Note: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is the same film as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. The film just uses the original U.K. title rather than the U.S. title.
In 1997, unknown author J.K. Rowling had her first novel published. Not only was it an intelligent and highly imaginative fantasy story, but it also served as the first book in a seven-part series. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (later renamed Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone for American readers) renewed children's interest in reading and became an international bestseller, receiving high acclaim and multiple awards. The book became a cultural phenomenon and after the publication of its sequel, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, a film adaptation was inevitable. Harry Potter was one of the most sought after properties in cinematic history, and attracted the attention of Hollywood's biggest names. Ultimately, Chris Columbus directed the film, from a screenplay by Steve Kloves.
When Harry Potter was only a year old, his parents were mysteriously killed and he was sent to live with his mother's sister's family, the extremely unpleasant Dursleys. From an early age, young Harry Potter proved to be an unusual child. Once while on a visit to the zoo, Harry accidentally made a pane of glass disappear letting loose a python, which scared his obnoxious cousin Dudley half to death.
On Harry's eleventh birthday, a half-giant named Hagrid explains that Harry's mother was a witch and his father was a wizard and that Harry's been invited to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry also learns that his parents did not die in a mysterious car crash as he had been told, but rather they had been killed by the notorious Dark Lord, Voldemort, often referred to as He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Hagrid accompanies Harry to London and from there to Diagon Alley, where magical supplies can be bought. Harry buys his first wand, his spellbooks, and Hagrid even gives him a snowy white owl named Hedwig. From there he's off to Hogwarts by way of the Hogwarts Express, a bright red train, which leaves from Platform 9¾ at King's Cross Station. While waiting for the train Harry meets a large wizarding family, the Weasleys, and befriends their youngest son Ron while on the train. Harry and Ron also meet Hermione, a clever but often snobby young girl.
After arriving at Hogwarts Castle, Harry and the other first year students are sorted into one of four houses. Harry, Ron, and Hermione are placed into Gryffindor, a house that is renowned for having courageous and loyal students. Harry meets the different teachers: the kind yet stern Professor MacGonagall, the malicious Professor Snape, twitchy and nervous Professor Quirrell, and the wizened and eccentric headmaster Dumbledore. Harry soon learns that each teacher treats him differently. MacGonagall, despite her chilly demeanor is very clearly fond of Harry, but Snape on the other hand seems to have a vendetta against Harry. Harry also learns of a rivalry between the school houses of Gryffindor and Slytherin, and this rivalry is exemplified by an arrogant bully named Draco Malfoy.
One day Harry, Ron, and Hermione get lost in the castle and come across a room that's being guarded by a three-headed dog. Harry, Ron, and Hermione soon learn that the dog is guarding a series of hidden passageways and rooms, where something called the Philosopher's Stone is being stored. The Philosopher's Stone has the power to make whoever possesses it immortal. After a bit of late night investigating, Harry comes to believe that someone, probably Snape, is trying to steal the stone for Lord Voldemort. With the stone, Voldemort would be restored to his full power and he would again terrorize the world of magic. Can Harry, Ron, and Hermione prevent Voldemort's return and who can Harry trust in this world full of magic and intrigue?
Adapting such an inventive and detailed story would prove difficult, and yet the film is successful as it manages to include almost all of the important characters and events from Rowling's novel. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone became a worldwide blockbuster and set Box Office records. There are a number of reasons for the film's colossal success. One of those reasons is the group of highly talented special effects artists that were gathered in order to create the style and look of the film. Also making a huge contribution were the experts who designed the costumes, the props, the sets, and the general atmosphere of the film. But the person who deserves the most credit is Rowling herself, who created an immaculate fantasy world that holds a universal appeal for both children and adults.
The extraordinary cast includes veteran British actors, as well as some talented young unknowns (who aren't unknown anymore). The cast features Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter, Rupert Grint as Ronald Weasley, Emma Watson as Hermione Granger, Robbie Coltrane as Hagrid, Maggie Smith as Professor MacGonagall, Alan Rickman as Professor Snape, and Richard Harris as Headmaster Dumbledore.
Though the film is a marvelous attempt at turning Rowling's novel into a physical reality, it does have its flaws. Much of the time the special effects are unconvincing, which wouldn't be so bad if they weren't used as the centerpiece of almost every scene. Another problem, and this is a very minor problem, is that some of the younger cast members under emote, or give stiff and forced performances. However, the acting will improve with each successive Harry Potterfilm.
Ultimately, Harry Potter's first year at Hogwarts will be remembered and treasured by fans of all ages for many years to come.
In some ways, this is the best Harry Potter movie. It's light enough for kids, but the story is engaging enough for adults. The beginning of the film really captures the magical world of wizardry, from the goblins to the first quidditch game. It stands well enough alone as a movie - you don't really need to know much about Harry Potter before watching it. The kids are excellent actors. Rewatching it again after many, many years, I was impressed with the range of young Ron's … more