Sunday, January 22, 2017

Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone

Movie Name: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Year of Release: 2001
Director: Chris Columbus
Stars: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Richard Harris, Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, Robbie Coltrane, Ian Hart, Fiona Shaw, Richard Griffiths, John Hurt, Julie Walters, Matthew Lewis, Bonnie Wright, Tom Felton, John Cleese, Zoe Wanamaker, Adrian Rawlins, Geraldine Somerville, Chris Rankin
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6
Watch it on Amazon

These days everything that pertains to the "Harry Potter" universe, is of course, met with applause and excitement. J.K. Rowling has successfully built a universe around this character, that has transcended language and demographics, and is beloved by everyone. When the first film debuted in 2001, it came through the hand of Chris Columbus, who had experienced quite a lot of success with "Home Alone", "Mrs. Doubtfire" and as the writer of such iconic 80s titles as Joe Dante's "Gremlins" and  Richard Donner's "The Goonies". The film introduces us to Harry Potter, a young orphan boy, who is the sole survivor in his family of a near fatal attack by a malevolent wizard by the name of Voldemort. Harry grows under the poor tutelage of his uncle and aunt, until on his 11th birthday he is made aware he has been accepted to the school of magic, by the name of Hogwarts. He is instructed on how to get there by a gentle giant, by the name of Hagrid, who guides him through the logistics of getting materials needed. While going to the school he quickly makes friends with Ron Weasley and the razor sharp and intelligent Hermione Granger. These three embark on a series of adventures that will change their young lives.
Establishing a universe for a known literary property is always a difficult task. There are a lot of expectations from fans and readers, though ultimately a director really has to make the property his own and place his point of view on the material. Chris Columbus doesn't really manage to create a very identifiable or particularly relevant piece of work with this film - he illustrates the story, without giving the material enough dimension to live as a memorable film (there isn't much of an antagonist in the film, since the character is never given much to do). The young actors, though quite well cast, are still learning their craft, and their skills are still being honed, something that the later films showcase quite well. It's a film where the production values speak louder than its content and dynamics - it's more about exposition, that engagement. It's a film far from perfect, that yet contains enough interest from the celebrated supporting British cast, and the beautiful cinematography from John Seale (responsible for George Miller's "Mad Max: Fury Road" for instance). A mildly entertaining endeavor from a series that has better films.