Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone ★★★

I hadn't seen this movie since it came out 12 years ago. It's a trip to see how far the actors have come, and I found it remarkable how much more I liked the young versions of these characters before they seem old enough to actually be able to deal with the situations they find themselves in.

But the film still has the same problem it had upon my first viewing, namely that the source material was well-imagined (and perhaps properly-explained enough) that it could not be adapted into a film without an absurd amount of exposition - which on one hand I'm happy this film does not rely on. But in that balance of explanation vs. over-demonstration, there are far too many things - both little and big - that simply don't make sense to someone who hasn't read the books, and I'm pulled out of the watching experience as if to be told "just wear this visitor's badge and we'll show you around".

There was at least one occasion that had me – a non-reader of the series – asking others in the room, "wait, what just happened, where are we now?", or, "why is that character now suddenly motivated in the opposite direction?" and being told, "oh, it's explained better in the book." Well of course it is, but I'm not watching a book. It's the same problem that's especially pronounced when we get to the mess that is The Prisoner of Azkaban, that pulled me out of the story entirely - because there are large holes that the films expect the source material to fill in.

Also, I have more faith in Americans to know what a philosopher is.