Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone ★★★★½

(2019 Harry Potter Marathon)

The magic and awe of the wizarding world comes to life for the very first time.

"Feels strange to be going home, doesn't it? ... I'm not going home... not really."

The Harry Potter franchise was a brilliant cinematic achievement, but I have to admit I was resistant to dive in at first. Being a huge LOTR fan in 2001 and anxiously awaiting Fellowship to come out, I stubbornly resisted seeing what all the hype was about with Harry Potter. Once I got older I eventually caved and enjoyed seeing 'Order of The Phoenix' on Blu-ray, and proceeded to catch up on all that I had been missing out on. Now I am watching entire franchise again with my kids, and most of these films I have only seen once or twice.

This opening movie was an excellent introduction to J. K. Rowling's whimsical world with its great cast, score, and production design. Wow, did the young Daniel Radcliffe have a magnetic smile, that they put to excellent use to show how at peace and in his element Harry is at Hogwarts. This contrasts his aunt's house were he was raised his whole life as basically a second class citizen. They really go over board to make us hate his care takers, and it's great to see when he is finally able to get away and go off to become a Wizard. If they hated him so much, why did they want him to stay??? I also like all the foreshadowing that is incorporated to show Harry's connection to Voldemort, by him talking with the snake and the hat wanting him to go to Slytherin House.

Like Radcliffe, Emma Watson was instantly brilliant playing Hermione, but Rupert Grint was almost to authentic as the bubbling little Ron Weasley. But he does well enough and I recall him doing a good job of coming into his own as the series progressed. It is admirable how well this cast of children did, despite the occasional over acting from characters like Draco who often must histarically laugh at our heros. The rest of the cast is also great, but I particularly like the soft ancient feel characters like Dumbledore and Professor
McGonagall add to this setting.

John Williams has composed some of the most amazing cinematic scores of all time, and the magical melodies he conjured up for Harry Potter are no different. The music has such a great way of opening the films, and it never feels overused as it is subtly woven throughout.

Director Chris Columbus did an excellent job at presenting the magic of Hogwarts on screen for the first time. There are so many wonderful elements/effects that fill the movie's entire run time. Everything from that fantastic outdoor view of Hogwarts over the water at night, the house selection hat, the mail delivery owls, Fluffy the 3 headed dog, the cloak of invisibility, and the genuinely dressed hallways with floating candles all really make us feel like we have been transported to this world of wizards along with Harry. The one part that does not hold up so well is all the CGI during the quidditch match. It is still a really fun and ambitious scene, but it falls short compared to how well the rest of the movie is presented.

Despite this being a relatively long kids feature, it has excellently pacing as we follow our heroes from class to class and magical encounter until we finally reach the climax where each of the kids must use their talents to help Harry save the day by stopping 'you know who'.

In hindsight I really do appreciate what the Harry Potter franchise did by giving children this very strong fantasy story geared toward them, that starts out light and fun and gets more dark and intense as it goes along.

Thanks for reading!
Happy movie watching ... cheers!

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