Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (3/9/12)

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's StoneMovie Forty Nine

The first Harry Potter book/movie, known in the US as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, set the stage for a grand series of mass appeal. Transcending ages, races, and genders, the magical world of Harry Potter is a truly splendid one.

You may notice that in the title I called the movie Harry Potter and Philosopher’s Stone, which is the name in the UK, and as far as I know, the rest of the world. I’m not sure why there is disparity with the titles, but I watched the UK version of this movie. The UK box set has extra features not yet available in the the US.

I will unabashedly claim my love for the Harry Potter books as well as the movies, so I was quite excited to see the first movie again after so many years. Unfortunately, I was very disappointed in rewatching what I had remembered as a very good movie. Obviously, since this was the first movie in a series of seven books, some of which had not even been released at the time of the movie’s release, the studio did not want to give Harry Potter a large budget yet. It shows.

One thing that I truly applaud is the casting. Nearly all of the actors from the first movie went on to portray their characters in all eight movies and they all fit the bill quite well, even the supporting characters. The special effects and some of the dialog are less impressive. While watching the first 20 minutes or so I thought that Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone could have passed for a really good made-for-TV movie. Now, I do not remember the movie giving me this impression a few years ago, so I can only guess that I have been spoiled by the high quality of the more recent movies in relation to this one.

Still, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is not a bad movie, just not very good compared to some of the others from the Harry Potter series. I would recommend the books over the movies, since the later movies have to omit small details in their movie counterparts that are charming, but not crucial to the story. While I was disappointed that Harry Potter and Philosopher’s Stone has not held up as well as I remember, I would still recommend it as I love the series as a whole and it is a necessary beginning.

I give it 3 young Nevilles out of 5.


Rotten Tomatoes


7 responses to “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (3/9/12)

  1. Pingback: All Caught Up! | Andy Watches Movies

  2. Nice review. I, too, am a huge fan of the HP books and movies and agree with you when you say that “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is not a bad movie, just not very good compared to some of the others from the Harry Potter series”.

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  5. I saw this movie without the benefit of reading the books and was really enchanted (pun intended) by the magic shown on screen. It made me read the books that had been released by that point (the first three, I believe, with the fourth on the way). The film did a great job introducing the audience to the world of Hogwarts and the rules of the wizarding universe. The kids did a fine job, but it was great that the supporting cast was fleshed out with such great talent.

    One thing I should point out, however, is that the budget for this film is a reported $125,000,000 (according to IMDb), which is more than “Chamber of Secrets” ($100,000,000) and on par with “Prisoner of Azkaban” ($130,000,000). I think what you perceive as being low-budget is the fact that the CGI in this film were fairly primitive compared to what came later–the Quiddich match looks like pre-viz animation rather than completed effects. Think about the grandeur of the sets and all the details that inhabit every frame, such as all the pictures that come to life in the background. Another thing that lends to the “cheap” look is the fact that Chris Columbus felt that he had to spoon-feed the lines to the young actors in short close-ups where each line is a different shot. This leads to choppy editing and uninspired cinematography (other than the sweeping establishing shots). This contrasts vastly with the style of the subsequent directors who make motion pictures and trust their cast, no matter their age, to deliver performances.

    • The budget likely went to sets, which seem like they were re-used throughout the series so maybe it’s kind of a grandfathered budget for the subsequent films?
      Either way the effects were pretty spotty.

      • Yeah, that had to have been part of the plan with the sets, though each movie did add a certain number of sets. I was perplexed in the third film when the director decided to change around the geography of Hogwarts (such as placing Hagrid’s shack on a hillside) since I would’ve thought the producers would nix that idea due to budgetary constraints. As for the effects, the production team commented on the vast improvements over the course of the series, which was due to technological advancements rather than budget.

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