Thursday, 1 December 2016

TBT - Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (2001)

I'm so far behind my schedule today that I've left myself with no fucking time to do anything. I've left this to the last minute as I tried to get everything else done. I'm also tired so I can't promise this will be the best thing I've ever written but I'm determined to get it done. After all, I sat through one of my least favourite Harry Potter films in order to have a subject this week. I'd have to say that my least favourite in terms of both book and film is Goblet of Fire but, thanks to their childish nature, I've never revisited the first two stories for years. I saw the first film at the cinema with my family for my mother's birthday. I was 13 years old and completely obsessed with the books. I remember leaving the cinema feeling disappointed with some differences but, ultimately, I loved it. I mean it was faithful to the book and that was all that mattered to me. Let's be honest though, that's all that mattered to anyone.


The Philosopher's Stone was the biggie. It was the book that let us enter into Harry Potter's world and the film was the finally put that world on the big screen. There was a lot of pressure on it as the book'd had become a sensation with adults and children alike lapping up every word JK Rowling was writing. The writer was also incredibly protective of her books as she was still in the process of writing at the time and didn't want to jeopardise her later books by giving the rights away. Thankfully, the films were made and they were a huge part of all of our lives for 10 years. We grew up with the child actors who took the massive roles. So it's weird to go back and see where it all started.

The Philosopher's Stone is a very faithful adaptation of the first book. It sets out everything about the wizarding world but with much more haste than the book. Sections are shortened or deleted to save time but there's nothing really vital missing. For my own part I always wished the centaurs scene could have been more book-like but that was mainly down to my fondness for that part of the book. In real terms, the main criticism I have is that some explanations seems rushed, such as Hagrid introducing Harry to his wizarding heritage, but that probably has something to do with my familiarity to the book. All of the key points are there but it just feels more brusque that it should.

It's not the story that I really have a major problem with when I rewatch this film. It's the acting. I'm not a massive fan of Daniel Radcliffe in any of these films but he's particularly annoying in these films. He's young so it's not exactly fair to call him that but I think Harry's character in these films is just too vague and undefined. There isn't really any proper characterisation for any of the major characters and there is a lacking of development. Even the background characters seem more gimmicky that real. Other than his overall look, I've never been a fan of Richard Harris' Dumbledore if I'm honest as Michael Gambon really captured the darkness that's hidden at his core. He feels too Disney for my liking. Alan Rickman is incredibly hammy in the first few films and Maggie Smith is just whittled down to that one withering look. It sees like a waste of good actors.

Then the main trio all seem too confused by who they are trying to be. Ron seems as though he belongs in Eastenders rarther than Hogwarts, Harry is just forgettable, and Hermione is the worst kind of smart girl stereotype. Watching these films just makes it more apparent how useful age and understanding is for actors. The older and more comfortable the main actors got then the better their characters became. The first two films don't feel like Harry Potter films because the character's feel like strangers.

Still, there is something great about revisiting this film. The Quidditch scene, though it seem aged nowadays, is still one of the best scenes. It's fun and exciting seeing this amazing sport come to life before your eyes. The tests that need to be passed to find the Philsopher's Stone are also well adapted in the film and the game of wizards chess is still incredible. Still, this feels like a long and slow film. It takes ages to really get going and it isn't quite magical enough to make it work. I kind of see this film in the same way I see the Beatles if I'm honest. Everyone says that The Beatles invented popular music as we know it today and that they're one of the greatest bands of all time. Now, I understand that they were important in the 60s but it's not the 60s anymore. If I listen to their music now it just feels so juvenile and simplistic. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone opened the door to some great films but, if I'm honest, it's lost its sense of importance and achievement as every new film was released.

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