Sunday, 15 January 2012

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone Review

A friend of mine once said that she couldn't watch Twilight because if she liked it, she'd have to admit it.  I felt the same way about Harry Potter and whenever people asked me if I liked Harry Potter, I would respond with, "No.  Because I'm neither 12 years old nor a dork."  I will admit it here:  I was wrong.  Normally, I am not a huge fan of fantasy but this is a very good movie.  Don't get me wrong.  I'm not going to rush out and buy the books (especially because I can borrow them from my brother if I ever change my mind and want to read them).  But I do think JK Rowling is a genius.  She took what I can only assume is going to be a very complex saga and made it relevant to kids ("kids" for the purposes of Harry Potter includes about ages 10-15 I would think).  Not only is it relevant to kids but the books are long and so are the movies.  If you can keep a kid's attention during all of that, you've done something significant.  But, as an aside, I do think some of the subject matter is a bit dark for kids.  But the world has changed a lot since I was 11.  That, and I'm a bit of a wimp when it comes to scary stuff.

The most successful kids movies are the ones that can keep the attention of the adults as well.  Philosopher's Stone does that.  And for being the first in a series of 8 movies, that is saying something.  The movie is over two hours long and the real plot to the whole thing doesn't occur until there's only about 45 minutes left.  This is because it is an introductory piece.  They have to introduce all of the characters, the sport of Quidditch (or however the hell you spell that), the school, the concepts in wizardry, etc.  In this, I think they took a little too much time but they still keep you entertained.

The movie is now almost 11 years old and the effects show it.  There's still a lot of jerkiness in the flying around and the CGI is a bit dated.  But, for it's time, it was probably fantastic.  That being said, it did age OK.  I was looking for those things.  I think if you just sit back and enjoy it, you may not even notice. What really impressed me though was the casting.  I'm not at all familiar with the books so I don't know if the characters on screen are accurate at all.  But I do know that they were all very believable.  While I do think you could put the oversized John Lennon glasses on just about any 11 year old with a bowl haircut and they would pass for Harry Potter, the rest isn't that easy.  Alan Rickman and Robbie Coltrane are fantastic in their parts but that's expected from two very good actors.  The kids are all quite good given that their acting skills haven't developed fully.  The one I was least impressed with was Emma Watson but I'm sure I'll be able to see her improve in the next ones.  The most impressive choice though was Rupert Grint.  His facial expressions were absolutely perfect and I'm looking forward to seeing more of the three and how their relationship develops.

The only issue I had isn't really an issue but more of an observation.  The dynamic between Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Draco Malfoy was so obviously a parallel to Maverick, Goose and Iceman from Top Gun.  If Emma Watson had become Kelly McGillis, I was going to start rolling my eyes.  Thankfully, that didn't happen.  I also thought the whole goblins as bankers had a bit of an air of anti-semitism to it.  But I'll let every viewer decide that for themselves.

Most of you have probably already seen it.  But I'm sure there's a lot of holdouts like me.  For those, I say see it.  Just know you are getting an introduction into the whole saga and not a self-contained movie.