I am a huge fan of the Harry Potter books and (yes, I’m a geek) I’ve probably read them hundreds of times. Having purchased the box set of films, I’ve decided to have a Harry Potter rewatch (until we get to the last two films, which will just be a watch as I’ve not seen them), to see if I can learn to love the films as much as the books (doubtful, but I’ll try).
Up first is Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, which contains dolls playing the parts of Harry, Ron and Hermione. Oops, sorry, not dolls, they’re just the very young, extremely tiny Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson. Let’s get this out of the way, the three of them are sweet, and they all look the part, but they can’t act for all the chocolate frogs in the world in this film.
The best child actor in this film is Tom Felton as Draco Malfoy. From that perfect sneer on his face when he encounters Harry for the first time to his indignation at being given detention by McGonagall to his fear in the Forbidden Forest, Felton’s pretty good at embodying the horrid Malfoy.
I love the pre-Hogwarts scenes in this film, because what I loved most about the first book was finding out all about the wizard world. Diagon Alley is one of my favourite fictional places in the world, and this film gets pretty close to how I see it in my head – busy, with surprises in every shopfront, full of strange people. It’s like Oxford Street, but with magic.
Also pretty good are the Dursleys, who are just as contemptible as they are in the book, and Molly Weasley, who is just as lovely, even though we only see her briefly. All the Weasleys are pretty cool, and they’ll definitely be welcomed in further films.
Hagrid, although I find the scaling odd – sometimes he’s massive, sometimes he just looks normal – is played well by Robbie Coltrane (although I’ll never stop associating him with Cracker). He’s the perfect mix of protective and funny.
Once we get to Hogwarts, I don’t feel the film quite lives up to the book. I think the film missed a trick by not including one of Dumbledore’s best lines ever: “Before we begin our banquet, I would like to say a few words. And here they are: Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!”
I was a little bored by the film’s Quidditch scene, which I was also bored with the first time I saw this film. Unfortunately, time has done nothing to improve it. Somehow, seeing almost six minutes of high-speed Quidditch played out on screen is less exciting than reading about it.
More exciting are the final scenes with Harry, Ron and Hermione trying to get to the philosopher’s stone. The chess scene, in particular, is tense and builds brilliantly to the moment Ron makes his final move. Quirrell turning to ash every time he touches Harry, although not quite the way it’s done in the book, is powerful, and seeing the hideous face of Voldemort is actually scary.
There are some essential parts, things I consider essential in the book anyway, missing from the film. I love a bit of angst, so everyone disliking Harry because of the whole Norbert incident is one of my favourite parts of the book, but instead we just get our gang of three getting in trouble for going to see Hagrid. Also not in the film is Hermione solving Snape’s logical quiz to get Harry to the philosopher’s stone, but maybe this was because the writers of the film didn’t understand which bottle got Harry through the fire.
Overall, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is a decent adaptation of the first book. It’s light on the darker plots that surface later in the series, and heavy on exposition, but in that way it’s exactly like the book.