Recently an idea struck me while thinking of Shitfest and my Potter (book) reviews that were going up, and I had an epiphany. I enlisted the help of the ever-trusty Eric over at the IPC. I have read Potter since I was a kid, he has never read them, but watched a few minutes of the last one (I think, I stand to be corrected). I wanted an unbiased point of view of the films threaded through the opinion of someone who was irrevocably let down by one of the worst film franchises in all of history (I may be persecuted for this). Eric has the view that I never will have, and I a view he currently doesn’t. He watched without reading, I watched after reading. I firmly believe if you read the books after watching, you might still enjoy the movies (it seems to be the case with a lot of people I have met).
But rapidly after I threw this ingenious idea out there, something else struck me… how could I do this to myself? Then I realized, never mind me, I roped Eric into this whole debacle, too, without a thought in the world for his well-being!
In any event, here are our thoughts on Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s / Sorcerer’s Stone!
HARRY POOTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE
One day I was minding my own business, eating a bowl of fruit, probably doing some morning beer farting and I looked at my email and our friend Zoë had posted something about one of those Harry Potter books. I don’t remember what I said to her that day but somehow we ended up signing a contract to watch and write about all 314 of these damned movies. To start this thing off, I want to note that I have never read one letter of any of these books and only seen a few frames of the very last movie in the series (the actual very end of the last movie) so I went into the first one with a clean slate and no real bias other than “aren’t these kid’s movies??”
So I got this thing in the mail one day and put it in one afternoon and watched the first five minutes of it and thought “WHAT THE FUCK did I get myself into???” Some dude in a wizard’s cap was waving something around and street lights were turning off and some cat turned into a lady and then some dude rides a motorcycle out of the sky holding a baby…???!!??!?!?! Well, I turned that shit off and put in something else and emailed her that I didn’t really know if this was gonna work out.
A few days later I put it back in and Harry Potter was living in a closet and his uncle or whatever really hated getting mail so they moved into a lighthouse out in the middle of the ocean and then the bicycle guy was there with a freaking cake and I was really hating this movie all the way and turned it off again. A few days later I got pissed ecause this was clogging up my Netflix queue and I was being forced to watch shit on YouTube so I put it back in and muscled through it.
I think this franchise has made 47 billion dollars and everyone in the world has written about it, so there’s nothing new I could add but I just wanted to put this out there. I didn’t hate it. The action scenes – as sparse as they were – were actually pretty good and the special effects were still looking good 12 years later. The sappy shit like the flying broomstick game and the shit with his parents really put me off but in the end, I didn’t hate it as much as I thought I would. I’m not saying I am looking forward to the next one but I’m not dreading it like I was when I pressed play a week ago.
I got myself into this. Me, and me alone. Oh well. I have been putting off the viewing for weeks, because I know how much I love the Potter film franchise – which is to say, not at all. But hey, before I could even consider putting a pin in the crazy operation, Eric hopped on over and gave me his views on the film as planned. He had endured the two and a half hours, it was my turn now…
Upon watching these films a second time, I tried really hard to like them more than I know I ever have. However, I went into a nerd rage soon after it had started, which promptly led me to dragging my best friend Natasha into my bitch session, which she gladly jumped into. I thought for me the way I am going to look at these films will be a pros and cons list, it is the only way I won’t fly off the handle, so let’s start with that then, shall we? I will go with the positives, first, and then go into the not so good. This way I have to make sure that I look for something nice, too!
- Sticking to characters and their descriptions. As much as possible, anyhow. For example, Hermione actually had sort of bushy hair here, Neville really was round faced, Ron had a shock of red hair, the Weasley twins were fantastic, Dumbledore had the long hair and beard and half-moon specs. Argus Filch was disgusting, and pretty much what I thought him to be in the books.
- Alan Rickman. I know it belongs with the bit above this, but I think it truly deserves a whole thing to itself: Alan Rickman as Professor Severus Snape. He was the true embodiment of everything I ever pictured when reading about Snape in the books. Alan Rickman nailed it, got him down to a tee.
- Robbie Coltrane. He was pretty good, seems to have that slight Hagrid humour down, and was actually roughly the correct size in this film.
- The Hogwarts Express. Truly, a beautiful scarlet steam train waiting to take all the magical folk out to their magical school on the ever secret Platform 9 ¾.
- Sticking (mostly/sort of) to the original plot from the books. Most of the correct dialogue was used; most of the correct scenes were used, even if they were changed to accommodate the idea that the director had for the show.
- Maggie Smith. She was a great Minerva McGonagall, though I really thought there were too many times where a ghost of a grin was visible. She did, however, embody the strictness that is McGonagall.
- The score. I really think that John Williams did a pretty damn fine job of the score, it is really great for what it is supposed to represent – it was magical and hopeful and downright pretty cool!
- The blue eyes. Dammit, seven entire books and we are constantly told about Harry’s incredibly green eyes, and they waltz in with a blue-eyed actor. Has nobody ever heard of contacts?! Sorry, truly something that annoyed me.
- Richard Harris really just failed to embody the zany Professor Dumbledore. Not a bad attempt, but as serious as Dumbledore is, he is also pretty nutty, to be honest.
- Quidditch. Are there no such things as referees anymore? All the books depict the matches and the strict rules. This movie? Knock them off of their brooms, who gives a damn? Nobody is watching anyway, apparently. Plus it sucked overall.
- Neville Longbottom was not given as much attention as he should have been.
- The relationship between Draco Malfoy and Potter. They completely missed how vile this kid is, and how the rivalry between him and Harry is not truly adequately explained.
- Norbert the Norwegian Ridgeback. No contact with Ron’s brother, Charlie, who works with dragons in Romania to assist on their plight to get Norbert out of Hogwarts, fast? Please. That was pretty important. Nobody knew about the dragon like they made out here.
- The Sorting Hat. It seems to let the whole Hall know exactly how he is deliberating the Houses in which to place the student, and they cut the Sorting Hat’s song out altogether.
- The Hogwarts ghosts. Oki, maybe more the Bloody Baron. Since when is he laughing, joking and all that? No.
- (Courtesy of Nish) Talentless rugrats. I promise, they did nothing in terms of carrying the story and their acting was completely wooden… granted, they are kids, but that is also no excuse for me, there are a lot of great kids acting!
The movies tended to get progressively worse the further you go into the book series. This movie was long, and for all that time, they managed to keep it predominantly loyal to the book. The story it contained was mostly the same. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was far more accurate than most to follow, though definitely no great film. There were good things, and there were flaws, but I suppose most movies are like that. I know that bringing a book to screen is not always the easiest thing, and that there are changes that need to be made. Also, these movies came when Potter was in a serious hype mode. I know that I am a die-hard fan of the books but I am truly not so of the movies.