This month’s book club pick is J.K. Rowling‘s 1997 novel Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. In 2001 a film adaptation written by Steve Kloves (The Fabulous Baker Boys) and directed by Chris Columbus (Home Alone, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, Mrs. Doubtfire) was released.
The Philosopher’s Stone, which was the highest grossing film of 2001, kicked off a franchise of eight films (book seven Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was split into two parts) across 10 years.
The film opens with Albus Dumbledore (Richard Harris), Minerva McGonagall (Maggie Smith), and Rubeus Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) delivering orphan infant Harry Potter to his mother’s sister’s family home.
On his eleventh birthday Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) learns that his Uncle Vernon (Richard Griffiths) and Aunt Petunia (Fiona Shaw) have been hiding the truth about his past. He is of wizard heritage. His parents, who were wizards, did not die in a car crash like he was told but were killed by an evil and powerful wizard, Lord Voldemort.
Harry survived Voldemort’s murderous attack and was left with a lightening bolt shaped scar on his forehead. Following the attack Voldemort’s powers were weakened and he went into hiding making Harry, ‘the boy who lived’, a celebrity in the wizarding world.
The film follows Harry’s journey as a first-year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. At Hogwarts he meets and forms a friendship with fellow first years Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson).
The adventure slash mystery plot is based around a mysterious object that is being hidden on the third floor at Hogwarts that students’ are forbidden from entering. Harry believes that someone is trying to steal this object and it involves Lord Voldemort. So with the help of Ron and Hermione, Harry sets out the solve the mystery of the philosopher’s stone.
An array of experienced British actors fill the adult roles including John Cleese (Nearly Headless Nick), Robbie Coltrane (Rubeus Hagrid), Warwick Davis (Professor Flitwick), Richard Griffiths (Vernon Dursley), Richard Harris (Albus Dumbledore), Ian Hart (Professor Quirrell), John Hurt (Mr. Ollivander), Alan Rickman (Severus Snape), Fiona Shaw (Petunia Dursley), Maggie Smith (Minerva Dursley), Julie Walters (Molly Weasley), and Zoë Wanamaker (Madam Hooch).
They help guide the lesser experienced child actors through this film. There are some good performances particularly from Coltrane, Rickman and Smith.
Stuart Craig’s production design is amazing, particularly the scenes set at Hogwarts. He has really captured the magic of Rowling’s wizarding world.
The film comes in at over two and a half hours and is a reasonably faithful adaptation of the book with a few minor tweaks for pace.