rev: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone [2001]

7 /10

This children’s film is too long. The villain was unmemorable and the suspense was poorly sustained. However, Alan Rickman saves the day.

I borrowed a few Harry Potter DVDs because I got tired of hearing the kids at work and in the department saying, “10 points to Gryffindor” and some Pokémon stuff, without any context. When Harry Potter and Pokémon reached our shores in the 2000s, older teens and young adults like myself were far more interested in the moralities and the politics of 9/11, the War in Afghanistan, and the subsequent Invasion of Iraq. Besides, we were all watching Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings. Unfortunately, though, in the 2010s the popular culture of the late-1990s and the 2000s has been submerged by the icons of grade schoolers.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is a convoluted children’s film that only begins one hour and thirty minutes into the film. There was some humour in the film along with good performances from Alan Rickman and Robbie Coltrane, but these were all overwhelmed with exposition. That is, the entire film is essentially a drawn out exposition scene for the Harry Potter universe and that’s a bad thing. Imagine a film just about the wedding in Godfather or a three-hour film about the events in The Fellowship of the Ring before the Hobbits reached the Prancing Pony.

There was some mild schizophrenia in the screenplay/novel with regards to the relationship between Harry Potter and Severus Snape. While the plot was driven by Harry Potter’s uncompromising, impetuous, and often illogical fixation on Snape, though we are told that Potter is a genius. And Potter’s fixation is never ameliorated by even friends like Rubeus Hagrid, who told Harry not to stereotype Snape just because he wore all black clothes and was emotionally reserved.

I found the CGI in this film quite poor and unpersuasive in comparison to 1999’s Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace and The Matrix, especially during the quidditch match. It’s strange, though, since Industrial Light & Magic did both the quidditch match and the Boonta Eve pod race, and The Philosopher’s Stone had a much higher budget. The wizard chess scene was interesting, however, illogical: how can the Harry Potter gang play the human-sized wizard chess game if Quirinus Quirrell had played the game and had necessarily destroyed several pieces? Did the wizard chess board recreate the pieces? If so, then why couldn’t the flying keys repair their damaged wings?

Plot contrivance!