Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone ★★★

And so begins my journey into the wizarding world of Harry Potter.

Honestly, I don't even know where to start. The first thing I'll say is that, from someone who's never read/seen any of the books/films, this movie does a lot of things right. There is so much to absorb from the source material, and I think Chris Columbus does an exceptional job exploring the world and the characters. While a lot of it does feel like precursors to more fleshed out character development in later films, it serves its purpose within the context of this initial installment. I'm compelled to learn more about these characters and their lives. That's one thing that I think was handled really well, the balance of style and substance, where substance includes each plot point while style involves the classrooms, the school itself, and the quidditch match(es).

Speaking of which, can we just step back for a moment and think about how absolutely terrible that game is? I mean, seriously, the structure of the ball, and the hoops, and the goalie, and the attackers is pretty well thought out. Oh, but we need Harry to be an important player... let's throw in another random ball that only he gets to chase after. And if he catches it, they instant win! It's like taking a basketball game, adding a tennis ball, and telling one kid, "While the rest of your team is playing basketball, you throw this tennis ball at the wall. If you make it through a window, your team wins automatically." Like, are you trying to make that kid feel completely useless? But I digress; back to the plot.

Apart from the few times where I felt the foreshadowing was a little too in-my-face, and apart from the lazy element of characters learning information from multiple "I shouldn't have said that" moments, this is a decent story. Like I said, the balance between actual plot points, and the development of the world within the film is handled pretty well. I can honestly say that I was never aware of the 2.5 hour runtime, because I consistently felt like I was seeing or learning something new(ish) about the world.

Now, I want to talk about the actors, but it's late and I can't think of a good transition sentence to get to acting. Speaking of acting, I actually think there's something to be said about these kids. Sure, we already know they grow up to be superstars because of this franchise, but this was their first big break, and I'm mildly impressed. Truth be told, I think the line delivery is actually really good on the kids' parts. Everything else, though, felt pretty fake. From their mannerisms, to their body language, to the expressions on their little, twerp faces, it all felt overtly scripted. Maybe it's bad direction. Maybe it's because their children. Oh well. As for the adults, Robbie Coltrane and Alan Rickman are really the only noteworthy performances.

Segue.

Technically speaking, I'm kind of torn. I want to say the film has a lot going for it; the establishing shots of Hogwarts, and even some of the mythical creatures are dec enough to convince me that they're a part of the world. When it really flies off the rails, though, is whenever they try to CG a human being. It's always noticeably fake, and kind of brings me out of the film. The biggest factor in my uncertainty about the effects is that Fellowship of the Ring was released the same year, and even though I haven't seen that film in years, I'm pretty sure it looked better than this (It's also worth mentioning that this movie had a budget $32 million higher than Fellowship). Still, I can't complain too much, as each time I got distracted by poor effects, I was swiftly brought back into the world the film had created.

As a whole, Sorcerer's Stone is a solid introduction to a vast world with distinct characters. I can't say that I necessarily loved it, as I was reminded, several times, by the less-than-stellar effects, that I was simply watching a movie. Still, I'm undeniably engaged, and eager to see what new adventures lie ahead.

P.S. - I really hope Emma Watson grows out of her nattering vixen phase, because I can't stand her in this.

P.S.S - I didn't realize I had so much to say about this movie #sorrynotsorry

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