Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001)
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The costume and set design were great.
However I felt that the lighting, timing, sound design, cinematography, and general direction were lacking. This movie probably serves a purpose if you want to visualize what you've read in the books, but as a movie, it was not very good.
A sweet movie, lovely kids, quite close to the book - really magical!
The Philosopher's Stone (or Sorcerer's Stone - why do Americans fear philosophy?) is the first entry and right away, my major beef is that it talks DOWN to the kids making up its presumptive audience. (I haven't read Rowling's books, and will make no attempt to, so this is criticism of the film, with the assumption being it is the fruit of a poisoned tree.) I don't mind kids' movies, so long as they're not reductive of the adult experience. Harry's evil family IS reductive, just one-dimensional caricatures making Harry's life hell before he goes to Hogwarts. I'm sure it's meant to establish the story as a modern fairy tale, but I don't know that it worked. Perhaps I was too distracted by the hacky lifts from other fiction. My misgivings about the franchise had always been my snobby contention that I'd liked it the first time around, when it was called The Books of Magic, but really, Rowling's also put Tolkien and Lewis in her blender, though perhaps it's unavoidable when you do a fantasy story about a "chosen one". I can excuse a lot of this even if I found it annoying going through it, but where I draw the line is the lazy plotting. While there's a greater story about the evil wizard who killed Harry's parents, the villain of the film itself is a bit of a cheat even if you guessed Snape was a red herring. And there's a LOT of cheating in the first Harry Potter book. Part of the story hangs on the competition between the four Houses or whatever they're called, a competition Harry's lot win because the school principal, Dumbledore, gives them bonus points at the very end. It's a manufactured punch-the-air moment that falls completely flat because it seems so unfair to the other kids. The same care has been taken in the creation of the now-iconic Quidditch sport, whose goals hardly matter because catching the small independent ball that ends the game gives you so many points, it would effectively always win you the game (unless the other team was more than 15 points AHEAD). I don't mind whimsy, and there's a lot of that here, but such elements take me out of the world entirely. That's not to say I hated the film. I thought the kids were reasonably good in their roles. There are some awesome adult actors as well (who doesn't like Maggie Smith or Alan Rickman?). As the former grow up, some of them will become adult actors I enjoy today. And since I must watch the entire franchise before I'm through with my project, I'm eager for the franchise to grow up as well. For now, the childish fairy tale and gross-out moments seem at odd with the running length and darker elements like the dead unicorn.
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In 5 official lists
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This movie ranks #44 in iCheckMovies's Most Checked
This movie ranks #47 in Box Office Mojo's All Time Worldwide Box Office
This movie ranks #67 in Butler's Fantasy Cinema: Impossible Worlds on Screen
This movie ranks #80 in Box Office Mojo's All Time Adjusted Box Office
This movie ranks #344 in Emma Beare's 501 Must-See Movies