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Film Review - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
And the winner for the most hyped movie of the year is ...
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone has finally been released. This adaptation of the J.K. Rowling tome did it's damndest to stay true to the book. Did it? How should I know? I didn't read it. This appears to be my first mistake.
Young Harry is orphaned as an infant. He is delivered to his Aunt and Uncle by a Wizard, Witch, and a big hairy guy on a flying motorcycle. The Aunt, Uncle and Harry's Cousin turn out to be very mean. They treat him like a slave and make him live under the stairs.
Eventually Harry turns eleven and starts receiving mail from a school called Hogwarts. The Uncle will not allow Harry to read the letters. He's afraid of something. More letters arrive, none are read. Finally the big hairy guy slows up to tell Harry that he's a wizard and it's time to go to school.
It's a very long set up. Usually this sort of thing fails but in this film, it worked. We now know Harry is a very nice, well mannered boy. Whatever happens in the future, we're squarely on his side.
If you haven't noticed, this film meanders a lot. There are great stretches where the plot doesn't move forward. Harry has to go buy school supplies, you know an owl, and wand, etc. And then he has to go find the train. This takes up a lot of time, but the charm is still working, and we're hoo doo'ed by the imaginative images.
About an hour and fifteen minutes in we get to the real plot. Someone is trying to steal something very valuable. It's so valuable a three-headed dog guards it. But we don't know what it is. Meanwhile, Harry is learning more about his past, like the fact that his parents were killed by an evil wizard when they refused go over to the dark side.
Finally, Harry finds what the bad guy is trying to steal, and the bad guy goes to wizard hell, or where ever they go.
Remember that charm I mentioned that got you through the beginning of the movie? It didn't last. This movie is paced like a book, one chapter at a time. This is the central problem in the film. Books are written in chapters because most people only read one chapter at a sitting. Then they roll over and go to sleep. Movies on the other hand need to flow continuously. We do tend to watch the film from the beginning to end in one sitting. (Except Oliver Stone films. Nobody's bladder is that strong.)
Whole sections of this film have nothing to do with the plot. When you tell this to a Harry Potter fan they tell you that you have to read the book. But I paid seven bucks to not read the book. The movie has to stand by itself as a narrative, and clearly it did fail if I have to read the book.
This reminds me of the De Laurentiis version of Dune from 1984. A book so detailed that you couldn't do it as a two hour film. The later SciFi Channel mini series worked much better. I suspect Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone would have been a much better mini series. Then I wouldn't have to read a book to understand the movie I just saw.
Directed by Chris Columbus
Released in 2001
MPAA Rating: PG
Reviewed by Mongo