Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
Release Year: 2001
Director: Chris Columbus
Screenwriters: Steve Kloves, J.K. Rowling (novel)
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Richard Harris, Robbie Coltrane, Maggie Smith, Ian Hart, Tom Felton, Richard Griffiths, Fiona Shaw
Rating: 3 Oscar nominations: Best Art Direction, Best Original Score, Best Costume Design. Won 1 Saturn Award: Best Costumes. 8 Saturn Award nominations: Best Fantasy Film, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Robbie Coltrane), Best Supporting Actress (Maggie Smith), Best Performance by a Younger Actor (Daniel Radcliffe), Best Performance by a Younger Actress (Emma Watson), Best Make-Up, Best Special Effects.
On his 11th birthday, Harry Potter discovers that he is a wizard and begins a completely different life at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Together with his new friends, Ron and Hermione, he starts to suspect that the evil wizard who killed his parents is planning to return to power.
J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books were a major international success from the publication of the first book in 1997. As a result, the cinematic adaptation of the first volume, The Philosopher’s Stone (in the US known as The Sorcerer’s Stone), was highly anticipated. The movie thankfully does not disappoint. This is mainly due to the fact that so many things were done right to such a degree that the film is a fine fantasy film even for those not familiar with the world from its literary source. First of all, the casting is impeccable. Child actors are sometimes problematic, but the three leads are allround great despite being a bit rough around the edges at times. Rupert Grint (Moonwalkers, 2015) and Emma Watson (The Perks of Being a Wallflower, 2012) perfectly capture the essance as well as the appearance of Harry Potter’s two best friends, and Daniel Radcliffe is nothing less of a find as the young wizard. The three beginners are surrounded by the best of British so to speak, from Richard Harris (Camelot, 1967) to Maggie Smith (Gosford Park, 2001), but especially Alan Rickman (Sense and Sensibility, 1995), who is spot on as the malicious Professor Snape When Chris Columbus was chosen to direct there were those who feared that it would turn into a slapstick fare along the lines of his earlier films such as Home Alone (1990) and Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), but Columbus has managed to make a film that is very respectful of its beloved source. The only way in which this faithful adaptation deviates is in it lack of Rowling’s sharp and satirical wit. As a result the film becomes a bit sugar sweet at times, but manages to stay on the right side of over the top. That being said, Harry Potter and the Philospher’s Stone is very much a children’s film, which makes the older part of the audience yearn after the later instalments. Visually and musically (yet again the great John Williams at work here) the world of Harry Potter is realised brilliantly, and Philosopher’s stone is a nice introductory story to a great franchise.
Alan Rickman (Die Hard, 1988) was handpicked by the author J.K. Rowling to play Severus Snape. She even gave him insights to his charater including vital information about the character’s background which wasn’t revealed until the final book in the series published 6 years later.
Picture Copyright: Warner Bros.