movieThemes: Alan Rickman
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Harry Potter (2001)

Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Richard Harris, Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane, Alan Rickman
Director: Chris Columbus
Producers: David Heyman and Tanya Seghatchian
Screenplay: Steven Kloves based on novel by J.K. Rowling
Cinematography: John Seale
Music: John Williams
Approximate Running Time: 152 minutes
Rating:

Category: Children's adventure mystery

The Plot: Harry Potter is an orphan living with his truly dispicable Aunt and Uncle when something marvelous happens on his 11th birthday. It begins as a trickle and turns into a landslide which culminates with the gentle giant, Hagrid, sweeping Harry off to the magical school of Hogwarts, where Harry can learn to achieve his ultimate destiny - wizard. Once at Hogwarts, Harry finds himself falling into adventure with his friends Rod and Hermoine, as they try to protect the Philosophers Stone from falling into the wrong hands.

Comment: I am probably one of the few people out there who has yet to attempt a second viewing of this movie. No one can doubt the movie was a success, but it came at a price - it failed to take on a life of its own. True, one could argue that to have not stuck to the book would have caused protest from tens of millions of children and adults throughout the world. However, by remaining faithful to the book, the film lacks lustre and worse, key scenes were deleted/edited out.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone has undoubtedly the dream cast! For all the adults reading the book, they no doubt imagined Richard Harris as Headmaster Albus Dumbledore , Maggie Smith as Professor Minerva McGonagall and Alan Rickman as Snape. Columbus' choices for the children was spot on the mark and he has assembled an incredibly strong group of talent. Personally, I felt Rupert Grint stole the show as Ron, probably the only character to actually improve on the book!

However, for all the strength in the cast, only Alan Rickman seemed to be given the reigns to actually put a bit of life in his portrayal as Snape. He only had a few scenes in the movie, but it has sparked a revolution in teenage fans and firmly emblazoned his name on the actors landscape as a power to be reckoned with. Not bad for 10 minutes of screen time! Dumbledore and McGonagall were absolute shadows of the potential for Harris and Smith. True, Coltrane was also given a lot of leeway to create a credible Hagrid - but no doubt that is because of all the adult characters in the film, he is the one children are most likely going to identify with - a lovable, slightly dim buffoon who makes mistakes and humerous ones at that!

A special mention should be made of the music and overall scenery - also absolutely spot on - captured the Harry Potter book perfectly and yet filled our imaginations with 1000s of details that we had no doubt not included in our mental image of Hogwarts! William's music was perfect for the whole fantasical yet dark atmosphere which so quintessentially captures the Harry Potter books.

Another area where the film fell down badly was in the special effects arena. From start to finish, the need to film the first Harry Potter film in a hurry was evident the moment they cast Daniel Radcliffe as Harry - they had to get 2 films out before the actor's voice broke! The timing of the film's release must have also played a factor - at the end of 2001, right about the same time the long awaited first film in the Lord of the Rings series was due to premiere. The net result was a lot of digital scenes in Harry Potter had a 'rushed' feel about them - like the 2-dimensional boy falling from the castle pinnacle at the first Quidditch practice... Although there was a huge public demand to get the film out, it could certainly have done with a few more months in the editing studio!

There will be few people who won't be seeing this huge commercial blockbuster. There will be even fewer who won't see the series. I will undoubtedly see the next movies, but am rather glad that at the time of writing, there will be 18 months between the 2nd and 3rd movies - and a change of directors! This gives everyone time to make sure that the Harry Potter series will only get better from here on out!

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