Saturday, July 30, 2011

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer / Philosopher's Stone - Review

It took me years to warm up to the Harry Potter series, but I finally did & have done some catching up:

As an introduction to the magical Hogwarts universe, Sorcerer's Stone, is a beautiful piece of work. Its saccharine boarding school adventure ending & the awful acting from the child set, however, make it harder to take seriously. But with impeccable sets (Diagon Alley is a marvel), a haunting first shot of Hogwarts - oh how it will be destroyed in the years to come & John Williams' classic score, there is plenty for grown up cinema-goers to appreciate. 

Unfortunately, the visual effects are dubious - while the invisibility cloak is still something to write home about, "Fluffy", & the rest of the special effects guarding the Sorcerer's Stone, look a bit clunky. Especially considering this was made the same year as Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring  & AI: Artificial Intelligence.  

Script-wise, it is notable that JK Rowling had Harry talking to snakes right from the outset; as with Chamber of Secrets, its impressive how well planned & plotted her series was. It is also a nice showcase for Rowling's deft touch with surreal logic (a villain's face implanted on the back of a blithering idiot's head).         

At least the adult cast is excellent as ever. Maggie Smith is slick, if underused, as McGonnagall & Richard Harris makes a gentle & touching Dumbledore (although I will confess I prefer Michael Gambon's take), but the standouts are Robbie Coltrane as lovable Hagrid and the always-impressive Alan Rickman (can you imagine anyone else in the role) iconic as ambiguous Severus Snape.

Oscar nominations: Original Score, Costume Design (meh), Art Direction / Set Decoration