What started off as scribblings in an Edinburgh coffee shop evolved into a best selling series as J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter tales would go on to sell over 450 million books. The subsequent film adaptation didn’t do too bad either eventually surpassing Star Wars and 007 to become the biggest selling movie franchise of all time. Moviescramble takes a look back at the popular film series by starting at the beginning, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
Harry is young boy, just shy of his eleventh birthday. He lives with his horrible aunt, uncle and cousin who frequently torment and bully their younger relative. Harry is no ordinary boy however and on his birthday he receives a visit from a mysterious stranger by the name of Hagrid. Hagrid explains that Harry is a wizard and he is expected to attend Hogwarts, a school of magic and wizardy.
At Hogwarts Harry discovers that he is something of a legend. His parents were killed by an evil, and since believed dead, dark wizard called Voldemort. Although Harry wasn’t spared, Voldemort was unable to kill him, leaving Harry with a lightning bolt scar on his forehead. With strange goings on happening at Hogwarts, it could be that “he who should not be named” is back from the dead, and ready to finish what he started.
Christopher Columbus was tasked with bringing the world of Harry Potter to the big screen, a task he managed brilliantly. This is a children’s story first and foremost and the director expertly maintains the spirit of childhood adventure. Our heroes often find themselves in peril but there isn’t any sense of real danger, at least not for older audiences.
There is much fun to be had here as Hogwarts is brought to life in bright colours, used to capture the imagination and leave audiences in awe. Some of the effects may have dated however the Quiditch scene should still provide enough thrills for all ages.
The supporting cast is exceptional presenting a who’s who of primarily British talent. Maggie Smith is stern but fair as Professor McGonnagle. Her portrayal of the witch is warm and inviting however she is not someone to be made a fool of. The late Irish actor Richard Harris is excellent as Headmaster Dumbledore, an ageing wizard with a caring grandfather like quality while Coltrane captures the essence of Hagrid perfectly.
Not everyone at Hogwarts is good though as Alan Rickman excels as the dubious and potentially evil Severus Snape. He has an instant dislike for Potter and doesn’t hide it however not everything is at it seems with Rickman on top form to earn the loathing of audiences.
Which brings us to the kids themselves. Daniel Radcliffe looks the part and exhibits the childlike innocence of a boy who has had his eyes open for the first time. Emma Watson’s Hermione could use some work while Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley) plays the sap with ease. The stand-out of the young cast is Tom Felton’s Draco Malfoy. His sneering arrogance invites you to dislike him, which isn’t difficult with such a fine performance as this.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone isn’t a perfect film but it’s a good start to the franchise. Even those with no knowledge of the books will feel welcome at Hogwarts with the end both providing a satisfactory resolution while whetting the appetite for a follow-up.