Wednesday, November 16, 2016
RECENT WATCHES: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001)
the Science Fiction Book Club. I was immediately sucked in, quickly working my way through the novels. The fourth book came out soon afterwards, which I subsequently devoured. The film adaptations fed my frenzy for the wizard world. “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” – “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” to you limeys – was an honest-to-God pop culture event when it hit theaters in 2001. In the lengthy wait between the fourth and fifth book, I lost interest in the Potter-verse. Though I read the other books and have watched the other movies, I’ve always felt like I outgrew this particular franchise.
Many other people, it must be said, have not. “Harry Potter” remains beloved by audiences young and old. I’ve met these people and I can’t share their passion. I never wanted to go to Hogwarts. I never wanted to be a Gryffindor or any of that shit. I went through a stage were I wanted to be a wizard but one of the badass ones that fights demons and shoot fireballs, not the type that takes potion classes. Not that anyone should want to go to Hogwarts, considering how dangerous this prestige academy apparently is. My biggest grievance with the world J.K. Rowling created, adored by millions, is how separated the wizarding world is from the non-magical one. Never once has human civilization notice this enormous magical society co-habituating along side it? Not even when a war breaks out in the later entries? For that matter, how possible is it that regular humanity and the magically inclined world have never come into conflict? It all strikes me as deeply unlikely.
a fantastic score.
The set design, costumes, and production design are all top of the line. What of the CGI? Back in 2001, the digital effects were considered cutting edge. Fifteen years later, they look incredibly dated. The film relies far too much on the primitive computer generated images, bringing all its major creatures to life in this manner. This leads to a cartoonish looking blue troll or an unconvincing three-headed dog. Even worst, when the actors have to interact with these entities, they are transformed into equally fake looking CGI models. Attempts to make these rough digital creatures into characters, like a talking centaur, aren’t effective due to the obvious fault of the shaky effects. By trying to prove how high tech it could be, the film ended up exceeding its reach.
In the months leading up to the film’s release, there was a worldwide search to cast the three lead roles. While “Sorcerer’s Stone” would make a few mistakes, its casting wasn’t one of them. Daniel Radcliffe not only looks exactly like Rowling described Harry, he also fits perfectly into the role. He’s curious, slightly reckless, but ultimately heroic. Rupert Grint, though a little rough around the edges, is well suited to Ron, who is still mostly goofy comic relief by this point. Emma Watson, who would arguably have the best career of the three, is brainy without being smug, showing a maturity in the way she instills flaws into the part.
There are other story elements in the film that I take umbrage with, quite a few inherited from the source material. Professor Snape is obviously a red herring. The character spend nearly the entire film assuming him to be evil, when it’s quite obvious that he isn’t. Even as a kid, reading the book for the first time, this bothered me. When the true villain is revealed at the end, he immediately explains all the events that happened up to that point, dumping a huge load of exposition on the reader. Harry, despite being the story’s hero, gets a lot of help along the way. He would’ve been dead many times over if not for Hermione’s smarts, Dumbledore’s guidance, and Ron’s previously unstated mastery of chess. It’s only at the very end, when confronted with the antagonist, that Harry actually takes action, the eleven year old boy burning the bad guy to death. Even that is thanks to a bullshit revelation about the power of love.