Sunday, September 7, 2014

11. Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone (2001)

(not sure of the exact year I did this, but I figured this entry needed a personal touch)

Code-name: muggle
(muggle: (n) people in the Harry Potter universe incapable of using magic)

Writer (book): J.K. Rowling
Writer (movie): Steve Kloves
Director: Chris Columbus
Composer: John Williams


Vernon Dursley- Richard Griffiths (RIP 2013)
Petunia Dursley- Fiona Shaw
Dudley Dursley- Harry Melling
[Witches and Wizards]
Harry Potter- Daniel Radcliffe
Headmaster Albus Dumbledore- Richard Harris (RIP 2002)
Professor McGonagall- Maggie Smith
Professor Snape- Alan Rickman
Hagrid- Robbie Coltrane
Professor Quirrell- Ian Hart
Madame Hooch- Zoe Wanamaker

Ron Weasley- Rupert Grint
Hermonine Granger- Emma Watson

Notable Nominations:

OSCAR- Best Art Direction
OSCAR- Best Costume Design
OSCAR- Best Original Score- John Williams
Grammy- Best Score Soundtrack- John Williams


The Beginning

It's hard to believe how long it's been...  or how long it took me to get on board.

If I remember right, I received the first Harry Potter book along with a couple from Beverly Cleary's Ramona series as gifts from one of our neighbors before I underwent surgery for my scoliosis. I never read it and wound up donating it.

A couple years later, my mom started reading the books after the people she knew at the library where she shelved books recommended them. I swear, it was in one ear and out the other, when she raved about how great they were.

Then came the movie trailers and I wanted no part of any of it... that lasted for maybe, I don't know, a month. However long it took for them to show the first trailer with Daniel Radcliffe having dialogue.
"I think we're going to need another feather over here, Professor"
I got curious and bought the book at Target. I'd have to guess this was a few weeks before the movie came out.

I still remember the time and place where I started to believe in magic... not just J.K. Rowling's, but the magic of books in general.

I was in my room, reading the book aloud to myself after dinner time, so roughly 7pm.
I came across this passage on page 12 where McGonagall was talking to Dumbledore:


"'The rumor is that Lily and James Potter are -- are -- that they're -- dead.'"

I read through this page and I was sobbing :P My mom comes into my room a page or so later about something and I'm telling her about it.

Like I said, in one ear and out the other, and somewhere along the way, that was one detail I completely forgot about.

But... it did its job. It got me hooked on the whole series and I'd been reading young adult fantasy fiction ever since.

My first
AND second time
Whatever British accent I developed after seeing the movie stuck with me until the following morning. The movie was AMAZING as was seeing all these characters I've read about for the past several days come to life. An experience I'd never had before.
By the time the movie came out, I'd gotten as far as Harry catching the Snitch in his first Quidditch game. Suffice to say, that made for a few extra surprises.

The biggest one was the grand reveal about who the villain really was. And it wasn't Snape as I'd been led to believe for the first 150 or so pages.

Actually loved it so much that when my friends invited me to see it with them on New Year's Eve (after they'd seen "Lord of the Rings" to compare the two), I jumped at the chance. Don't remember if I'd seen "Lord of the Rings" yet, but they still preferred and I was still loving Harry.

Plot and Characters[if you hadn't read the books or seen the movies, I feel sorry for you because you're missing on some great stuff... if you see any movie based on a book series, this is the one I'd recommend the most]

To the muggles and newbies, here's the short version of this movie's storyline:
After the murder of his parents by the evil wizard Voldermort, Harry Potter is left on the doorstep of his magic-hating muggle relatives, the Dursleys.
On his 11th birthday, he learns from half-giant Hagrid that he's a wizard and is accepted to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. As he excels in his classes, makes friends and learns more about the world his parents are from, the threat of Voldermort's return lurks in the shadows.

So what better introduction to this special world is there than through the eyes of someone like Harry, who knows about as much about it as we do? We experience things for the first time as he does with the same wide-eyed curiosity... and it's pretty amazing. It also takes some time to get a grasp of his significance in the wizarding world. His name becomes legend when he was a baby because he was the only one to survive Voldermort's reign of terror and something about him put an end to it.
When he arrives at Hogwarts, there're expectations of him he doesn't quite understand and isn't sure he'll be able to live up. Although becoming the youngest Quidditch seeker in a century isn't too shabby a start.

