Once upon a time, when I was about 12-years-old, I remember vividly being followed by this worldwide phenomenon named “Harry Potter”. Almost every kid talked about it, I saw posters, bags, notebooks, and other goodies with the trio’s sticker plastered on them. It annoyed me to the core and to make things even worse, some male chauvinist (duh) classmates I have had back then, made fun of the idea of me buying the books. That was history. Until one day, this movie was brought before me and I watched it. The experience was so liberating that I ended up becoming a Potterhead and brought all the books and movies. If you haven’t read or watched HP then ensure that you start from the beginning or else, you won’t be in touch with the stories properly. For me, watching this film again was equivalent to revisiting my childhood days to which Jo Rowling’s imagination has contributed massively.
We witness Dumbledore (Richard Harris), McGonagall (Maggie Smith) and Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) leaving an infant Harry Potter near his aunt’s door. We witness him suffering from exploitation and abuse from his maternal aunt and her family, but then magic saves him. On his 11th birthday, Hagrid comes to take him to where he belongs, Hogwarts school of witchcraft and wizardry.
We are introduced to the beloved characters, awkward yet loyal Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint), racist and loathsome Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton), mysterious yet charismatic Prof Snape (Alan Rickman), adorable Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis) and, my personal favorite, Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), the cleverest witch of her age.
Harry lives a thrilling life in Hogwarts and eventually, he begins to uncover many mysteries surrounding the foundations which may put the students at jeopardy and bring back the malevolent wizard Lord Voldemort, who is also responsible for the death of Harry’s parents.
The philosopher’s stone is the first story from the blockbuster series, so in a way, it has a juvenile touch, whether it is music or the tone. Watching the movie was just like reading a book with an ample amount of thrills, suspense, and depth for characters. The tone of the film was equivalent to the home alone series and other films by Columbus of that genre. The movie is meant for everyone irrespective of age, gender, and taste. Since I watched the film before reading the book, the former was a better experience for me although it is quite understood that the casting dept has left out many characteristics of the original version by JK Rowling. Harry is supposed to have curly hair and much leaner structure, the film features a very handsome looking boy. There are no freckles on Ron Weasley’s face and Hermione, in spite of her big front teeth and bushy brown hair is already beautiful.
But, two thumbs up for the casting of the adult characters notably McGonagall, Dumbledore, and Snape. Richard Harris was a great actor and I missed him as Dumbledore though Michael Gambon added his cents as the series went on. Alan Rickman as Severus Snape is the best thing that happened to this series, along with Helena Bonham Carter, and we will remember his straight face and tremendous pauses in between sentences. Daniel Radcliffe showed us Harry, the way we wanted to see him, but he does seem to be having trouble with emotion transcendence and looks less impressive next to Emma and Rupert’s lively acting. Rupert Grint acts with ease and Emma Watson is punchy as well as elegant. Her performance contributed a lot to Hermione’s cleverness and charismatic nature. Hermione is the vociferous character from the series. Kudos to Jo Rowling for creating an environment that is gender neutral though the movie lacked proper diversity. Robbie Coltrane stuck to the core standard and Dame Maggie Smith never disappoints. Anybody will want a teacher like Prof McGonagall. There are many memorable moments, notably; Seamus’s experiments, Harry’s first flight, Snape’s magic during Quidditch match, Hermione raising her hands when Snape asks Harry tough questions, and the ending.
The director’s vision contributed to the tone and therefore, apt people were chosen to direct the series. The movie created Hogwarts, the magic, and the places where Harry spent his days finding his inner self. Another positive aspect is the screenplay’s loyalty towards the original source material in terms of the structuring and addition of plot points. Philosopher’s stone is the only movie that follows Jo’s story with close to perfection when compared to the other films. Even if there were changes, it was to create a stronger pacing. Although Harry’s life before Hogwarts and his days learning magic and as the seeker is shown well, the climax was too abrupt after the massive buildup. The twist will blow your mind as you will not see it coming, plus they paid attention to details. That should have been polished better. Another unsung hero is the composer John Williams for bringing Harry to life with his stupendous scores. I would listen to the tracks again and again. A film’s success in conveying the emotions lies with the apt usage of the music. Williams’s music created the childish nature as well as a friendly environment.
Philosopher’s stone is a wonderful experience which created the fantasy world where children could seek fun along with determination, inner strength, and doing what is right in the face of adversity. Above all, the love and friendship will prevail.