Review: ‘Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone’

The film version dares to be as big as the book and succeeds. True fans may wince at the bits tweaked and nipped for running time, but the wonders of DVD should satisfy even them soon enough.

Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) knew nothing of magic since he had grown up with Muggles (non-magial folk), but all that changes when Harry receives an invitation to Hogwart’s magic school on his eleventh birthday. Collected by Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) to catch him up on who he is and ready him for school, Harry discovers he is already famous for having vanquished a great foe while still an infant, but this is only known among the secret society of witches and wizards hidden throughout the world. While still getting used new things such as mail being delivered by owls and photographs that won’t keep still, Harry becomes involved with a secret conspiracy that may date back to the dark wizard that tried to kill Harry… and may yet try again.

J. K. Rowling’s children’s story (which is not necessarily just for children) has finally reached the silver screen and is already set to be followed by all the rest of her Harry Potter books translated to film. Set in modern-day Great Britain, every detail from the book has been carefully integrated anywhere and everywhere it could be, bringing Harry Potter’s world to life. It’s been said that the rough cut of all the footage clocked in at about four hours, so it was no surpirse to see a scene missing here or a character’s part cut back considerably as a result. ‘Potter Purists’ may complain about what’s missing, but what remains makes for a solid film that entertains all ages; Harry Potter is genuinely a family film.

All three children playing the leads of Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and his friends, Ron and Hermione (Rupert Grint and Emma Watson), seem stiff at first but open up quickly and hold their own, each comfortably portraying their characters. Robbie Coltrane IS Hagrid, and the author herself is said to have called and secured the actor herself. Richard Harris becomes Dumbledore, and might have passed if not for the insistance of his grandchildren. But with so much to show and so much story to tell, the parts of many players simply had no time to be as involved or as strong as they were in the book; that top-name actors and actresses such as Warwick Davis, John Hurt, Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, and John Cleese were mostly lured for their own love of the book or the insistance of relatives that were. Harry Potter is a children’s story at heart, and so the story is rightfully focused on them.

The highlight of the film is the Quidditch match, a game played by magical folk on broomsticks that resembles three-dimensional hockey (and is just as dangerous as it sounds) with a few additional magical elements thrown in. The second half of the film that follows the spectacle nearly feels like another film, especially since the film’s ending cannot quite reach the same sense of accomplishment that the Quidditch match achieves. This, then, is the one drawback to seeing Harry Potter instead of reading it; while it is easier to convey how much more important the film’s end is when read from the text, the visual effects department nearly underwhelm it by showing more detail and telling less story at the wizard’s ball game. If you really want the full impact of the film’s ending, you’ll still have to read the book (if you Muggles haven’t already.)

Oh, and ‘Hermione’ is pronounced /her-MY-oh-knee/, just so you know.

(a enchanted 3 and a half out of 4 skulls)