (in the US, it's called the Sorcerer's Stone, for some reason), which can give a person immortality.  Hagrid, the very sentimental giant, probably the most favorite character on the screen in this film, inadvertently reveals it's identity and it's location, and a whole bunch of other things that he should not reveal!  It is guarded by Fluffy, the gigantic three-headed dog, who can be put to sleep with soothing music.  

There is some nice misdirection pointing to Professor Snape as the one who is looking to steal the stone, when it is actually another teacher.  Harry, Ron and Hermione go after the stone, fending off vicious keys (yes, door keys!) and plants, and winning a giant chess game to get through to the room where it is kept, only to find that the professor has beaten them there.  My main complaint about this part of the story is the reset button that is necessary to get everybody past the defenses.  Sure, magic can do wonders, but the chess board remained a mess for a long time after Harry and his friends won the game (Ron sacrificing himself in a terrific scene of maturity).  How long had that teacher actually been standing there?  He must have had to play chess, too.  It looks like Hermione held onto the key that got them into the room.  Why didn't the teacher do the same?  Then there would have been no way to follow him.  

The ending came a tad too abruptly for me, with the dark teacher uttering lines that seemed like they should have come from Darth Vader's lips, and then dying as Harry gets scared and turns him to stone.  But his nemesis escapes, ready for the next story, I suppose.  Valdemar didn't get much of a part, but he manipulated the teacher to get the stone for him.  It seems the Dark Side takes the soul of a person when he goes too far...  Hmmm...  where did that idea come from?  Valdemar drinks the blood of a unicorn to sustain him, but with the stone, he would return to full strength.  He had killed Harry's parents, and tried to kill Harry, too, as an infant.  But somehow Harry was invulnerable to this man, except for a curse left in the form of a lightning scar on his forehead.  The bad guy escapes as a spirit form.  

Speaking of spirits, the effects in this movie were incredible.  There wasn't one moment where I didn't actually believe that these characters were doing what they were doing, whether it was flying on broomsticks or turning from cat into human form.  The most amazing effects had to come in the Quiddich game.  The game was described to Harry (and by proxy to the viewers) in amazingly simple terms, and the visuals added so nicely to this.  It was like the Phantom Menace's podrace all over again!  Those bludgeoning balls didn't seem to play much of a part in it, though.  

Finally, the music was completely new and refreshing.  I was somehow not surprised to see John Williams' name on the musical credits.  He has created a new unique sound, a new theme for Harry Potter.  The dangers were dangerous-sounding, and the humor was very humorous!  When the troll entered the castle (which was pretty funny in itself), we were introduced to more great action-music.

There was a complexity to this movie that belies its simple plot.  The characters wound their way naturally into the plot, and just seemed to grow as the film went forward.  We cannot expect it to be as complex as the book was, even a short book.  It must find new ways to be complex and entertaining.  Some changes in style and writing are necessary; it's amazing this movie has done so well considering all the hype it had to go through.  Personally, I thought it was entertaining, wonderfully set up and executed, and in sum, a beautiful film.  The acting was superb, by children and adults alike.  And though the plot seemed thin, it was really more about Harry growing into magic rather than defeating a bad guy.  And it did all of this quite admirably.

 
   

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