Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

The Book:

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, 1997, by J.K. Rowling.

As a book, especially a debut novel, I think it's quite good. It's quick, funny, and despite being classified as young adult fiction, clever enough to entertain most adult readers. I think it's a story well worth reading, or at least reading to your kids. Mine love these books, and the random details they remember from all of them is downright shocking. It's a fun time.

Most of my favorite passages are the slightly snappy-attitude bits:
". . . for Neville had been tugging on the sleeve of Harry's bathrobe for the last minute. 'What?'
Harry turned around--and saw quite clearly, what."

"Chess was the only thing Hermione ever lost at, something Harry and Ron thought was very good for her."

Something I think you really need the book to explain is how Ron's wand keeps misfiring and making all kinds of mistakes; I don't think they come right out and say in the film that it's second-hand, but the book does, it had belonged to one of his brothers. Useful information. The little poems and chants are funny enough but get a little long in a story like this where everyone really just wants to read what happens next. The only complaint I have is about the ending; I wanted a little more than "it was one of my more genius ideas," from Dumbledore about Harry being able to majestically "get" the stone simply because he wanted to obtain it but not use it. But it made a little more sense to me in the book than in the film, and the mirror of Erised seemed a lot less random considering what it ultimately got used for; so I'm easy, I can dig it.

Look how little and squeaky they were!
The Film:

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, 2001, directed by Chris Columbus.
152 minutes.

I mention the time only because I think it got a bit too long. As I run through the Potter series, I've learned one thing and it's the shorter the film, the better. My favorites have been the shortest in minutes, with no room for a lot of filler. This had a bit of filler, and was definitely McGoo, but the kids were pretty young yet, there's only so much darkness the target audience (or their parents) was going to be able to handle, although the ending probably made a few kids wet their pants a little.

Well done:
1. The Gringott's Bank scenes, especially the key system in the vaults.
2. Hogwarts as a structure and the mise en scene inside the castle.
3. The broom-flying.
4. Casting.

1. Clunky scenes between Harry and Hagrid in Diagon Alley showing their differences in size.
2. The randomness of the Sorting Hat's list.
3. The scene with McGonagal and Neville on the stairs.
4. The bit about Seamus needing another feather in Flitwick's charms class.
Speed it up; these scenes were duds and just ate up the clock. This is one of those films that was definitely better at having the events show what was going on rather than having the actors try to discuss or describe things, with one exception, of course, and that's Snape. Alan Rickman is spectacular in everything he does, but quite honestly, he's the main reason I like these films. Rule #2 in Harry Potter? The more Snape, the better. He's aces, all the way.