Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson
Director: Chris Columbus
Running Time: 152 mins
Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone is a British film about a young orphan who is taken to the prestigious school of wizardry, Hogwarts, where he learns all about the magical world, both the good and the bad.
This is my first foray into the world of Harry Potter. I’ve never read any of the books, and never saw any of these films when I was young, so this is going to be a no-nonsense, nostalgia-free review. Happily, I was delighted by this movie, which is a hugely entertaining and upbeat fantasy adventure. Featuring excellent directing from Chris Columbus, great performances from three young actors, and a wonderfully imaginative story, Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone is a real treat from start to finish.
First things first, it’s important to note what this film actually is. Unlike so many of the best-remembered blockbusters from the 21st Century, this is more a kids’ movie than anything else, but that works so well in its favour. Rather than trying to go for a Lord Of The Rings or Star Wars level of seriousness and drama, The Philosopher’s Stone is always principally focused on providing the wonder of discovering a magical world for the first time, just like young Harry Potter.
And if there’s one person that can take a lot of credit for that, then it’s Chris Columbus. Whilst J.K. Rowling’s story is naturally fantastic, Columbus does a stunning job to convert it to screen so well. Almost never overstepping the mark with big-budget action sequences, The Philosopher’s Stone is a surprisingly quaint and cute film, given that we spend so much of it following the main trio adventuring around their new school, making friends and solving mysteries.
Columbus may not deliver the extreme thrills and drama that hardcore fantasy fans love so much, but what he does so well is keep the family-friendly, imaginative atmosphere consistent throughout the film, making it an absolutely delightful watch from start to finish.
Along with Columbus, John Williams’ score deserves huge praise. Whilst not quite as stirring as his Star Wars or Indiana Jones themes, the music in this movie is yet another key element that keeps it so enjoyable. The main theme perfectly matches the mystery of the magic of Hogwarts, whilst the rest of the music always brilliantly mirrors the adventure lying ahead of the young wizards, even when the going gets tough in the later stages.
Of course, we can’t have a review of a Harry Potter movie without talking about J.K. Rowling, who wrote the original book that was adapted to the big screen by Steve Kloves. On the whole, the story here is brilliant, as it features enough fantasy gibberish about Hogwarts’ house and sport systems to make it feel as deep and realistic as possible, whilst the fact that the focal point of this story is the bond and friendship between our main characters, Harry, Ron and Hermione, instead of any grand, high-stakes fantasy drama, makes it a truly delightful and sweet film to watch.
Finally, the performances here are pretty strong, particularly given the age of the lead actors. In the central role, Daniel Radcliffe is great, nowhere near as annoying as your average 11 year-old actor, whilst Rupert Grint also impresses with a performance solidly matching Radcliffe. Emma Watson isn’t quite up to their standard here unfortunately, as her performance as the enthusiastic goodie-two-shoes often feels a little stiff, like she’s still in a school play, it’s still a far better job than the majority of 10 year-old actors manage in these sorts of films, so it’s not too much of a problem.
On the whole, I really enjoyed Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone. It’s a delightful fantasy adventure that kicks off the franchise perfectly, by hitting the sweet spot between fantasy drama and the simple wonder of discovering a whole new world. With great directing, scoring, writing and acting, this is a hugely well-honed film that will make a delightful watch for absolutely anyone, and that’s why it gets a 7.8 from me.