Sunday, December 22, 2013

Movie #234: Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is, of course, the first movie based on the absurdly possible series of fantasy novels by J.K. Rowling, just in case you live under a rock. It stars Robbie Coltrane, Richard Harris, Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, and Ian Hart, and introduces Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, and Daniel Radcliffe as the titular character (Harry, not the stone).

It's basically every Chosen One trope ever - Harry is orphaned as a baby because an evil wizard murdered his parents. At age 11, living as a neglected and abused child with his uncle (Richard Griffiths) and his aunt (Fiona Shaw), he gets a letter delivered by owl (which they don't let him read). And then he gets a visit from a huge fellow named Hagrid (Coltrane, perfectly cast), who reveals to him the larger wizarding world, of which he is a part by birthright. Oh, and his parents left him rich (in wizard money), but he doesn't really spend it, because it makes him feel weird.

Going to Hogwart's School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, he meets slacker comic relief Ron Weasley (Grint) and mousy know-it-all Hermione (Watson), and we basically watch Harry gawking at all the awesome magic. He learns charms and potions (the latter from the obviously evil Professor Snape, played by Rickman) and defense against the Dark Arts, taught by the actually evil Professor Quirrel (Hart).

The evil wizard Voldemort, y'see, didn't die so much as merge with Quirrel, and tries to kill Harry and get to the titular stone. There's a lot more to it, of course - even with everything they cut out, the story is is dense, and introduces the Forbidden Forest and the centaurs therein, the magical sport of Quidditch, the propensity for Headmaster Dumbledore (Harris, for now) to let little kids do his dirty work, and so forth.

If it sounds like I'm down on the story, I'm really not. The first couple of movies are disappointing, I think because Chris Columbus didn't know (or wasn't allowed to choose) what to cut and what to simplify. As such, the movies are very much like the books, but they feel overstuffed and overlong. It improves at part 3, but we'll get there. As it is, my kids enjoyed this one, and they're about the right age.

My grade: B
Rewatch value: Medium-high

Next up: The Dark Knight Rises