Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone ★★★½

Before capturing the minds of young muggles around the world and dominating the majority of my childhood/teenage years, the Harry Potter franchise had humble beginnings in terms of its cinematic escapades and the best way to review them is to consider them completely separate entities to the far superior novels, minimalising, but not eliminating the possibility of avid book fans spouting several "where the hell is Peeves" outcrys, or recounting the number of Weasly children or fathoming the horror of JK Rowling's very human antagonist simply blowing up in the last instalment...as I have made apparent this is not an easy ask.

Hosting a lighter tone than the war torn sequels to follow, 'The Philosopher's Stone' introduces the world to the wizarding orphan Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) as he is ripped from his mundane muggle life and immersed, with the audience, into the heart of wizarding Britain, boasting a proudly beaten feel to it, from the Victorian-esque shopping district, Diagon Alley, to the grand and rather majestic school, Hogwarts.

Featuring impressive performances from its young child ensemble, the significance of these casting choices aren't fully on display here and are appreciated on a larger scale in the eight part series as the actors' skills develop (particularly the rather damp debut performance of the soon to be fantastic Emma Watson). However the all star adult cast, mostly compromising of Hogwarts teachers, are almost perfect, from the Filius Flitwick cameo played in his own comic way by Warwick Davis to the commanding stern presence of a Maggie Smith's Minerva Mcgonnagal, which stamped her own signature on the Deputy Headmaster role. While there are too many star turns to pick out individually (Robbie Coltrane's gruff Hagrid and Richard Harris's BOOK Dumbledore should be noted) the real star turn in every single Harry Potter movie is Alan Rickman's performance of mysterious potions master Severus Snape, who in my opinion not only the greatest Harry Potter character, but possibly the greatest modern literacy creation.

Christopher Columbus oozed a family friendly vibe into this movie, with some witty British humour, eye throbbing visual effects to breath life into the stunning sorcery and fast paced broomstick clad game of Quidditch. The elaborate sets effectively bring the literary castle to life (although not as well as the re-imaging in 'The prisoner of Akaban')

While being by no stretch of the imagination the best film, not helped by being in my opinion the worst book with far too much set up than was necessary this was a fun start to what became a series that dominated the 2000's.

Still waiting for my damn hogwarts letter.