There are bad movies, there are good movies, there are mediocre movies and there are great movies. But every now and then a movie comes along and it changes your life. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is THE movie that started it all for me. My love for reading, my passion for writing and my addiction to film. Heck, if Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone didn’t exist, I wouldn’t be sitting on my ass all day, writing about movies in the name of work. I’ve watched the Harry Potter films a bazillion times and read the books, even more so. I even have a Harry Potter tattoo.
We all know the story about the boy who lived and so, I will not dive into that in detail. And for those of you who have not watched/read Harry Potter, it’s about damn time you crawled outta the rock you’ve been hibernating under. Watching this movie (in concert) again a couple of days ago was a peculiar experience. The movie that I once found to be the embodiment of PERFECTION, isn’t anymore. That’s the thing about art: Your perception and interpretation of it changes as you gain different experiences in life.
There are things in this movie that are outright silly and I’m not talking about moving staircases and flying broomsticks. Those are completely logical. But as hundreds (maybe thousands) of letters bombard into Number 4 Privet Drive, why does the eleven-year-old Harry Potter jump in the air, repeatedly, to grab one? He literally takes a good 10 seconds, maybe more. Couldn’t he have just picked one up from the floor?
And did Gryffindor really deserve to win the House Cup? I mean, sure, awarding Ron, Hermione and Harry 160 points is fine. They did defeat Professor Quirrell and Voldemort, after all. But c’mon, Neville Longbottom does not deserve 10 points for getting his ass handed to him by Hermione. Also when it comes to Quidditch, why bother scoring regular points at all, when catching the Snitch gives you 150 points? Nit-picking? Perhaps. Our heroes, played by Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint weren’t exactly the best child actors you’ll ever see, either. Had this been the first time watching this film, I am certain I would have cringed at many of their line deliveries. Of course, in retrospect, it doesn’t really matter, considering how good their performances are from the 3rd movie onwards.
Despite its many flaws, I LOVE this movie. We live in an era where everyone thinks it’s cool shit to make a movie that laughs at itself. Many critics complain when a movie takes itself too seriously and hail movies like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 and Thor: Ragnarok for being able to poke fun at themselves. The characters in these movies seem to know that they’re in fictional universes and are constantly making fourth-wall-breaking jokes. Not everybody is Deadpool, so stop trying to be. The more I think about Ragnarok, the more it irks me. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone could have easily been one of those movies.
The Quidditch sequence is riveting, the chess game with huge, deadly pieces, an absolute thrill ride.
Thankfully, director Chris Columbus fully embraces the fact that this is a fully-fledged fantasy adventure and brings JK Rowling’s fantastic novel to life in the most earnest of ways. Just like Star Wars and Indiana Jones, this is a movie that DOES take itself seriously. Don’t get me wrong, this movie isn’t void of humour. In fact, there are numerous occasions throughout this film in which I find myself cracking up. But the humour in this film is situational and organic. Characters don’t look at the camera, wink and crack a joke. When Harry ignores Hermione’s lectures and flies off on his broom, Hermione says, “what an idiot.” The crowd burst out laughing. It’s funny, sure, but it’s exactly what a person of her character would say in the real world. As a result, despite the hilarious nature of that moment, we’re not taken out of the movie.
Columbus doesn’t just make us care about the protagonists, Harry, Ron and Hermione’s journey, but also constantly makes us excited about the world in which the adventure takes place. He does so by adapting Rowling’s wonderfully penned immaculate reality — a world that feels very different from ours, yet very much believable — to perfection. It is consistent, detailed and highly imaginative.
Objectively, I may know that Rowling’s wizarding world is a work of fiction, yet over the years, I have genuinely wondered if the reason I haven’t received my Hogwarts letter, is because I’m a muggle. I can’t be, right?? Columbus’ attention to detail makes this world feel REAL and lived in. Even something as ridiculous as running into a wall at King’s Cross or a talking hat that sorts you into your houses, feel authentic. So much so, that all these years later, fans of the franchise still talk about what houses we belong to and even find it necessary to mention it on our Tinder profiles. #RavenclawAndProud #FOffSlytherin I’m not one who’s very interested in traveling the world, yet one of my biggest dreams is to go on the Harry Potter tour at the Warner Bros studios in London just to buy a wand. RM 300 for a piece of wood? Take my money!
Even the adult cast, consisting of a bunch of A-list British actors, play their roles sincerely just like they would in a Sundance thumbsucker. The late, great Alan Rickman is a standout in particular. As bizarre as it may be to use the word “nuanced” in a fantasy movie, it definitely holds true to Rickman’s performance. It’s not easy to play a bad guy, who’s actually a good guy, who’s actually a bad guy, who’s actually a good guy. Rickman should have gotten an Oscar nomination for his performance in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, but that’s a story for another day. Maggie Smith and Richard Harris are both excellent in their respective roles as Professor McGonagall and Albus Dumbledore, too. Same can be said for Robbie Coltrane as Hagrid.
The action sequences are gratifying. While the CG looks rather dated, it does not dampen the excitement one bit. The Quidditch sequence is riveting, the chess game with huge, deadly pieces, an absolute thrill ride. In between those are flying keys, philosophical centaurs, dingy libraries and a dead unicorn. Not forgetting cellars, hidden passages, and a forbidden forest that our protagonists are forced to explore. These scenes are distinct and memorable; a rare feat in movies these days.
The 2 hours and 32 minutes’ runtime may seem rather long for a children’s movie. Is it a children’s movie, though? Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is a transportive experience, rich in wonder, joy, and discovery. The fact that my eyes still tear up when we get a glimpse of the Great Hall in Hogwarts for the first time, will tell you everything you need to know.