‘Harry Potter’ Retrospective (Part II): The First Two Films
June 13, 2011 1 Comment
Welcome to Part II of the Magic Lantern’s “Harry Potter Retrospective” written by contributing film geek, William Buhagiar. Part I gave us a personal look back on the mega-popular books being adapted into films. For the next few installments, Buhagiar provides us with insightful mini-reviews of each movie. Here, he takes a look at the first two films. Following the critiques, Buhagiar will focus on and study select cast members. As a film-goer who is just now getting into the Harry Potter films (very late, I know), I am finding this series pretty enlightening — and I now look forward to seeing the rest of the films. — P.E.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Director: Chris Columbus
Writer: Steve Kloves
I Saw It: Twice
In retrospect, assigning Chris Columbus the job of director for a story as fantastical as ‘Potter’ is a considerably odd choice. With films such as Mrs. Doubtfire, Home Alone and Stepmom under his belt prior to “Sorcerer’s Stone,” naturally there was skepticism amongst fans of the book. One positive attribute we were certain of, at least, was his proven talent in working successfully with younger actors.
Considering this was the first installment of a seven-part story, Columbus, screenwriter Steve Kloves, and the rest of the design team would not only have to execute the story properly, but also lay the groundwork for the remaining six installments – and I believe they did so admirably. Hogwarts, Diagon Alley, the Great Hall and even the mundane suburban Privet Drive, home of the loathsome Dursley family were visually translated with great respect to Rowling’s detailed descriptions.
This was undoubtedly the easiest of the books to adapt, as it is the shortest in length and very few elements of the book were cut in consideration of length. What made this film important, as already stated, would be the fact that this would be the establishment of the world Rowling created, to be revisited in each future ‘Potter’ film.
Overall, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone does make a good film, and a satisfying one for fans of the book, as there were very few sacrifices involved in its creation. Since it is the first, and so early in the story, it is more of a children’s movie, less complex and more charming, humorous and family-friendly.
Chris Columbus once again sat in the director’s chair for the second installment, and maintained the same family-friendly tone he had utilized in his adaptation of the previous film. No complaints there, as “Chamber of Secrets” was also more of an expositional story as opposed to the complex, multi-layered events that take place later in the series. The film, like “Sorcerer’s Stone,” managed to remain relatively faithful to the novel and sacrifice very little – which naturally satisfied devoted fans.
The film wonderfully introduces us, as did the book, to the prejudice and bigotry that exists in the wizarding world. After Ron furiously attacks Draco Malfoy after the latter hatefully refers to Hermione as a “Mudblood,” a word unfamiliar to Harry, we learn that the term is an intolerant, venomous slur for witches and wizards born to Muggle parents. The word is so looked down upon, in fact, that the use of it generates the same caliber of outrage and shock that the use of the Dark Lord’s name inspires. It is essentially the magical equivalent of the ‘n’ word.
The “Chamber of Secrets,” an ancient hidden chamber buried deep underneath Hogwarts, is the home of a monstrous creature that, when released by the Heir of Slytherin, sets out to rid the castle of each Muggle-born within. “Chamber of Secrets” ultimately is the audience’s first acquaintance with the bigotry within the wizarding world that plays a much greater, and graver, role in future installments.