Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: A Movie Review

Written by William Saunders-Cummings

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I was recently able to see Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (in theaters now). As a fan of the books, I was pleasantly surprised at the director’s (Chris Columbus) ability to transpose the imagery of the author to the visual of the movie screen. The actors’ portrayal of the characters was well above average for a Book-to-Movie. The special effects in the movie were to the caliber one would expect out of the modern movie studio. The score was superbly written and quite fitting of the story. All in all, a great two hours to spend with your children, friends, or even complete strangers.

The Harry Potter series, are books of concepts as well as mystery when one looks at the scenery. The movie does extremely well in translating these building blocks into the visual arts. Often, when a book is brought to the silver screen, something is lost; but not here. The setting of the books was effectively recreated in the film, from the English Suburb, the Train Station, the Alley, and Hogwarts. The set design for Hogwarts in particular is something which other directors may wish to study, as the set designers put together an excellent blend of Victorian and Gothic architecture and pure mystery. My personal visualization of the Third floor was remarkable close to the movie’s version. It was this effective blend of these elements in which you are captured when watching Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

The actors’ character studies were well beyond what one would expect, especially considering the majority of the actors were children. Daniel Radcliff, who put together a wonderful blend of impish delight, childhood uncertainty, and downtrodden hope for the role, played Harry. Emma Watson did an excellent job as Hermione Granger, the smart-alecky student witch. Ron Weasly, Harry’s partner in crime, was portrayed with near LASAR precision by Rupert Grint. Richard Harris does a wonderful job as the fatherly Dumbledore and Alan Rickman slithers along as Professor Snape. Hagrid is one of my favorite characters and Robbie Coltrane is obviously a fan of the books with his amazingly funny portrayal of the gentle giant.

In a movie about magic, one expects perfection in visual effects. Of note is the Feast Hall of Hogwarts. The computer graphics of the spell upon the ceiling of this location was amazing. Each time it was shown, I was convinced it was the Sky, until I saw the faint outline of a buttress here, or an arch there.

The lighting of the Feast Hall in the books is accurately translated with the seemingly levitating candles and jack-o-lanterns in the movie. The Quiddich game was the highlight of these effects, however. In the game of Quiddich, the players ride flying brooms. Obviously, there isn’t such a thing in our reality, but you would be sorely tested to not believe this fast paced game was not actually filmed, instead of put together with special effects and careful film editing.

The score, composed by John Williams, is well suited for the story. The Quiddich game was accompanied by a powerful fanfare, with militaristic influences. The main theme is wonderfully played on the music boxish celeste. In showing his amazing grasps of the story, and its darker side, his “The Face of Voldemort” uses a sinister blend of lower end orchestration and powerful brass themes.

If you are looking for a good movie, with good clean fun, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is an excellent choice for anyone. It’s astonishing blend of visuals, actor portrayal, and music puts together an event well worth two hours of your time. Even the most stalwart Muggle will enjoy this film.

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