Revisiting Hogwarts: The Sorcerer’s Stone

"Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone"

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I used to be, quite possibly, the biggest Harry Potter freak ever. I read the books over and over, waiting in massive lines at midnight for both the book releases and the movie premieres, obsessed over hints J.K. Rowling left on her website–the works. In long car rides, my brother and I tried to stump each other with the most difficult trivia questions we could devise. It also became a tradition to play Harry Potter-themed hangman while we waited for our food at the Macaroni Grill.

In recent years, my obsession has dwindled down to mere burning love, but in honor of the release of the final installment–which is barely a month away–my friends and I are rewatching the earlier films, most of which I have not seen in years.

I have caught glimpses of the first movie on ABC Family over the years, always squealing “Look how little they were!” But it was only after rereading the first book and then sitting down to watch its cinematic counterpart that my original thoughts (that is, my 10-year-old ones) starting coming back to me.

By 10, I was fully immersed in Harry Potter. I identified with Harry, but thought that I was the spitting image of Hermione (I, too, had unfortunate front teeth and frizzy, untamed brown hair). The prospect of Harry on the big screen thrilled me to no end, but I was also ready to jump on every single inaccuracy the movie presented me. In retrospect, the first movie was probably one of the truest to its original (if only because its plot was of the simplest), but there were a number of things that outraged my fifth-grade self. Here are just the ones that really hit a nerve:

  • The first scene is cut way too short and removes all the importance and heaviness from the exchange
  • Daniel Radcliffe’s eyes are intensely blue and they don’t even try to make it look like his hair is messy
  • Draco and Harry meet in Diagon Alley and the train, NOT the Hogwarts steps
  • There is no Peeves
  • Ron and Harry intensely hate Hermione until the troll incident–they are not already all three hanging out all the time
  • The whole wizard’s duel with Malfoy is taken out and Ron, Harry, and Hermione find Fluffy quite randomly 
  • There is no attempt to get rid of Norbert, and Ron ends up in detention instead of Neville
  • Snape’s logic riddle with the potions is taken out of the end and Hermione does not go with Harry for no particular reason at all
In rewatching The Sorcerer’s Stone, it became even clearer how bad the young actors were originally (especially Emma Watson). The dialogue was often cheesy to the point of cringing, and their facial expressions were often hilarious (though Rupert Grint’s were often quite good). Still, it was obvious how much director Chris Columbus respected the work he was taking from. He was establishing the foundation for this franchise, and all of the actors were chosen with care to look very much like their character and the locations were obviously agonized over. The acting would improve with time, but for a start, a lot of work clearly went into the first film to make fans happy.
The acting would get better with time (although Daniel Radcliffe’s only slightly so). A lot of people have said the Harry Potter movies were disappointing in comparison with the Academy Award-winning work done with the Lord of the Rings adaptations, but I have to say that when you’re working with three ten-year-olds who have never acted before, you can’t expect to win Oscars. I have my fingers crossed for this last one though. Ha.
In short, the first movie did exactly what it was supposed to do–brought Rowling’s world to life and opened Harry Potter up to people who had never read the books before. I can’t find a lot of fault in that.

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