RETRO REVIEW: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001)

Release Poster - Warner Bros.
Release Poster – Warner Bros.

The following is a retro review of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – directed by Chris Columbus

The Harry Potter franchise is huge. The books are incredibly important to a lot of people, and the films are too. I really loved the Harry Potter films, and I would always look forward to them – at least until someone spoiled future events for me. Philosopher’s Stone was the first chapter in the story of Harry Potter, and it introduced you to the wonderful world of magic.

Meet Harry Potter (played by Daniel Radcliffe). Harry – an orphan who lives with his terrible aunt, uncle, and cousin – survived an attack by the infamous Lord Voldemort, who killed both of his parents. On his eleventh birthday, Harry receives a letter inviting him to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry where he is to become a powerful wizard. But Potter is already a celebrity in the magic community, and will soon learn who wants him gone.

The reason why people love rewatching these films is that it is so enjoyable to return to Hogwarts. The world of magic is really exciting, but, even more so, Hogwarts is a thing of dreams. It was wonderfully designed for this film, and it does feel huge. You don’t want the school year to end.

This film also has a terrific cast from top to bottom. Today we know how great the three young leads are, but they were fine in this film as well. I do think that Emma Watson gives the best performance of the three leads in Philosopher’s Stone, however.

Maggie Smith and Alan Rickman are fantastic in this film. It really is a shame that Rickman never was awarded – at the very least – an Oscar nomination for his work in this film series. We also don’t talk enough about how great Robbie Coltrane is as Hagrid.

Finally, my favorite thing to come out of this film is the musical score. Look, no one is going to be surprised that John Williams did a great job with a musical score for a big blockbuster film, but what he gave this franchise was truly wonderful. It’s instantly recognizable, as blockbuster themes should be.

Now, on the other hand, let’s talk about the problems that I have with this film. And, really, my biggest problem is the lengths the film goes to, to set up the franchise as a whole without making this film all that memorable in itself. I do think that the film is way too long for the story it plans to tell.

Much of this film is about setting up the universe and the little details that you need to know about to fully enjoy the franchise. And, sure, Philosopher’s Stone does a fantastic job of building the world of magic, but it does become too much in parts. Like – I love Quidditch – but did this film really need the Quidditch subplot?

Introductions and exposition can be really necessary, but it doesn’t help that the primary antagonist of this film is basically a tool of a larger villain who waits for a chance to strike at one point. My other problem with the film is that the CGI doesn’t hold up at all. But that is it. Those are my problems with the film. So while it may be significant and definitely does impact your experience watching the film, it doesn’t destroy the wonder of the first film.

7.9 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex

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