HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE
Review by Michael Jacobson
Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, John Cleese, Robbie Coltrane,
Warwick Davis, Richard Griffiths, Richard Harris, Ian Hart, John Hurt, Alan
Rickman, Fiona Shaw, Maggie Smith, Julie Walters
Director: Chris Columbus
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 EX
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 152 Minutes
Release Date: May 28, 2002
if you two don’t mind, I’m going to bed before either of you comes up with
another clever idea to get us killed. Or
needs to sort out her priorities.”
never read any of the Harry Potter books by J. K. Rowling myself, so I
can only talk about Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone from the
point of view of the movie, which, in a nutshell, is visually vivid, very
imaginative, features a great cast (especially the young newcomers), and is a
bit too long if it’s supposed to be a movie aimed at kids.
course, grown-ups and kids alike have shown affinity for young Mr. Potter over
the years, so maybe the film isn’t entirely aimed at the youthful fans.
Perhaps in order to capture all of the magic of the original book,
director Chris Columbus and crew couldn’t afford to cut anything.
But there again, I’m commenting on that which I do not know from
millions of readers and moviegoers doubtless know, this tale is about a boy who
discovers he has the lineage of a wizard. Harry
(Radcliffe) starts out in life as an underappreciated, underloved and unwelcome
relative living with a boorish aunt and uncle, but his luck changes with a
series of invitations to join the Hogwarts School for wizardry and witchcraft.
he makes a couple of friends: the
nice-but-awkward Ron Weasley (Grint) and the smart-but-occasionally-superior
Hermione Granger (Watson). The
school is people with familiar actors in tremendous roles, from Maggie Smith as
Professor McGonagall to Richard Harris as Dumbledore, to the irreplaceable
Robbie Coltrane as Hagrid, who befriends young Harry from the start.
on equal level with the characters is the look of the film…each scene is
filled with such painstaking detail that it’s impossible to really see it all
in one setting. Portraits in the
backgrounds move from time to time. The
ceiling isn’t really a ceiling…or is it?
Staircases move about on a whim, and much more.
Every setting in the film reverberates with the cherished notion of
fantasy. This is not a world that
could exist outside of the imagination, and that’s exactly how it appears.
the story follows Harry and his friends as they learn the ropes during their
first year at Hogwarts. We learn
something of Harry’s background, and why his abilities seem so natural.
He becomes the youngest “seeker” to play Quidditch, which is a wild
aerial romp of a game that can only be described as rugby for magicians.
But while his knowledge and skills help him in some situations, they lead
him into trouble in others, as he gets closer and closer to a dangerous
challenge that he might not yet be ready to face.
film is terrifically entertaining, if a bit slow moving at times.
I was amazed, for example, that it took 40 minutes into the film to get
Harry to the school…it took only half that long to get Dorothy into Oz, even
with a song to sing beforehand! And
some sequences, no matter how well-crafted and spectacular, do nothing to
further the story. Once again, I
have to guess that they exist as sort of tokens of faith for the millions of
loyal readers who expected to see them.
I liked best about the movie were the three young stars.
Daniel Radcliffe had big literary shoes to fill in portraying a character
so vividly drawn in many different imaginations…I think he did a fine job.
He’s earnest and believable throughout.
Rupert Grint is terrific, playing Ron with a self-depreciating humor, but
investing him with heart and loyalty as well. But the real scene-stealer is fresh-faced Emma Watson, who
lights up the screen in every scene she appears in and invests Hermione with
winsome charm. The three exhibit
great chemistry together, which carries the movie even further than the effects
can’t help my assessment that the film is too long, though maybe no one else
will agree with me. Two and a half
hours just doesn’t seem a suitable running time for a picture of this nature.
But fans have already proven they’re wild about Harry with the box
office numbers, and will no doubt do so again with video sales, so I’m willing
to admit I may be wrong. What does
a muggle like me know, anyway?
is not a bad looking anamorphic transfer from Warner, but it could have used a
little more effort in the margins. Many
sequences in Harry Potter are dark and misty, and these don’t translate
as well as possible (see: The Others).
You can see a bit of shimmer and grain in them.
Images are generally sharp, with a little softness here and there.
Coloring is quite good and natural looking in all lighting levels.
One word of advice: this film is filled with visual
flairs from start to finish. Avoid the pan & scan version at all
5.1 EX track fares much better…this is a movie with plenty of noise and makes
great use of multi-channel sound. There
is smooth crossover action from start to finish. The Quidditch sequence, the chess game, and the finale are
three prime examples, but hardly the only ones.
The audio stays open with a rich ambient sound.
Great halls sound like great halls, crowd noises are full and
encompassing, and best of all, John Williams’ terrific musical score
emphasizes everything with dynamic punch. Highest
kind of hard to explain or rate the features, but I’ll try…disc one has the
trailers and cast and crew listings (but no additional info other than who did
what). Disc two contains a 16
minute interview featurette, which talks a little about this movie and future
ones. The rest of the disc is set
up like an interactive version of Hogwarts.
You can visit Diagon Alley, collect school supplies, go on interactive
3-D tours through the halls and school, pick on various items to learn more
about them (including books in a library), practice making potions and casting
spells, and so on. You even get to
try your hand at catching a snitch! The
gimmick is, it’s like a game…you’ll need to collect certain objects from
certain areas before you can proceed with certain others.
It’s not hard, but takes some patience.
The end result is a bonus of 7 deleted scenes, if you complete the school
are also plenty of goodies for you DVD ROM, including wizard trading cards, the
Sorting Hat, screensavers and more. Overall,
the features are a bit weak on real content, but cleverly done, and probably a
lot of fun for the kids.