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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone Movie Review

originally posted many years ago

From one of the most imaginative pieces of literature, and given the cinematic potential of the material, one is surprised at just how weak this film adaptation of the Rawlings novel is. Perhaps it is partly due to Rawlings herself, whose insistence on Hollywood remaining completely true to her novel, has resulted in a script that lacks any degree of imagination. That, coupled with the insipid direction of the perpetually uninspiring Chris Columbus, has resulted in a leaden, almost sombre affair. Rich in visuals, there are elements of Harry Potter that show promise, yet beneath much of the flashiness, is a film that takes no chances, but caters not for a moviegoing public, but avid readers of the novel, who will be swept up in the faithfulness of it all, yet may wonder, ultimately, why it is not as inherently magical as the book.

Partly due to the somewhat pedestrian direction of Columbus [clearly the wrong choice to helm such a project], the film is required to rest on the acting shoulders of Harry. Radcliffe is an appealing young actor, and has some solid moments, yet his lack of depth and often lifeless characterisation, adds to one’s emotional distance from the character. As an audience member, one needs to feel engaged in Harry’s transformation, but Columbus and company will have none of that, and so we are left with a somewhat dull hero,. It’s his friends, beautifully played by Emma Watson and Rupert Gint, who end up as the heart, soul and humour of the piece. Perhaps next time around, master Radcliffe will have grown and we’ll see some much needed depth of character. The British cast of character players has their moments, some more effective than the others. Richard Harris seems to think than mumbling his dialogue is enough to get him by, but he is sadly ineffective, as is the usually wonderful Alan Rickman. Maggie Smith is a delight as herself, while John Hurt and John Cleese are a delight in smallish roles.

Visually, Harry Potter is a grand affair, cinematically rich and decorous. The effects are fabulous, but obvious, and Aussie cinematographer John Seale’s lensing is vivid.

While this first Harry Potter may make hundreds of millions of dollars, it is a case of clever marketing, rather than as the result of having accomplished a great film. Tedious and overlong, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone could well have been a magical experience, but alas, along the way, Hollywood took it over and the magic was lost. Hopefully it will resurface next time around.

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