Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001)
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Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Robbie Coltrane, Richard Harris, Maggie Smith, Zoe Wanamaker, Alan Rickman, Ian Hart, John Hurt, Tom Felton, Harry Melling, Richard Griffiths, Fiona Shaw, John Cleese, Warwick Davis, Julie Walters, Sean Biggerstaff, David Bradley, Matthew Lewis
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|Movie Review by AJ |
April 13th, 2006
I have often considered J.K. Rowling, the talented author who has crafted the elaborate storylines and richly-detailed mythology (as well as a host of unique characters) of the Harry Potter universe, to be the Quentin Tarantino of fantasy fiction. Okay, she's not as egotistical and has a much smaller forehead, plus female, but the analogy makes sense. Tarantino takes familiar genres as well as their clichés and conventions, then reworks those conventions and the boundaries of the genre itself into something that feels fresh and new while being anything but fresh and new. Let's face it: Witches, wizards, gifted boys, and schools of magic are nothing new. But Rowling, with that wonderful Tarantino-esque ability she possesses, has made those trite conventions blazingly fresh inventions.
Based on the first of seven planned novels (five of which are already on shelves at the time of this writing), Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone follows the boy of the title from awkward, mistreated orphan to a hero containing an amount of power he never expected. As a small infant, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) is left on the doorstep of his Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia Dursley's (Richard Griffiths and Fiona Shaw, respectively) house at 4 Privet Drive by wise old wizard Albus Dumbeldore (Richard Harris) when his parents are killed by the most powerful, as well as evil, wizard in the world, Lord Voldemort (the voice of Richard Bremmer). However, when Voldemort (who is so powerful and frightening that those in the wizarding world refer to him as He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named) tries to kill little Harry, he somehow loses all of his powers and goes into hiding. Thus, Harry becomes an instantly renowned hero for something he won't even remember doing, and which gave him a peculiar lightning-shaped scar on his forehead.
Harry grows up completely ignorant of his magical roots by an aunt and uncle who despise that side of their family, and therefore, when he receives letters inked in emerald green accepting him into Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, he is rightfully confused. His uncle takes the letters away from him, but they keep on coming, so he takes his family, including his boy Dudley (Harry Melling), miles away from home. On his eleventh birthday, Harry is met by an extremely large man named Rubeus Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane, who is absolutely as pitch-perfect as they come), who whisks him away from his aunt and uncle into the wizarding world, where he goes to Hogwarts, makes friends with comical Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and brainy Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), and encounters a terrible evil which uncovers an inkling of the past he knows nothing of.
Chris Columbus certainly does not belong on any list of best directors ever, and while his work here seems to be mostly routine (as it is in all of his films), it's the material and those performing it that make the film really shine. Steve Kloves has been extremely faithful in adapting J.K. Rowling's fantastic debut novel, and while a less literal interpretation may have been interesting, the viewer really has no basis on which to complain, except for maybe some oddly-worded dialogue. There are plenty of thrills and laughs, and even some very slight scares, and it's all in great fun. Though Voldemort kinda scared the crap out of me.
Daniel Radcliffe looks and acts an uncanny amount like Harry Potter...it's really, truly amazing, and a better casting decision could not have been made. His appearance contributes a lot to the success of Sorcerer's Stone. Rupert Grint serves well as Ron, though he grates a little, and Emma Watson is delightfully perfect as Hermione. Richard Harris plays the part of gentle benefactor in Dumbledore, doing it exceedingly well. As stated before, Robbie Coltrane is spectacular as Hagrid. However, he doesn't steal the show away from Alan Rickman, who does a positively dead-on characterization of Professor Severus Snape, the resident potions master at Hogwarts. One cannot forget to mention Maggie Smith as Professor Minerva McGonagall, if only because her name adds to a roster of already fine British actors.
My only real qualms with this first entry into the Harry Potter saga are the special effects. Most of them are quite nice, especially the brick wall opening up into Diagon Alley, but there are some creatures and human characters that come out looking remarkably fake, even if they aren't meant to be realistic in the slightest. However, as I mentioned above, what really makes Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone a delight is the material and those performing it, who strike a magical spark that completely powers this wondrous fantasy.
A spell issues from Hollywood's mostly blackened wand that actually resembles something magical.
--Courtesy of REELPICKS.CJB.NET--
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