Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Movie and Book – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)

I am re-reading and re-watching all of the Harry Potter books and movies.  You can find info about this and links to all related posts here.

Plot (no spoilers):  Harry Potter grows up not realizing that he comes from a legacy of wizards and witches.  He is raised by his aunt and uncle after his parents die and they keep this a secret from him.  It isn’t until his eleventh birthday when he gets contacted by Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry that he realizes that he has some special gifts.  He makes friends with fellow first year students Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger and the three become the main characters for the entire series.  Each book covers the next year in Harry Potter’s life, up to age 17.  He finds day to day challenges in learning magic and in the actions of some of his schoolmates and professors.  He finds bigger challenges in the danger provided by Voldemort, the evil wizard who killed Harry’s parents.

Thoughts about the book:  It was as quick a read as I remembered.  The simple sentence structure and length of just over 300 pages meant it only took four hours to read, unlike the last few which took something like 12 hours the first time through.  I hadn’t remembered that it was more than a third of the way into the book before Harry ever reached Hogwarts.  I also hadn’t remembered that Ron originally didn’t like Hermione that much because she was always showing off how smart she was.  Sirius Black was actually mentioned in the very first chapter: it’s who Hagrid got the motorcycle from that he was riding when he brought the infant Harry to Dumbledore.  Several of the students who would play larger parts later in the series were mentioned by name during the Sorting Hat sequence, even though they didn’t appear in this book again.  The Ministry of Magic, which will play a bigger role as the series goes on, was also mentioned.  There was an inconsistency with later books: at one point Dumbledore has gone to London and it’s going to take him a day to fly there and return, whereas in later books we find out adult wizards can travel instantaneously.  Some of the dangerous situations the kids were put in, not by themselves, but by adults, seemed really wrong, especially with how real those dangers are shown to be later in the series.

Thoughts about the movie:  God, the kids look young now.  What a difference ten years makes.  It was the film debut for Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley) and Emma Watson (Hermione Granger).  Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) had been in a couple of movies prior to this and it showed.  He seemed to be the most mature of the three, even though they were all 10-11 years old.  Someone must have stressed the importance of diction to Emma Watson because she was e-nun-ci-a-ting almost every word with exaggerated mouth movements.  Both she, and to a lesser extent Rupert Grint, were doing the “child acting” thing where they were acting like how they thought adults looked, instead of being more natural.  All three got better at their craft as they went along.  Even when the movie first came out the cgi was only just okay and now it looks quite dated.  It is especially noticeable with the all-cgi creatures such as the troll and Fluffy (the three headed dog).  There were a couple of horrific deaths shown onscreen and I’m a little surprised that it got a PG rating instead of PG-13.

Big Names and Familiar Faces:  This movie started the series trend of having well known U.K. actors/actresses playing roles both across many movies, and in smaller cameos within only one or two movies.  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone has Richard Harris (who took the role of Headmaster Albus Dumbledore only because his eleven year old granddaughter threatened to never speak to him again if he didn’t), Dame Maggie Smith (Professor Minerva McGonagall), Robbie Coltrane (Rubeus Hagrid), Fiona Shaw (Aunt Petunia Dursley), Richard Griffiths (Uncle Vernon Dursley), Ian Hart (Professor Quirrell), Warwick Davis (dual roles as Professor Flitwick and a goblin teller), Verne Troyer (Griphook, the vault goblin), John Hurt (Mr. Ollivander, the wand seller), Julie Walters (Mrs. Weasley), John Cleese (Nearly Headless Nick), David Bradley (Argus Filch), Alan Rickman (Professor Severus Snape), and Zoe Wanamaker (Madame Hooch, the flying instructor).  In addition, I recognized many of the child actors who ended up appearing across all of the movies.  The filmmakers did a very good job with maintaining consistency in casting.  Even little Ginny Weasley, who was too young to go to Hogwarts and had only a couple of lines, was played by the same actress (Bonnie Wright) who would play the character in all the later movies when her role was expanded.

Thoughts on the book vs. the movie:  The movie is a very faithful adaptation.  The biggest changes were Harry not meeting Draco Malfoy (Tom Fenton) until he gets to Hogwarts and the removal of one of the challenges to get to the stone.  In the book Harry and Draco meet in Diagon Alley.  In the movie much of their dialogue from this scene was moved to when they meet at Hogwarts, so nothing really was lost.  I kind of missed not seeing the logic challenge, but I guess the filmmakers decided that the movie was already running long enough and it might have slowed things down.  The other challenges with the dog, the keys, and the plant were changed slightly, too.  The movie’s chess game challenge scene was quite a bit more emotional than in the book and all three kids did a great job with it.  In casting the three leads, both Radcliffe and Grint look quite a bit like their characters as they are described in the books.  In regards to Hermione, in the book she is described as kind of plain and she has big buck teeth.  Emma Watson was a little cutie in the first movie and even though they tried messing her hair up, she didn’t look much like the book Hermione.

Old rating vs. new rating:  I originally rated this movie 3 stars and I am keeping it there.  If I did half ratings I would move it up to 3 ½ stars.

Chip’s Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

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  1. I love the book and movie reviews, it's so much more accurate and you can actually analyze it from both perspectives, both fresh in your mind! Can't wait for the next ones! Great job!

  2. @Aziza - thanks for the kind words.