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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001)
"Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" is the first of what will become a whirlwind sequence of spectacular fantasy/adventure films adapted from the ever-popular book series written by British author J.K. Rowling. Kicking off the series, "The Sorcerer's Stone" tells of how Harry Potter came to be a chosen prophet of sorcery. Surviving a certain death experience, the orphan is rescued by the benevolent Headmaster Dumbledore, and left to the custody of his nefarious aunt and uncle; the Muggles. Raised in isolation and abuse, Harry's "guardian", Hagrid, rescues him from the perils of his abusive life and whisks him off to Hogwarts Magic Academy where he will have the opportunity to realize his talents as a great sorcerer. There, in addition to making new friends and settling into a place he can call "Home", Harry will learn his tragic family history and how it's interconnected to the current nefarious mayhem occurring behind Hogwarts' walls at night.
Written by: J.K. Rowling (novel) and Steven Kloves (screenplay).
Directed by: Chris Columbus.
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy, Family.
Tagline: He was the boy who lived…
Rated: PG for some scary moments and mild language.
The film commences with a fantastic score that immediately sets the mood for entry into the wild and magical adventures of this fantasy film. Set at night, the film depicts an old sorcerer, Dumbledore (Richard Harris), and sorceress, Minerva McGonagall (Maggie Smith), accompanied by a gentle giant on a motorcycle, Rubeus Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane), who are dropping off a certain special baby sorcerer at the home of his Muggle (non-magic folk) relatives; his reprehensible aunt and uncle. As legend will reveal, the baby, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), is a sort of sorcerer prophet who, after surviving the deadly assault from "The One Who Must Not Be Named", needs to be taken away from the world of magic until he comes of age and is prepared to hone the craft to avenge the wrongs of the nefarious villain.
The film quickly pans 11 years ahead where a now grown Harry Potter is kept in utter isolation and abuse amidst the company of his aunt, uncle, and his detestable cousin. Treated like a slave, and denied any sorts of privileges or liberties whatsoever, Harry obediently acquiesces to his relatives' perilous requests. But when a mysterious letter arrives for Harry on the week before his eleventh birthday, his odious 'family' refuses to permit Harry's viewing of its contents. Quickly, however, a slew of owls continue to drop letters addressed to Harry by the dozens; all the while his uncle is burning, tearing, or finding some way to dispose of them. After his uncles whisks his family and his despised nephew off to an isolated sea house, until Hagrid intervenes, it seems Harry’s destiny will nearly be altered. Nevertheless, Hagrid appears on the night of Harry's birthday, rescuing him from his prison and whisking him off into the magical wonderland of Hogwarts and its many nooks and crannies.
While shopping for all the odds and ends of magic school Harry comes to learn of his notoriety. With his reputation preceding him, everywhere Harry turns there is a friendly face to help him find his way about the strange new land. So too, will Harry begin to learn that there is a very dark secret surrounding his past and the fate of his parents. As Harry pries for answers he soon discovers himself to be a rather wealthy orphan whose parents too had a solid reputation at the Hogwarts Academy and outer worlds of magic.
Along the way to Hogwarts Harry will meet the affable Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and the eccentric academic, Hermione Granger (Emma Watson). As the trio quickly establishes a close bond over sweets, spells, and other newfound enjoyments of the magic world, so too do they quickly encounter the nefarious Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) whose upper-class background seems to provoke him into condescending anybody less fortunate than he. Settling into their respective schools, the trio aspires to help Griffendorf win points just as earnestly as Draco and the other members of Slitherin’ try to rack up their own scoreboard; which of course leads to a brilliant scene involving the game of "Quiddage" with Harry Potter starring as Hogwarts’ only freshman seeker ever to ‘fly’ out onto the field.
Amidst the hustle and bustle of fantastic banquets, novel school sessions, and wonderful adventures with his friends, Harry begins to notice something very precarious surrounding the atmosphere of Hogwarts, including the ambivalent Professor Severus Snape (Alan Rickman). Deciding to investigate on his own, Harry constantly turns to the innocently loose-lipped Hagrid and his friends Hermione and Ron for help. With the addition of a rather advantageous gift; an invisibility cloak, and a few other magic secrets, the trio soon discovers there is a highly coveted item being protected by Hagrid’s three-headed dog "Fluffy": the Sorcerer's Stone. With a little more sleuthing, a Troll invasion, and a strange encounter with a cloaked villain preying on unicorns and Harry believes himself to have finally discovered the answer to the mystery surrounding the Stone. Believing Professor Snape to be responsible for trying to steal the Stone as a means to give it to the great enemy Valdamort, Harry, Ron, and Hermione set out to confront him.
