It's Harry's third year at Hogwarts; not only does he have a new "Defense Against the Dark Arts" teacher, but there is also trouble brewing. Convicted murderer Sirius Black has escaped the Wizards' Prison and is coming after Harry.
This is the tale of Harry Potter, an ordinary 11-year-old boy serving as a sort of slave for his aunt and uncle who learns that he is actually a wizard and has been invited to attend the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry is snatched away from his mundane existence by Hagrid, the grounds keeper for Hogwarts, and quickly thrown into a world completely foreign to both him and the viewer. Famous for an incident that happened at his birth, Harry makes friends easily at his new school. He soon finds, however, that the wizarding world is far more dangerous for him than he would have imagined, and he quickly learns that not all wizards are ones to be trusted. Written by
It's a true adaptation, but lacks an edge like the novel. *** (out of four)
HARRY POTTER / (2001) *** (out of four)
Here's a method of evaluating a movie based on previously published material: ask yourself if the film makes you want to read the material from which it is based?
Before the release of "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," I was one of the few remaining souls who had not read J.K. Rowling's fantasy book series. After screening the first film installment, I did want to read the book. Borrowing the novel from a family member, I briefly skimmed over the chapters. The book's intelligence and similarities with the film really surprised me.
With over 100 million copies sold in over 46 different languages, J.K. Rowling's best-selling series of books has become a worldwide phenomenon. Naturally, with soaring expectations abound, the filmmakers felt great pressure to create a faithful adaptation. They have. This film is essentially a visualization of the words in the novel, with very few differences.
That said, the film does run into a few conflicts with the book's story. The middle of the movie has nowhere to go. It's like a false second act; almost nothing of major significance occurs in this period of the film. The young characters wander from scene to scene with nothing much to do and nothing much to say. We're left with a grand display of eye-popping special effects.
"Harry Potter" certainly dazzles us with a solid beginning and an engaging final act, however. We first meet a young wizard boy named Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe). Soon after the film opens, the boy discovers he has magical powers. He's then thrust into an enchanting world of sorcery, magic, and witchcraft. He's sent to a school for young wizard children, where he meets new friends, learns about magic, and participates in fun competitions. But someone at the school doesn't like Harry, as mysterious events begin to occur. Harry soon finds himself in the middle of a diabolical scheme of revenge. Who is the culprit and what do they want with Harry?
The film asks some involving questions. Too bad it doesn't give enough depth to the side characters or subplots. We don't really care about the mystery because we don't know enough about the suspects. The movie does conclude with a twist, but it doesn't encourage another examination of the movie. It lacks a foundation altogether. The story spends so much time foreshadowing the villain's identity, it is pointless for the story to abandon its proceeding plot points and develop a new villain at the end. The book gets away with this; the movie does not.
After his gentle "Home Alone" and sweet-natured "Stepmom," many questioned the ability of director Chris Columbus to bring a sense of darkness to the story-and for good reason. "Harry Potter" contains charming, likable characters and a rich pallet of lush, inventive images. Unfortunately, the film lacks an edge. It's missing the dark atmosphere Rowling's novel so vividly brought to life. Columbus does construct some memorable sequences, but the individual scenes themselves are much better than the movie as a whole.
Despite it's childish story and pre-teen characters, many define "Harry Potter" as a film for all ages. While that's debatable, during my screening, adults were plowing through the isles every five minutes. Going to the bathroom? Getting drink refills? Buying concessions? Who knows? But not a single child budged from their seat. Their eyes were glued to the big screen.
Conclusion: It's a sure-fire experience for children, especially if they've read the books. But adults may not encounter the same enticement as kids. Then again, if I had nothing better to do than to count the people leaving the theater, why am I recommending the film?
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