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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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,
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.