Harry Potter And The Philosophers Stone

Harry Potter is the latest phenomenon to take the children’s book and movie worlds by storm, breaking records in both domains. The film was destined never to flop, with over 100 million Harry Potter readers being desperate to see it, so it comes as no surprise that the director Chris Columbus stuck to the novel so adamantly. Having never read any of the books, but hearing from readers themselves, there are only a few passages that are different but nothing of any consequences. J K Rowling, the author, has also given her approval for the film and is said to be extremely pleased with it.

The story (for those like me, who live under a rock); Harry Potter, who’s parents have just been killed in a car accident, is sent to his Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia’s house while still a baby. Here he is constantly tormented by his ‘family’, especially by Dursley, his fat cousin. Harry also is forced to live in the cupboard under the stairs.

On his eleventh birthday he receives a letter from a mysterious school, Hogwarts School Of Witchcraft And Wizardry, informing him that he has been chosen to attend. Hagrid, a half-ogre, who delivers the letter and collects Harry, introduces him to another world, half hidden in the normal and tells Harry about his real parents. Harry’s parents, both part of the magical circle themselves, were actually killed by an evil wizard, Lord Voldemort. Because his parents we well respected and he survived Voldemort, Harry has unknowingly gained fame in the wizardry world.

Once at Hogwarts, Harry meets his teachers and makes friends and enemies alike. His main companions are Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, both arriving at the same time as Harry. This intrepid trio undercover a plot which seems to point to their Potions Master, Severus Snape, trying to steal the Philosophers Stone, a very powerful artefact being kept at the school. Obviously no-one is willing to believe a teacher, let alone one that is amongst the guardians of the Stone to be trying to steal it for himself. So our trio have to get some incriminating evidence and try to prevent the theft, whilst at the same time trying to keep up with their every day school life. Their adventure leads them to many obstacles, including the mysterious figure luring in the woods, a Quidditch match and Fluffy, the giant three-headed dog guarding the entrance of the Stones whereabouts.

Now, at the risk of upsetting the legions of Harry Potter fans, the movie was okay, but nowhere nearly as good as the media hype surrounding the film suggests.  However, seeing that this is primarily targeted at fans of the books, it would be futile to convince them that is anything other than sheer brilliance. Columbus directed the film obviously with the fans in mind, as the beautiful settings mirror the book, from the majestic surrounding and imposing towers of Hogwart to the Diagon Alley’s Dickensian charm. Its all created perfectly, with details and such as the Hogwarts Express really adding to the atmosphere.

The cast is very good, but with an ensemble, which includes Maggie Smith as Professor McGonagall, Alan Rickman as Severus Snape, Richard Harris as Professor Dumbledore and Robbie Coltrane as Gamekeeper Hagrid (who is particularly good and really embodies the character) one would expect nothing less. As for the main three children, Daniel Radcliffe is good as Harry, but at time looks like a little Harry Enfield replica! Rupert Grint is also good as Ron Weasley, Harry’s best friend bringing a little colour to the affair (mainly ginger). Unfortunately, Emma Watson (II) is awful, her whole mannerisms are far too ‘I learnt this at Drama School’ and speaks as if she is on the stage and not the silver screen. Hopefully she will be killed off in a future book (calm down, its only a film!). The only other gripe is that the special effects were weak, not in the same league as other major FX heavy films. The troll that appears halfway is a good example of poor special effects, as is the ‘stunt’ work (i.e using CGI stunt people, most noticeably during the Quidditch match) 

Harry Potter’s first foray into the movie world is a very commendable affair, very appealing to the young, but a little too self assured. Unlike most box office blockbusters, it already knows that it is the first in a series of films, so it does not have to become a self-contained hit before its sequels can receive the green light, therefore the movie can afford to take its time. In fact it is nearly 2 ½ hours long, which gives an idea on how it does take its time setting up characters and scenarios. The slight niggling points aside Harry Potter is definitely here to stay, and its legions of fans will not be disappointed.

SCORE 5/10