Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone ★★★

No. 223:
Empire Magazines Greatest Challenge: 301 films, 301 words

So, this is where it all began. The tale of a young boy who discovers he is a wizard, and is whisked away to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to begin his magical education, making many new friends and enemies along the way.

The film is competently handled and directed by Chris Columbus, a person already knowledgeable of family friendly pictures. The film boasts some wonderfully imaginative visual effects, with incredible set, makeup and dress designs that really immerse you into this unseen world. The film is shot with enough colour and vibrancy to maintain attention, and the Quidditch Match set-piece is fantastic. Columbus is relatively safe in that he’s not too adventurous when shooting scenes. There’s enough whimsy in the dialogue with a faithful screenplay by Steve Kloves, that’s not afraid of trying getting its hands through heavy exposition, while delving into some shadier themes when necessary,

Unfortunately, in comparison to its sequels, the Columbus films are the weaker of the series. The whimsical atmosphere can reach ample levels that really don’t grant the plot much weight beyond its episodic framework, and falters in comparison to the labyrinthine storyline that weaves through its sequels. Also, the child actors aren’t great at all on this first outing. They can be excused due to their age at the time, but some of the dialogue readings are insufferably wooden and matter-of-fact. But the supporting cast of big name British starts are all game and pull things off very convincingly. The fantasy is enchanting and will captivate the minds of both children and adults alike, and the film has its share of accessible humour for all ages which is more than admirable. It’s a solid adaptation that sticks to its guns, and passes the candle to more capable hands as the story unfolds.

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