Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Originally uploaded by chuckmo
All right, those who know me know I give Chris Columbus a lot of crap. He is definitely on my list of least favorite directors. However, that being said he did great things for the Harry Potter franchise – just not in terms of directing.

While the character of Harry Potter has not yet entrenched itself as wholly and globally as something like Superman (you’ll see kids in jungles with no technology wearing a Superman shirt) almost anyone can tell you the basic concept of the series; the secret world of wizards that coexists with our own and Harry is the main character against a villain that no one will name. At least that’s as basic as I’ve had it described to me by people who have never read the books or really paid attention to the movie. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is the first book/film in the series and chronicles Harry’s first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry and what begins to happen to Harry’s life when he starts to uncover the truth of his magical lineage.

Chris Columbus drives me nuts as a director because he somehow manages to insert no feeling or vibrancy into his work, he also doesn’t do background action well; Columbus is also a director that does not like the darker side of themes, but likes the cheery, easily explained side of life. All of this shows in The Sorcerer’s Stone. Though it is a good movie, it falls flat on many levels because of the directing. I remember seeing the movie for the first time (without having read the books) and thinking that I didn’t understand why Harry was important and why the Voldemort guy was so scary. All of that becomes the fault of the director.

What saves the entire Potter franchise and Columbus’s films is the fact that the man is a very good producer. I give him enormous kudos for being phenomenal at finding the right actors for the right part and for putting an excellent team of behind the scenes crew together. That is the reason the franchise works and the first two films are viewable. Columbus himself has less style and panache than even Brett Rattner, but he is saved by his skill at producing.

I must also give Columbus kudos for being the first director to bring Harry Potter off the page and into reality. While it is true that Harry’s world and ours overlap the magical world and all of its characters are entirely different than anything that has been seen onscreen before. Columbus had to invent how it would look to have living portraits, students that would fly on broomsticks in a game called quidditch, and even what it should look like to teach magic. He had to translate J.K. Rowling’s rules to screen without anything but some words on a page to guide him. I can tell you from experience how difficult translating words to images can be; writer’s don’t have to think about the physics of actually doing, they only have to put the words down and then float them off to the director who must now take those abstract words and make them reality. It’s tough, no matter how much special effects and CGI you have access to and it’s something you can’t quite fully understand unless you’ve done it yourself. I can’t imagine the pressure Columbus was under knowing that billions of fans were waiting to see their beloved world come to life.

In the end Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is still a good, but lack luster movie. If it were not the first in a franchise but instead a standalone film it would have been a entertaining but forgettable film; however, since it does have 7 other films to follow it Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone instead just feels like a slow start.

Director: Chris Columbus
Writer: Steve Kloves
Harry Potter: Daniel Radcliffe
Ron Weasley: Rupert Grint
Hermione Granger: Emma Watson
Professor Dumbledore: Richard Harris
Professor McGonagall: Maggie Smith
Hagrid: Robbie Coltrane
Aunt Petunia: Fiona Shaw
Dudley: Harry Melling
Uncle Vernon: Richard Griffiths
Professor Quirrell: Ian hart
Molly Weasley: Julie Walters
Percy Weasley: Chris Rankin
Fred Weasley: James Phelps
George Weasley: Oliver Phelps
Neville Longbottom: Matthew Lewis
Draco Malfoy: Tom Felton
Nearly Headless Nick: John Cleese
Professor Snape: Alan Rickman

Ron: It's spooky! She knows more about you than you do!
Harry: Who doesn't?

1 comment:

Stefanie said...

I need to have a Harry Potter movie marathon! I didn't know Columbus was a producer of Sorcerer's Stone, and I agree that he did a great job producing it. I can't imagine anyone else playing the main characters.