Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone ★★★


It's corny as hell and these kids can't act (for now!), but there's no better go-to for the warm 'n fuzzies than this. Looking at it through older eyes (probably haven't watched the entire thing in at least a decade), the movie is most impressive in terms of its aesthetics, both visual and aural. The immense amount of creative, durable groundwork it laid in its production/costume design is staggering, and I've now come to the conclusion this is John William's best work.

It has aged rather poorly in many respects, but most apparent is just how disjointed and inconsequential a majority of the plot is. The book's episodic structure would have worked better as a television show (which we definitely would have gotten nowadays) or if some of the thinner threads were shorn off. As is, there's barely a narrative here. What we get instead is a breathless introduction to an endless stream of imaginative concepts that have been painstakingly visually realized and remain successful in its ability to elicit a sense awe from this wonderful wizarding world. I have to concede that Philosopher's Stone isn't a great story, but it is an immersive experience nonetheless.

So many years later, despite the dated CGI, I still found myself at many points re-experiencing that old childhood feeling of desperately wishing I were in this world, riding the Hogwarts express while eating chocolate frogs, playing wizard chess in the Great Hall on a cold winters' day, hanging out with Hagrid in his hut and receiving wisdom from Albus himself. There is still some magic in me yet.

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