Harry Potter celebration is here, which means all movie review bloggers are required, by law, to review all 9 Harry Potter movies (the 8 originals and Fantastic Beasts). Or maybe I just wanted to because I really, really love this franchise.
So Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, the second Fantastic Beasts movie and a movie that I’m really excited for, is coming out later this year. That, accompanied by the ongoing Harry Potter Celebration, makes for a great time to review these movies. Therefore, over the coming couple of months, I will be reviewing every Harry Potter movie thus far. So, just as a backstory for me as a Harry Potter fan, I remember being utterly obsessed with J.K. Rowling’s masterful series of books. They were the first books that I can remember truly loving, and they continue to be my favorite series of books ever. I definitely have to re-read them, though, because it’s been years since I’ve done so. I also loved the movies as a kid, and I distinctly remember Order of the Phoenix being my favorite one. But I also really, really enjoyed Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone (or maybe it’s the Philosipher’s Stone. Actually, no, that was just the books. Or was it? I don’t know. Whatever. You get what I mean). As the first film in a franchise that would eventually adapt 7 other books, this one had a ton to live up to. Not only did the casting have to be just right, so that they could also use the same actors as for the rest of the films, but they also had to set up a world that felt like a faithful, visually appealing, and enjoyable adaption of the books in its own right. It also had to introduce this entire universe to an audience that may or may not have even read the books. Luckily, the film does a wonderful job in each one of those respects.
Is Sorceror’s Stone a perfect movie? Nah. It’s actually one of my least favorites of the franchise thus far (I’ll eventually rank them all for fun). But the fact that this is still a really, really good movie is a testament to how amazing this film franchise is. And trust me, I’m not just saying that because I happen to be a fan of the franchise. They are honestly really well-made, emotional, and exciting movies. This first one has its own unique charm to it, though. After re-watching it for the first time in years, I was so excited to be back in this universe. If I had the choice to make any movie universe real, I would pick the Harry Potter universe. You may be surprised that I’m saying that, since I’m such as huge Star Wars fan, but the Harry Potter world is just so much fun, and I would want nothing more than to sneak around at Hogwarts each night. Jedi in the Star Wars movies get their hands chopped off, lose loved ones, and constantly fight an evil facist government that blows up planets. Fun!
Anyway, this universe is teaming with excitement, fun, and endless opportunity. When Hagrid and Harry walk through Diagon Alley for the first time, I felt the same sense of wonderment and discovery that Harry felt in the film. I do feel like there could have been slightly more explanation, though. It’s not super clear how the Wizarding World is connected to the real one, which is better explained in the book.
The setup to the actual story is a bit long in this movie, but I feel that it was necessary. We get to see some of the first moments of Harry Potter’s life, in which he delivered to the dreaded Dursley’s. We also witness the moment where he finally reads the letter inviting him to Hogwarts, which is done really well; you get the sense that Harry Potter is amazed by the Wizarding World, which in turn, causes us to have the same reacton. Although the beginning of the first act has a lot to show us, it’s all so entertaining, and they really did need to explore this world heavily so they wouldn’t have to do it as much in the later films. This is not a simplistic universe; it has a distinct set of rules and is so nuanced and detailed. The fact that they were able to introduce all of this so successfully on screen shouldn’t be taken for granted.
The reason why we are so emotionally attached to these movies is not just the world-building, though. It’s the characters, who all have so much depth and personality. When Harry, Ron, and Hermione first meet each other, it’s so endearing and natural. It really feels like three friends meeting each other for the first time, and their first ride on the Hogwarts Express is a ton of fun. Hogwarts itself also oozes with personality, and not all of the people there are perfect and likable. They include the strict and mysterious Snape, who feels like a real-life high school chemistry teacher, along with the bully, Draco, and tons more. Hogwarts feels incredibly relatable; when you strip it of all the literal magic, it’s very much like an actual middle school or high school. The scene in which Harry and friends are sorted is also done really well; I will always appreciate the creativity of Harry Potter oddities like the Sorting Hat. The film also begins to unravel a very intriguing mystery involving a plot by somebody in the school who wants the Sorceror’s Stone, an object which can make its owner immortal.
The movie never bogs you down in that subplot, though. It explores Harry and friends’ Hogwarts experience as a whole, including fun Quidditch sequences. However, this does reveal one of the weaknesses of the film; the CGI just doesn’t hold up anymore. It’s certainy prevalent when Harry plays Quidditch, but it’s probably at its worst in the scene where the characters fight the troll. It’s very distracting, and I am concerned for how good this film will look for audiences in twenty or thirty years, especially since current CGI is so good that it’s not even noticeable anymore.
The last third of the film amps up the tension, and also has the most flaws in my opinion. Firenze the centaur kinda just appears for no reason and then leaves, never to be seen again. He felt very shoehorned into the movie, and I was taken aback when he showed up out of the blue. Harry, Ron, and Hermione then have to venture into the depths of the castle to find out who wants the Sorceror’s Stone, which entails sneaking past a gigantic three-headed dog, grabbing flying keys, and playing a giant game of chess. There’s still good mystery to these scenes, and, as mentioned, a ton of tension. However, I wasn’t a huge fan of the whole chess thing. It seems a bit ridiculous and corny that the security system for Hogwarts includes playing a board game. When they actually take on this particular challenge, Ron gets injured for pretty much no reason, and the whole thing just feels forced. I know that this scene is in the book, but I honestly feel like it didn’t translate to screen well. After that sequence, it’s revealed that Professor Quirrell, who was a seemingly fidgety and anxiety-ridden dude, is actually the big bad guy of the whole movie. Although I like the reveal, Harry’s final battle with him also didn’t work for me. All he has to do is put his hands on Quirrell’s face. Quirrell then begins to disintegrate, supposedly because Harry has a lot of love within him from his mother’s painful death. I guess that reasoning is alright, but his defeat of Quirrell felt far too easy on the whole, and it was quite cheesy. The rest of the ending is great though; I love the last scene, in which Harry and friends say goodbye to Hogwarts. It’s so emotional and well-done, and John Williams’ score is off-the charts amazing, especially in this scene.
All in all, I really like Sorcerer’s Stone. I feel like I would have changed a couple of scenes in the movie, and probably provided some more explanation as to how the universe works, but it’s still good fun, and sets up the characters and world extremely well.