Monday, March 25, 2013

Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone


Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Special effects bring a fun story to life
Cons: Slow near beginning, under used characters
The Bottom Line:
Yes, there are some flaws
But it is hard to picture
Better film of book




Harry Potter's World Comes Alive

Believe it or not, this movie was my introduction to Harry's world. When I saw Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, I was captivated by the imagination that had obviously gone into creating the initial story and this film version. Now that I'm finally reading the books, I'm taking a second look at the movies, this time as a fan of the original tales.

11 year old Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) is an orphan living with his uncle and aunt. They treated him barely better then a servant while spoiling his selfish cousin.

All that changes one day when he finds out that he's a wizard. Suddenly, he's introduced to a world that he doesn't know filled with giants and goblins. Yet is this world he's famous for surviving the attack that killed his parents. Before all these changes really sink in, he's off to Hogwarts for his first year of schooling in the art of magic.

There, he makes friends with Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson). But he also makes enemies in the form of Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton), a snobbish bully. He evens seems to have attracted the negative attention of one of the teachers.

But under all the fun, a serious danger lurks. And Harry is stumbling upon the pieces. Will he figure it out? What can an inexperienced wizard do against overwhelming powers?

What is great about this movie is how faithful it is to the book. With the changes that Hollywood usually likes to make to stories, this is a pleasant surprise. Yes, little details are changed for the sake of time, but they are so minor it doesn't matter.

And considering what they had to depict, that is truly amazing. You've got giants, goblins, trolls, flying brooms, and other magic that Harry and his classmates do. This is a very special effects heavy movie. For the most part, they pull it off well. You'll really believe that Harry is playing Quidditch (a wizard game played in the air on broomsticks). One of the main characters is a giant, and none of his scenes appear to be full of special effects. Not everything is perfect. Occasionally, some of the computer effects are obvious, especially the troll that attacks our heroes at one point.

The acting is also great. The three main characters were unknowns at the time, but they do a decent job with their parts. Many of the other characters don't have that much to do, but the actors don't let that dampen their performances at all.

The movie's faithfulness to the book is a double edged sword. It pleases the multitude of fans of the books, but it also leads to the movie's weaknesses. This book in the series is rather slow. The beginning sets up the characters and Harry's world and the plot doesn't really get going until late. This happens in the movie as well. While everything we are watching is fun, it can drag at times.

In a three hundred page novel, you have time to develop as many characters as you want. In a movie, even one that is two and a half hours long, you don't quite have that freedom. Only the most minor of the characters from the book are cut, leaving many of the characters little time to be truly developed. As I said, this isn't a reflection on the actors. Just a simple matter of finite amount of time to tell a rich story.

As I said, the first time I saw this movie, I hadn't read the books. I wasn't lost of confused for a minute. If you have no idea what the stories are all about, you'll get all you need to know to understand this story from the movie. One reason this works is that Harry is learning all the information right along with us. This helps make the exposition an important part of the story.

This movie is not perfect, but it does wonderfully bring an imaginative series to vivid life.  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone will please fans of the books without losing those who haven't read them. And it's entertaining. In the end, that's all that truly matters.

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