This was a near impossible task with a very decent result. Translating the epic story and themes and feel of Harry Potter into the celluloid world and not angering the devoted fanbase is not something any wizard would attempt. But thankfully, with much control and input from J.K., so much of what we love about Harry survives Hollywood and even thrives.
As a note, I usually do not partake in a dvd review unless I have seen all the extras, commentaries, easter eggs, and assorted other goodies available. Call it my anal-retentive crazy side, but I like to immerse myself fully in something I like this much. But not all the dvd’s in this series that I have come with these specials. Much crying now ensues. And the extras will be consumed by me soon enough, which shall be fun.
Mush of my liking of the movie Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is how much is harvested from the delightful source material. From characters matching what you expect in your mind’s eye to Hogwart’s moving and creaking just like it should to Hagrid being the most amazing Hagrid. Let me be clear on this one point, Hagrid Rocks! Slightly mushed cake and all.
With all the absolutely essential parts in place, the movie presents a necessarily streamlined version of the story. This works for what they have to do here, compressing everything into two hours and a half. Very early on in my viewing, my mind switched the Harry Potter movie cannon into a parallel universe. It is the only way to enjoy the films for what they present and not drive your senses crazy because a favourite scene or character vanishes or is given short shift. Everytime a little something you consider essential does not make the cut, a little piece of you dies. Sounds dramatic, but to a Potterhead it is very serious.
I can’t help but feel that Harry Potter should have been into a television series, 12 episodes a year, seven years in total. This way the story gets to expand and breathe like J.K. and the fans rightly deserve. Maybe possibly in ten years time or so this might become a reality.
But back to what we have and not to what we want. Despite the limitations of the format, there is so much to love and cheer on about with this movie. Daniel Radcliffe is Harry Potter, and seeing him living in those baggy ugly hand me down clothes from that dastardly Dudley brings the written word to life. Radcliffe is amazing, for such a young age, with conveying so much. His first encounter with wizard folk feels just as astonishing as the book. And with the magic slowly dripping back into Harry’s life, we viewers know what Harry feels as Radcliffe makes us believe.
I always found Ron whiny in the book, and the movie keeps that annoying trait going as well. Hermione on the printed page is marvelous, but in the film can be bothersome with her haughtiness. Maybe it is simply seeing her on screen. Also I found Richard Harris as Dumbledore rather dull and miscast. That will guarantee some hate mail, but I really do not see his appeal. One obvious deletion which I sorely missed was Peeves, my favourite Hogwart’s ghost. Kept waiting for him to pop up, cause mischief, and scoot along.
One thread through all eight movies which pleased me immensely was the theme music. Every moment of that melody just caused giddy tingles, priming my senses for what would come next. And what came next was always joyful and entertaining.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is a worthy first effort to set the stage and tell the beginners tale. Everything is in place whatever comes next, and we cannot wait.
P.S. Harry Potter is copyright 2012 to J.K. Rowling.