Ranking Potter #5 – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Written by  //  July 29, 2011  //  Media & Popular Culture  //  18 Comments

….Aaaand, we’re back. I’ve been busy getting over the awesomeness that was Deathly Hallows Part 2 (hint: it’ll be a while before you see it on this list). But, back to the lesser Potters. This week, we’re going back to the start.

A lot of Potter-philes spend so much time castigating Christopher Columbus for his slavish textual faithfulness that leached some of the wonder out of the first 2 movie adaptations, that we forget just how many good decisions he brought to the table. It was Columbus who had the gargantuan task of actually given us the first look into the wizarding world, to construct the cinematic conceptions of the mammoth cast that would have to stand over the course of the next seven book adaptations, to make sure the adaptation satisfied the fans and the neutral crowd simply so that there would be the required commercial success to allow for the later movies to come into existence.

Quite a burden – and if he didn’t craft a great Potter movie, what he atleast gave us was an eminently serviceable one. It was Columbus’ solid foundation that would allow more accomplished auteurs to soar subsequently, it was his visual palette they’d draw from, and his casting choices they’d benefit from. ┬áThe theme music alone is probably one of the most recognized tunes in the history of cinema.

We have to run through a fair bit of exposition to get to the fun Hogwarts stuff, and again it’s to Columbus’ credit that he manages to keep a good sense of momentum going. The leads aren’t perfect at this point. At crucial junctures in the movie, Radcliffe comes off as frustratingly wooden, while Watson’s Hermione is constantly caught in a state of suspended hyperventilation. No, seriously, Emma, NO POINTS FOR GRYFFINDOR. Okay, but any dramatic want is made up for by the incredible adult lineup that has often been lauded as a who’s-who of British cinema. Oh yes, British cinema – I believe it was Rowling’s imperative that the cast stay authentic to her vision, and it pays off remarkably from the very start. If Columbus is unsuccessful capturing the sense of danger, and the thrill of the central mystery in the book, what he does manage to evoke resoundingly well are the British boarding school roots of the story, with a good amount of help from that wonderful cast.

But honestly, Chris?


18 Comments on "Ranking Potter #5 – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone"

  1. Lekha Sridhar July 29, 2011 at 8:17 am ·

    I cant believe you’re even trying to defend this movie! I recently re-watched this movie with Suha and we laughed ourselves silly.

    Some parts of it are so ridiculous that now I cant remember if it was part of the book or just movie stupidity. Like in the last scene (SPOILER), when HP discovers that Voldemort cant touch him. Except this no-touching embargo ONLY applies to his hands. I mean, WTF? His mom died so only his HANDS could protect him from Voldy? That makes no goddammed sense.

    Also, the bit in the Quidditch game when Quirrell is trying to jinx HP off his broom. Seriously, the match was being witnessed by all the profs in the school including Dumbledore and the ONLY one who noticed anything wrong was Snape? What were the other doing, sleeping? What about the referee Madame Hooch?

    Hooch, btw, has to be the most inept (also terrifying: what is with those cat eyes?) professor in existence. When Neville loses control of his broom, she just stands around stammering and asking him to come back, AND she lets him fall and break his wrist. Potter canon has established that there are dozens of spells for breaking a person’s fall. She just forgot about them? Bah.

    Bad child actors is one thing, but I cannot forgive gaping plot holes.

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