In my endeavor to incorporate movies in the blog, I thought that a Harry Potter rewatch was definitely in order. (Plus, I was in the mood to watch the story develop from the very beginning.) So here we are, at the beginning of everything. This is where the magic begins for thousands of people who have never read the books and this is where the magic comes to life for everyone who already has. I honestly cannot remember if I read the book or watched the movie first. But does it really matter with an adaptation this faithful and stunning? No, no it doesn’t.
There’s a lot that can be said for this first movie. The casting was spot-on and you can tell that everyone carefully put this movie together with the greatest love. Excluding The Fellowship of the Ring, this is probably the most faithful book-to-movie adaption I’ve ever seen (and honestly, I don’t know if I can decided between the two). Since I do have to narrow things down though, I’ve decided to touch on three specific points that really caught my eye.
Those Facial Expressions
Lets start with Harry’s time at the Dursley’s, shall we? I for one cannot get over the eye rolls and the spot-on look of disgust on Daniel Radcliffe’s face in these scenes. (Lets also not forget the exasperation when he denied Draco’s offer of “friendship.”) These brief moments really channeled the books details into the movie just as much or even more than any words could have. Honestly, the first movie might be the most heavy in terms of how often these facial expressions are used.
Also worth noting is Richard Griffiths’ (Uncle Vernon) performance which, at times, channeled the stereotypical children’s villain: cruel and angry but a coward at heart – not anything so serious as what you find when you’re facing Lord Voldemort or any of his Death Eaters. But he created this in small ways: squinting his eyes, looking crazy and triumphant simultaneously (as seen above), and the evil smile… it was an extraordinarily perfect set up for the franchise.
I’d like to note the lighting for the movie as a whole. It’s actually rather bright and optimistic, even in the beginning when Harry is still imprisoned at the Dursley’s house. This creates a rather whimsical feeling even as Uncle Vernon is screwing a piece of wood over the letter hole. But even after Vernon has taken his family to the middle of nowhere, the lighting inside the cabin was actually bright considering they were in a rather dirty and dank room.
While the subject matter of the movie grows more serious as we begin to learn more about Voldemort, the lighting is still consistently bright. A good example is the scene when Harry & co. are sent into the Forbidden Forest as detention. The blue and black tones tell us that for the characters, it’s dark but the scenes remain well-lit. This keeps the movie from feeling or becoming too dark. It also reflects the nature of Harry’s story. While he has encountered Voldemort again, his journey is still innocent and mostly free of trouble (that he doesn’t cause himself).
I think it’s a truth universally acknowledged that the Harry Potter movies would not be the same without John Williams’ hand in penning the instantly identifiable Harry Potter theme. While he didn’t write the music for all of the films, he established the basis off of which the rest of the scores worked off of. Rowling brought the magic to the page, Chris Columbus & co. brought it to the screen, and Mr. Williams tied it all together with a lasting theme that would delight us all through each movie.
From what I’ve noticed, John Williams tends to write music that is more upbeat. That isn’t to say that he can’t write something serious and dire as well (hello, he gave us The Duel of Fates), but even in those pieces the music remains bouncy. This dynamic style fit really well with the first two Harry Potter movies where Harry and the audience were just learning about all the wonders the wizarding world had to offer.
I’ve watched this movie dozens of times. I’ve lost count. Even if you didn’t like the books, I still think that Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is a very well-done movie and is worth watching based off of that fact alone.
What do you think made Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone movie so successful?