The first film in the eight film series is by far the weakest. That is not to say it is not a good movie, but it had the most challenges to overcome including the fact that most of the movie is used to set up the world of the wizards and Hogwarts school instead of a traditional story.
It is very clear that the first film is aimed at children. There are still dark elements and a sense of danger, but the creature effects are not quite as dark as the later films. Even some of the spookier scenes don’t have the edge or the drama behind them that the future installments do. If Director Christopher Columbus had wanted, he could have made a much darker movie very easily, but that was not the point with this film. Among the seven films Sorcerer’s Stone is easily the most family friendly.
Steve Kloves who adapted all the Harry Potter movies from book to screen, seems to be feeling his way out in the first one as well. Some elements from the book that were in the first film were not good choices like keeping the point system for the school. Within the context of the book it made more sense, but on the screen it just seems silly, especially following the battle with a ghostly Voldemort. But he did have a tall task in making a story that is built almost entirely on exposition entertaining, and in this I think he succeeded.
The casting in these movies are second to none. To have such a high quality cast and have them stay through the duration of eight movies over a decade of time is unheard of. The most inspired bit of casting is Alan Rickman as Snape, who is awesome in the few scenes he gets in the initial film. My favorite scene in the first movie is Harry’s first day in Snape’s class. Among the three children actors who star in the movie Daniel Radcliff provided the strongest performance between them. However all three children are starring in their first film and it shows. Part of the charm of the series is watching these three children grow into their roles and as the series progresses so do their acting ability.
What the first movie does best is capture the awe and magic of the wizard world. They move briskly through the different settings. Every location is fully realized and really brings the movie to life. Places like Daigon Ally, a wizard town hidden by magic, really has the look and feel of an exotic market place. The real magic is in Hogwarts School of Magic itself as both the exterior and interior almost act like a character in the film rather than a set. So many great details such as the vast cafeteria room with the magic roof to the moving staircases make the school mysterious, fun and forbidding.
Overall the first movie feels like a visual highlight reel of the book as opposed to a standalone movie. They did a great job of creating the world of the wizards and establishing the vast number of characters and places but it never feels like a complete story. However this was the point of the first book and so the first movie really didn’t have a fair chance to be much more than that either. Thankfully the books get better with each story as do the movies. The Sorcerer’s Stone lays a solid foundation for the future of the series and the information given here pays off in later films.
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Justin Buettner is Style's resident movie dude! How did he get this role? Well, he graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a Bachelor of Arts in film Production and a duel minor in Animation and Business with an emphasis in the entertainment field. He later went on to work on several independent films in various key roles including writer and later worked in the special effects field as a motion capture artist. He has since relocated to the Sacramento area with his family and continues writing for small independent films in addition to his movie reviews for Style Magazine.
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