Early on, he becomes friends with Ron Weasley, a red-haired boy from a large family and finds an enemy in Slytherin classmate Draco Malfoy.
Another member of the Gryffindor house along with Harry and Ron is Hermione Granger, a muggle with extraordinary magical powers who is perceived as your typical know-it-all goody-two-shoes straight A student. Along the way, she becomes friends with Harry and Ron, which proves useful in more ways than one could ever hope to count.Then of course we have the professors, all played by seasoned British actors (with the exceptions of Richard Harris [Irish] and Zoe Wanamaker [American]).
It was unfortunate we only had Richard Harris for the first two Harry Potter movies. When I reread the books, he's the Dumbledore I see in my mind.
Alan Rickman plays a pretty good bad guy, but next to nostalgia, the character arc he has as Professor Snape is the second biggest reason why I've watched the movies so much as I have. Let's just say for now that it's pretty extraordinary.
Best Book to Movie adaptation EVER

Well, that's not entirely fair :P every other book-to-movie adaptation that's come out since Harry Potter, so obviously everyone who cares about this sort of thing will use this as the model for all other films of their kind.

"Star Wars" got its place on my list last week from my mom's obsession passing over to me and getting me into big-scale movies made specifically for the theatrical experience. But while my dad will sit through Star Wars with us, he more or less refuses with "Harry Potter."

This movie comes in a spot higher because the obsession bug got to me too. We read all the books, we saw all the movies and yeah, I want to visit the Harry Potter world in Universal Orlando one of these days.
Just saying...

Those who read the books can nitpick about one or two scenes of "Harry Potter" that were changed around, particularly

1) (opposed to total randomness) the trio being out at night and running into Fluffy because Draco Malfoy challenged Harry to a duel
2) Hermonine and Ron (opposed to Ron and Neville) being in the woods for detention..

Other than that, it felt like a perfect adaptation from the actual book. The first several times through, it was nothing short of magical to me. It was such fun. It was whimsical and imaginative. Great dialogue (very hilarious at times) and great characters. The music was fantastic throughout (particularly in the pivotal wizard chess match that separates Harry from his friends before his big "confrontation" scene).

The closest I'd seen otherwise was The Hunger Games... Divergent wasn't too bad either, actually.

Even though that's my personal policy, I wouldn't necessarily say you HAVE to read the books beforehand. The magical quality of them, the memorable characters and such are enough to carry you through. I'm just saying if you're behind the learning curve of this genre, the books have very thorough explanations of things.

The Series... abridged version

I'm sure I'll have time to go into this at some point, so I'll keep this as short as I possibly can.

For the record, the adaptations were pretty solid. Bits and pieces were changed, but I didn't have any huge complaints.

I remember being at school when the "Prisoner of Azkaban" came out and someone in my Calculus class complained how they only showed one Quidditch match. Point taken.

My biggest issue lies with the 5th book, which very well may be my favorite in the series.
The movie... I had so many issues with. Probably the biggest is the length. There is no reason why this 870 page book had to be the shortest movie. SO MANY of my favorite scenes got cut...
But then, I could spend a whole entry on what they did wrong (or didn't include) in the "Order of the Phoenix" adaptation.

Other Comments
It feels strange watching this in September. Must be all those Harry Potter marathons on the family channel around Halloween. Then again, some of John Williams' score here has me thinking Christmas and I'm talking aside from the awesome Christmas scene.
Considering all the films, what they've accomplished, how advanced the special effects are, you can't really put a price on the original "Harry Potter" film. Aside from it being the first one, it has an advantage the others don't.

As the years go by and the other movies come out, you get the opportunity to see the movie with new years. Knowing more about the characters, what they will go on to do, you marvel at them. In other respects, you gain a better appreciation for certain characters. Professor Snape and Neville are two major players in this way.
For me, the Mirror of Erised scene was one of the my favorites, but after seeing the 4th movie where Harry's parents reappear via Priori Incantatem, I cannot watch this scene without getting teary-eyed. I hear it has some emotional ties to JK Rowling, who lost her father at a young age and missing him made some small contributions to the world she created in these books. 

Seriously, I'm so crazy about these books and movies I could go on forever... so it's best that I stop here.

I will add it influenced some of my writing and I played through the PlayStation game one time before selling it. It was kinda tough in places. The place I got stuck in involved getting through a room using the invisibility cloak without being spotted by Filch or Mrs. Norris. They just couldn't make it easy like in the movie, you had to make it from one invisibility cloak "token" to the next without being seen. Then the Devil's Snare was a little tough... everything else was cake and I got more gameplay with the Quidditch mini-game before I had enough.

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