Last night (Sunday, Nov. 11), I went to see “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (as it is known in Europe)” here in Canterbury. Let me say, right off the bat, that as an avid reader of the books, I expected more.
I wasn’t expecting it to follow the book exactly. I expected to feel magic; is that too much to ask?
There were a few neat tricks in there though. In the beginning, Professor Dumbledore (Richard Harris) sucks balls of light from the street lamps into his special lighter (a putter-outer or something) in a cool way that wasn’t in the book.
The entire beginning, before the letters start coming, is a bit of a bore. Without being inside Harry’s (Daniel Radcliffe) head and knowing all that he does, the beginning isn’t really charming like it should be.
Everything is, as expected, cut short. What takes almost a month in the book takes less than a week on screen. Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) shows up and he isn’t a disappointment. He ends up being one of the many bright spots in the movie.
The Gringotts scene is wonderful and, although cut short, really imaginative. One bit I liked, that was different from the book, was when Harry goes to pick out his wand.
He only tries about three wands total and the first two, instead of doing nothing when waved, cause things to explode. But the final one doesn’t send off sparks or anything, there is just a weird lighting and cloud effect that happens above him (plus a little wind).
Fans of the books will be disappointed because a lot of minor characters are left out. Neville Longbottom (Matt Lewis) is there, but is easily confused with a random boy that keeps blowing things up.
The trick of this movie is that each scene is actually three scenes in the book combined. The only people Harry meets on the train are Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson). Ron is cute and funny and Hermione is a superior know-it-all. She fixes Harry’s glasses to show off the magic skill she has got just from reading ahead in her books. She is one of the best characters in the film.
Harry doesn’t meet Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) until they are about to be sorted. Overall, he doesn’t seem as slimy and mean as he is in the book, he is just a jerk of a kid. Oh, and there is no Peeves.
Apparently, they changed the order of the kids so that they are sorted by main character. Hermione first, Harry last, with Ron, Malfoy and a random girl in between. The hat was pretty well animated and yelled out Slytherin before it was all the way on Malfoy’s head.
I wish the teachers were more like they were in the book. Dumbledore isn’t nearly as quirky. Professor McGonagall (Maggie Smith) doesn’t seem as stern. Professor Snape (Alan Rickman) doesn’t seem mean or evil enough (and Potions class wasn’t even in the dungeon).
Most of the indoor castle scenes are pretty dark, which (as my friends told me) is what people expected. I personally expected things to be more colorful (not in a cartoon way, but in a magic way). Basically most things look very realistic.
Some really great characters are Argus Filtch (David Bradley) and Professor Flitwick (Warwick Davis, whom you may remember him from “Willow”).
The troll scene is great, but not as scary as in the book. The scandal over Norbert, the dragon illegally hatched and raised by Hagrid, is seriously downplayed; we see Norbert hatch and then he is easily taken care of and shipped off to Romania. Hagrid’s reaction is priceless, though.
The forest scene was pretty cool, but the centaur was just there for three minutes to save Harry, give us some information and leave.
The Quidditch scene (there was only one) was really great. It was exciting and dramatic and I can’t wait to see more of it on the DVD.
Most exciting was that, for people who haven’t read the book, the ending was a complete surprise! For those of you who have read the book, you will easily see the camera shots that give it away.
Throughout the movie, Hermione is great and Ron gives the audience some funny one-liners. All of Harry’s good lines in the book are cut in the movie and I thought it rendered him a bland character.
He doesn’t have much of a personality besides that he reacts to things in the way that he should. He takes everything in stride, misses his parents and hates evil.
On the whole, if you haven’t read the books, definitely see it. If you have read the books, see it so you can pick it apart with your friends afterwards. A good time will be had by all, but do not expect a masterpiece.