Along the way a dangerous encounter with suffocating plants, a three-headed vicious dog, and a deadly game of life-sized wizard's chess will have to be conquered before Harry can confront his true nemesis. But once in the room Harry will discover that magic has a lot to do with “smoke and mirrors” and one’s assumptions aren't always correct. Needing to stay true to his heart and Hogwarts, Harry will put his life on the line to save the magic world from further destruction as he confronts the deadly nemesis; "He Who Must Not Be Named" and does his best to keep the Sorcerer's Stone at bay from the wily wants of the villain.
But though he bears the mark of survival, it seems Harry will need to rely on another mark, the mark of love, to get him through the toughest of obstacles he has yet to face at Hogwarts Academy of Magic…
"Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" is brilliant. A fun, fantastical, over-the-top sensual splendor, this film encompasses the spectrum of fantasy, magic, adventure, fiction, non-fiction, etc. and conflates many conventional archetypes and storylines into a thoroughly enjoyable and fresh new adventure series. A great modern-day version of The Chronicles of Narnia (yes, C.S. Lewis’s novels predate Rowling’s series); "Harry Potter" takes the motifs of Lewis's book and submerses them in a world of magic rather than fantasy. All the same, the film still offers a spectacular visual be-wonderment as high-tech special effects, vivid color, and outstanding detail are given the most acute detailed depiction in this film. Rowling’s novels come to life and literally manifest themselves straight off the pages of her novel in this high-budget silver-screen adaptation and Columbus and Rowling should both be proud to see a work that does justice to its predeceasing creator.
From the grand banquet scenes with their eye and mind-boggling arrays of children, outfits, food, and ghostly inhabitants, to the spectacular set designs; particularly those concerning the inner hulls and staircases of Hogwarts, to the fantastic array of "fantasy" creatures; goblins, unicorns, centaurs, griffins, trolls, giants, etc., to the inclusion of simple and recognizable themes like alienation, coming of age, friendship, love, loyalty, strength of filial bonds, etc., "Harry Potter" is at once over-the-top and humbly human and humane all at the same time. It is a universal film that speaks to the individual and touches audiences of all ages.
The cast is simply solid. From Richard Harris and Maggie Smith, to Alan Rickman, to the newcomers, who easily steal the film with their freshness and innocence, the film packs in solid performances that only add to the strength and ingenious of this film. Daniel Radcliffe is simply delightful as Harry Potter, Rupert Grint is most enjoyable, and Emma Watson is sheer candidness in their respective roles. Also hallmarking this film is its wonderful score, its amazing continuity and direction. Of course, the art direction and cinematography are simply second to none in this film.
This film is truly a gift to the industry and will be greatly appreciated by young and old audiences alike. Even the middle-aged audiences are throwing caution to the wind and diving into the wonderful world of Harry Potter. That said, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" is the first, but promises not to be the last, of great fantasy adventure films that will delight you even long after its termination.
"Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" was nominated for 3 Oscars: Best Art Direction-Set Direction (Stuart Craig and Stephanie McMillan), Best Costume Design (Judianna Makovsky), and Best Music, Original Score (John Williams). The film also was the recipient of more than 41 other critical film association nominations and received 11 other awards.
Richard Harris plays Albus Dumbledore, chief headmaster of Hogwarts Academy of Magic and benevolent good-fellow for Harry Potter’s future.
Maggie Smith plays Professor Minerva McGonagall, Dumbledore's right-hand assistant and affable, yet formidable, professor at Hogwarts.
Robbie Coltrane plays Rubeus Hagrid, the gentle giant and one might say, guardian of Harry Potter.
Daniel Radcliffe plays Harry Potter, the alienated orphan boy who comes of age in a land of magic, madness, and mayhem amidst the backdrop of Hogwarts Academy of Magic.
Tom Felton plays Draco Malfoy, the nefarious young sorcerer who aims to make trouble for Harry Potter and the Griffendorf School.
Rupert Grint plays Ron Weasley, the underprivileged sorcerer who becomes Harry's best friend.
Emma Watson plays Hermione Granger, the uppity know-it-all whose savvy wits help save the day for Harry and Ron more than once.
Alan Rickman plays Professor Severus Snape, the ambivalent professor with an uncanny interest in Harry Potter.
Ian Hart plays Professor Quirrell, the clumsy, stammering Professor of Dark Arts who seems to be the only one at Hogwarts weary of Harry’s company.